Alan Keyes
Conscience vs. rule of law: a false dichotomy
By Alan Keyes
September 14, 2015

Critics of Kim Davis' act of civil obedience (to God, reason, and the Constitution) contend that her conscientious action undermines the rule of law. But doesn't the "conscience vs. rule of law" formulation involve a false dichotomy?

The generation of the Founders of the United States, including the Framers of the Constitution, acknowledged a source and concept of law higher than the "Supreme Law of the Land." They acknowledged the source and concept of law as it comes from the Creator, God.

In the Declaration of Independence, they quite explicitly saw the purpose for which human governments are instituted in terms of God's law. They thus held forth as self-evident truth the understanding that –

a) defines human equality in terms of God-endowed unalienable right, appearing in us as conscience, an imperative consciousness of what is right encoded by God in human nature;

b) derives the just power of government from the concerted action of those who act according to God's imperative, exercising the right God's programming enables them to see. In this sense, their mutual consent literally constitutes the just power of government by providing it with sufficient force to satisfy the existential criterion for law in the strictest sense.

In light of the logic thus propounded in the Declaration of Independence, the constitution of just government cannot be understood apart from the imperatives of God-encoded conscience. The constitutions and actions of all governments are therefore to be judged in light of those imperatives. From this basis for judgment, the Declaration derives the right, indeed the duty, to throw off, alter, or abolish governments destructive of God-endowed right. So God's law, communicated through God-informed conscience, is the Supreme Law for humanity, superseding even the Constitution of the United States.

By the Providence of God, however, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution were all of them formally committed to establishing a just government for the United States, in principle if not immediately in fact. Every feature and institution of the U.S. government was therefore debated in terms of premises and principles of right and justice as they appear in light of God-informed conscience. The U.S. Constitution was thus consciously and conscientiously intended to build a secure home for the exercise of right – i.e., for those who share the commitment to do (exercise) right according to God's intention.

If we pretend that human judicial opinions, or acts of human legislatures that have no regard for this conscientious intention, constitute a "Supreme Law" that must be obeyed, we abandon the Founders' acknowledgment of the highest source and concept of law and justice, which is the Creator, God. Kim Davis's actions are right in light of that highest source.

Since the Framers of the U.S. Constitution intended to respect God-endowed right, we would expect the Constitution to make provision for people implementing the Constitution to do likewise. It does so in the Ninth Amendment, which specifically forbids any interpretation of the rights enumerated in the Constitution that denies or disparages rights retained by the people. The only rights necessarily retained by the people under all circumstances are those endowed by the Creator, for His understanding of right remains the standard in His Creation, everywhere and always, even as and when it is disregarded.

On my blog and elsewhere, I have for some time made a point of articulating the principles and logic of the Declaration of Independence, and applying them to the critical issues involved in the ongoing crisis of the American republic. We seem to stand on the threshold of an era when any and all Americans who stand forthrightly, as our Founders' did, for God's authority over human right and justice will be raised up as Christ was, in the midday darkness that portends the sacrifice of God. We will rightly know it as persecution and martyrdom; but the Scripture also portrays it as the straightaway to salvation.

But unless we shamelessly appeal to God, in the name of Christ, and trust in Him for aid, we shall lose the battle for America's decent way of life, and lose it decisively. Though I cannot but grieve at this prospect, I live in peace with the thought that, to people with goodwill towards God, He works all things for good (Romans 8:28). As the cornerstone of our foundation as a nation, the Declaration of Independence clearly shows that the people of the United States are supposed to be such people. The blessings we have enjoyed support that supposition. And they may come to do so again, if we stand firm in our refusal to surrender the premises of God-endowed conscience that distinguish the rule of law from the whims of human powers with no regard but for their own licentious will.

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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