The Rule of Law: A Challenge for my Conservative Friends

I read an article around Mothers Day about an effort in Philadelphia to raise bail for moms who had been incarcerated for quite a long time just because they were too poor to raise $500 for their bail money. Here they had been sitting in jail for several months, separated from their children, unable to work to support their families, awaiting their trial. These were people who had been accused of crimes, but not tried, convicted or sentenced. Because of this bail out effort, they were released to go be with their children for Mothers Day and await trial while taking care of their families.

As I read through the comments that some people made about the article and the Mothers Day effort, I found myself both sad and angry at the arrogance of these rule of law advocates who thought this crowd funding project was immoral or illegal. Why on God’s good earth would anyone object to that?!

I’m having some conversations with my conservative friend, Janie, about the rule of law. She is not one of the above arrogant complainers (and she cautions me not to judge all Conservatives based on the Internet comments of some. Point taken.)

But I keep asking: where are the other calm, rationale, compassionate Conservatives?

Where is the conservative outcry when police officers overstep the bounds of the law? Police violence has been well documented recently, and violence against our Black and Brown brothers and sisters is rampant.

Where is the conservative outcry when white business owners side step the rule of law in order to hire undocumented workers and then abuse and mistreat them? The trafficking of immigrant women and girls is a huge and ugly shadow side of American life. A recent class action suit even claims tens of thousands of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are being subjected to a modern day slavery.

It seems all too clear that our society’s persistent, pervasive racism is a factor in their silence.

Liberals also believe in the rule of law; of course we do. We all want to live with appropriate rules that provide order and safety within our society. But progressives see clearly our American penchant for inequity. Inequality because of race, because of class, because of financial situation… Justice has never truly been blind in this nation. That’s why the liberal critique is so important, because it names that weakness and challenges our nation’s failures to live up to our promises. It names and challenges our lack of grace.

Law that is not balanced with mercy is not justice.

I hear some of my conservative friends complain because they don’t hear stories about moderate Muslims speaking out against radicals that use the cover of their religion to perpetuate violence. I keep responding to those accusations out of the abundant and easily accessible evidence to the contrary.

But where is the conservative outcry against blatant and violent abuses of the rule of law? Maybe there are conservative voices speaking out and I’m just not hearing very much of it. I challenge my conservative friends to prove me wrong.

If religious liberty is to be a foundational tenet in America, then it must be religious liberty for all. If the rule of law is to be a core principle by which we order our society, then it must be applied equitably and compassionately to all. If we say America is about “liberty and justice for all,” then we must make sure that “all means ALL.”



Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

3 thoughts on “The Rule of Law: A Challenge for my Conservative Friends”

  1. One of the things that can be done to quickly address a portion of this problem is to notify all defendants about ‘waiving time’ – a tool used by defense attorneys – which essentially has defendants give up the right to a fair and speedy trial. Other things need to be done as well, for example:
    Len Downie Jr, in his 1973 book, Justice Denied (self-published in Great Britain) claims the plea bargain system (which replaced the justice system for poor defendants) began in New York City, shortly after Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436; 1966). At the time, many attorneys refused to use it, considering it unethical. At first, it was used solely in the most serious cases. However, in 1982 Los Angeles began using it routinely. The conviction rate soared from 81% in 1981 to 98.6% in 1988, falling to only 96% in 1997 when the State of California stopped publishing The California Criminal Justice Profile. It is at least possible that publication stopped due to the letters I sent to various elected and non-elected officials in both Los Angeles and Sacramento.
    While Gideon v. Wainwright (372 U.S. 335; 1963) established the right to an attorney for indigent defendants, Miranda expanded when an attorney would be required as well as spawning many concerns such as inadequate funding and training of attorneys, excessive workloads and conflicts of interest. In my book, Liberty and Mental Health – You Can’t Have One Without the Other, I make arguments against Miranda, as well as Frazier v. Cupp (394 U.S. 731; 1969) which permits police to lie to the public just about any time they want, Imbler v. Pachtman (424 U.S. 409; 1976) which encourages malicious prosecutions and Bordenkircher v. Hayes (434 US 357; 1978) which permits the prosecutor to blackmail defendants. The result has been to usher in the procedures used in the Jim Crow South for use in the rest of the nation.
    Notes from the Author (pgs. ix – xi) is essentially a synopsis of my involvement with the criminal justice system, while chapter 7 deals with how a U.S. Senator from California was moved by an early work of mine – and the unexpected benefit I received as a result. has a link to Scapegoats, my comedy about the mental health and criminal justice systems – as well as other works of mine.
    “The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it. ” (The Law by Claude Frédéric Bastiat Preface © 1850)

  2. As a rule, conservatives don’t “outcry”. It doesn’t seem to be in the nature. Liberals, progressives, socialist, seem to feel empowered by their actions. Conservatives are vastly more likely to discuss among ourselves the disappointment in humanity over the latest issue. There are some who gather, but most prefer to believe that the bad incident was isolated. They don’t commit that infraction, and believe it’s wrong. But public outcry isn’t deemed message to solve the problem.
    It may also come from the base of self sufficiency verses a need for a collective.

    1. If conservatives don’t outcry, then what was the public reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision, to the Chik-Fil-A controversy, …?

      Assuming “self-sufficiency” to be a conservative trait that liberals don’t share is yet another example of bias in your comment.

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