Lois Lerner and the Devil

Our government is based on constitutional limits to power. It is therefore bitterly ironic that Lois Lerner now avails herself of those constitutional protections after abusing her prerogatives as a civil servant in a position of power to—by her own public admission—target, harass, and intimidate her political opponents. Even so, the beauty of our system of government is that everyone has the same rights, even those who seek to destroy the very document that confers those rights.

In the film, A Man for All Seasons, Saint Thomas More, patron of lawyers, sets out the case for limits on power. In this dramatization, the offender is not a malfeasant IRS official, but the Devil himself:

WILLIAM ROPER: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

SIR THOMAS MORE: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

WILLIAM ROPER: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

SIR THOMAS MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

There is some discussion in legal circles of whether Lerner voided her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment by giving a lengthy statement to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee professing her innocence. Perhaps there is some merit to this claim, but it is better to err on the side of caution. After all, the Fifth Amendment is based on the very same English common law protection that Saint Thomas More himself invoked when compelled to testify that he could not accept a law that placed the king above his conscience. As the saint warns us, the laws that protect the Devil today will also protect us tomorrow.

Indeed, the scandalous activities at the IRS are so broad and so extensive that the truth will most certainly come out. We must not jump to any conclusions about Lerner’s silence, but her actions are a matter of public record. Every email that she received and every memo that she signed will no doubt be released under the Freedom of Information Act and scrutinized for clues to her involvement in the targeting of conservative groups.

If we must resort to abusing the law and distorting its protections to punish Lois Lerner and her accomplices for their evident misdeeds, then we would only vindicate her actions. Instead, we must put our faith in the Constitution. Every word that defends the dignity of our human condition imbues that faded parchment with a sacred and holy aura. That sacred document is the best antidote we have to the Devil that lurks in the hearts of men and women like Lois Lerner.


Categories:Law Politics

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  • Joe M

    Coincidentally, I just watched A Man for All Seasons last night!

    Great film.

  • JackB

    Not sure how the devil is involved, but Lerner has, (imagine), 900 people working for her in the Tax Exempt division of the IRS. How can our government justify such a large force working on what one would think is a relatively straight-forward project. Not knowing that atrocities were being perpetrated upon conservative political action groups by some of her own employees seems unconscionable. But, maybe not. Coincidently, its been reported in today’s Tampa Times that the current IRS dilemma is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many others flaunting the tax laws like Crossroads GPS, started by the architect Karl Rove and Priorities USA are seeking tax exempt status and donot have to disclose their donors. The shocking result of the Supreme Courts 5/4 decion in Citizens United.

    I am still struggling with the idea that PACs like CatholicVote.org can receive a tax exemption. If the ‘primary purpose’ of a PAC is to engage in campaign activities then that fact should disqualify them from receiving tax exempt status.

    • Joe M

      Citizens United was a win for free speech.

      • jgbech

        Joe, I don’t see it that way. Rather, my Constitutional voting rights of one man, one vote has been eliminated by Citizens. Powerful corporations and unions were given carte blanche when they were allowed the option of contributing unlimited amounts to campaigns thereby, buying an election. That’s free speech?

  • John

    One small correction: The “document” doesn’t confer these rights, God does. The Constitution merely makes these rights explicit and enshrines them in law. Government’s function is to protect these rights through law and it’s enforcement, but it doesn’t grant them to us.

    • Mike

      The Constitution is a Divinely inspired document meant to confer unalienable rights to man directly God.

      • John

        No, the Constitution doesn’t confer any rights at all. It provide the legal mechanism by which they are protected in law. And, oh, “the Constitution is a Divinely inspired document…?” Really?



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