Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exercising The Fifth Amendment Is Not An Admission of Guilt

Like any decent American who values honor, duty and freedom, I too am appalled at the actions of the Internal Revenue Service in its attempt to harass and intimidate freedom-loving Americans because of their views.  The actions of the Internal Revenue Service employees -- whether they were an abuse of bureaucratic hegemony exercised by the bottom feeders of the federal civil service, or were orchestrated acts perpetrated at the behest of senior administration officials -- are frightening, totalitarian, and inexcusable.

But I am also appalled at the calls by some in this country who claim that Lois Lerner should lose her job because she exercised her fifth amendment right ... or worse, that it is a sign that she is guilty.

Au contraire, people.

Before I open my can of rhetorical whoopass and make people slink away in shame at their inability to understand the most fundamental precepts of the rule of law, let us look at the text of Amendment V to the Constitution of the United States of America:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. [Emphasis mine]
 I have highlighted the operative part of the amendment's text for you.  This text is the fundamental proscription against prosecutorial misconduct and abuse of the accused in a republic, whether that prosecutor is states' attorney, a US attorney, or the Congress of the United States sitting in session.  It is the keystone of the judicial dictum that one is innocent until proven guilty.

The rights enshrined in this amendment are not granted by man; they are given by God Himself, the author of our Liberty and the Ultimate Protector of it.  It is not for us to deny these natural rights to any of our fellow citizens and thus deprive them of liberty, and the current employment circumstances of that citizen do not suddenly give us an escape clause from the compelling duty we have to one another to cherish, protect and defend that Liberty that was purchased at so great a price that we may live free and prosper.

Were that the Congress of today so capable as the Congress that acted to light the fire of our Independence, and the first congresses of our young republic, we might see great men and women do great things in the quest for justice and knowledge.  Congress has the power to grant immunity against criminal prosecution in order to extract the knowledge necessary and proper to exact political accountability within the strictures of divided government and within the confines of the separation of powers.

Indeed, while we may seek retribution to salve our anger and the wound of imperial totalitarianism that the IRS (nay, the Federal Government in whole) represents, we should not lose sight that we are a republic and that more often than not, political crimes are best officiated through political rather than criminal accountability.

But we should never lose sight of the fact, that though she may have lead a division guilty of despicable acts of despotism and corruption, Lois Lerner is a citizen first and no more loses her rights and protections because of her employment than we lose our right to worship God because we stand before a courthouse.

We should never surrender our fundamental protections for the expedient solution,

As the great John Adams said,

"If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave."

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