Why should the process of justice be impartial? A response to Jonathan

Jonathan asked a good question in response to our VLOG this past week, and I think it merits a separate response to spell it out.  For those that did not watch the video, I basically argued that Christians should be concerned when the pursuit of justice is guided by politics, rather than justice being blind, i.e., impartial.  In the discussion, I suggested that the prosecution of both Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn were political in nature, and that others committing similar “crimes”* would not be charged, and that should trouble Christians, prompting Jonathan to say:

Dr. Haymond – While Flynn’s post-elect conversations might not be “untoward” it is worth noting Flynn nonetheless lied to the FBI about those presumably appropriate conversations four separate times. That seems to be more important; why should Flynn lie–four times!–about what Dr. Clauson characterized as legal activity. Also, why are you so concerned about Mueller’s “partial” process? Because of prosecutorial discretion? I’m a bit puzzled by that line of criticism.

First up, I think that justice should be blind, i.e., impartial, because God has made that the standard of justice.  I’ve applied this previously to taxation, but how much more should it apply in the general case of criminal justice.  As Don Boudreaux is fond of saying, my vanity requires me to repeat that argument here (also my laziness at not wanting to reformulate an argument previously made!):

There is strong Biblical support for treating people impartially, and in an opposite way, strong condemnation for showing partiality or favoritism.  This is because we are supposed to image God, and God is impartial.  Romans 2:11 states clearly that God shows no partiality with respect to salvation, (see also Deut. 10:17, Acts 10:34, Job 34:19, and Eph. 6:9).  I agree that this is not conclusive, since it isn’t directly talking about taxation, but it does give us an idea of where God’s heart is for how we treat one another.  There is a reason why Lady Justice is blindfolded.

However, there are other passages which take us closer to the heart of the matter. Lev 19:15 says “‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”  In this verse, we are told that not only should we not favor the rich, but surprisingly, we should also not favor the poor (see also Ex. 23:3).  But why should we think this has applicability to taxation?  A main purpose of Leviticus is to show how the Israelites can live a holy life.  Chapter 19 is the pinnacle of how we live holy lives in relation to others, and the commands are given a solid reason—“I am the LORD”–which is repeated throughout the section.  Interestingly, Ch 19 is widely viewed as repeating the Decalogue; clearly Leviticus is summarizing the essence of what Holy Living looks like under God’s moral law.  In the middle of this section on Holy Living, comes verse 15, which describes what justice looks like.  Do we treat each other according to their just due?  Lev 19:15 helps us understand that a standard for personal holiness will be reflected in a standard for corporate holiness.  As John Hartley says in the Word Biblical Commentary, “Since God is just, his people must establish justice in their courts as the foundation of their covenant relationship with him.  The inner strength of a nation resides in the integrity of its judicial system.”  While, this is not dealing with taxation, it is dealing with justice in the social setting of the courts—it seems reasonable to conclude that if impartiality is required for the courts, it would be required of government action in general.  At least the burden of proof should be on those advocating for a system of partiality, given the extensive Biblical support of impartiality.

For those that think this standard might only be applicable to the Old Testament, the same concept and appeal is made in James 2:8-10, where James condemns showing partiality to the rich who visit the church.  But do not think that somehow James would have been fine with partiality going in the other direction.  In his condemnation, James references Lev 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and is summarizing what the law requires:

8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

Showing partiality makes you a lawbreaker; even in the New Testament, God’s standard of social relations is impartiality, carrying over the requirements of the Law to our New Covenant relations.  We often memorize James 2:10 to illustrate the necessity of salvation, since a works-based approach can never get you “clean” enough.  And that is well and good.  But let’s remember the context in James, and what it is that is offensive to God.  Even if you get everything else right—if you are showing partiality–you are against the will of God.

Let me give a fictitious (but not unreasonable) example to illustrate.  Most of the concerns of African-Americans vis-a-vis injustice by the state come down to differential treatment.  So a poor black person is pulled over in his old beat up car by a police officer for a broken taillight, whereas a rich white person (as evidenced by a newer car) might also have a broken tail light from backing out of the garage this morning, and they are unlikely to get pulled over.  Things go south very quickly because the African-American male had crack on him (or did he–did the police plant it?), and pretty soon the young male is in jail and his life ruined over a felony drug conviction.  Yes, he was guilty (or was he?), but the white person that does the same thing would never be pulled over.  The fact that justice is impartially applied leads to deep resentment and continued social strife.

While this example is fictitious, consider yesterday’s report that members of the Congressional Black Caucus are incensed that Mr. Conyers was forced to resign–they claim that white politicians like Al Franken, Donald Trump and Roy Moore are let off the hook.

“Certainly it seems as if there is indeed a double standard,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who was involved in Conyers’ retirement negotiations last week before Jackson Lee and Monica Conyers derailed them. “When it happens to one of us, we’re guilty until proven innocent. They’re just finally starting to talk about Blake Farenthold, who is a member sitting here who paid out $84,000.”

Without agreeing to this perspective, I certainly agree that it is a legitimate concern–differential justice is injustice.  While I am not a libertarian, I do share most of their policy perspectives, including prison reform, in part for some of the same reasons as progressives (which I outlined on this blog over two years ago).

So back to Jonathan’s point.  Does the fact that Mr. Flynn lied about perfectly legal conduct to an investigation that never should have happened bother me?  Yes!  But I don’t like open-ended, “let’s see what we can find,” investigations.  Progressives rightly decry this when applied to minorities (and I agree with them), they should be equally outraged in this case.

Finally, beyond the biblical morality perspective, when we criminalize political behavior that we disagree with, why are we surprised that good people don’t go into office and then we’re left with Roy Moore and Al Franken as our choices for Senator?

* I put crimes in quotes because Mr. Manafort’s actions are illegal based on legislation, but I don’t think there is anything inherently immoral about not registering as a foreign agent.  I subscribe to Hayek’s distinction between law and legislation. i.e., that just because something is illegal doesn’t make it an action of morality (outside our moral requirement to obey any law).  So, to illustrate, if Ohio gets rid of legislation prohibiting the killing of others, its still against the law, i.e, the moral standard we are accountable to God under, even if the state abdicates its responsibility to put God’s law into legislation.

EDIT Correction:  I had mistakenly put Representative Dingell as being forced to resign when it was Representative Conyers; both long serving Democratic congressmen from Michigan.  Sorry for the error.

57 thoughts on “Why should the process of justice be impartial? A response to Jonathan”

  1. While I for the most part agree with the general thrust of your article (justice should be blind), I think there’s enough in the words of Jesus to lead to the belief that we should especially apply mercy to those that are powerless. Using that standard Flynn is still not deserving of an extra measure of mercy and in as much as this is purely political this is a mockery of justice.

    I do have to disagree with you about it being amoral to not register as a foreign agent. If I work for a company it is perfectly amoral to be a partial owner of one of our suppliers, but if I hide that then it prevents my company from taking any steps to prevent a conflict of interest.

    If someone is working for the government and they have a financial interest from another government then they need to disclose that in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

    Also your asterisk argument seems silly. A crime is when you break a law, legislation is the main source of our law. It doesn’t matter whether or not an action is immoral, if is illegal, then it’s illegal.

    1. DV
      “I think there’s enough in the words of Jesus to lead to the belief that we should especially apply mercy to those that are powerless.”
      I’m not sure why you might think I would disagree with this. I’m not asking for mercy for Mr. Flynn. I’m simply suggesting that we should treat Mr. Flynn like we would treat everyone else.
      “I do have to disagree with you about it being amoral to not register as a foreign agent. If I work for a company it is perfectly amoral to be a partial owner of one of our suppliers, but if I hide that then it prevents my company from taking any steps to prevent a conflict of interest.” This is certainly your freedom to disagree, but I think you are either missing or ignoring my main point there–it is only immoral to hide information because we have chosen to make it illegal. We are under no moral or biblical admonition to reveal any information, other than the broad rule to treat others as we’d like to be treated.

  2. “* I put crimes in quotes because Mr. Manafort’s actions are illegal based on legislation, but I don’t think there is anything inherently immoral about not registering as a foreign agent. I subscribe to Hayek’s distinction between law and legislation. i.e., that just because something is illegal doesn’t make it an action of morality (outside our moral requirement to obey any law). So, to illustrate, if Ohio gets rid of legislation prohibiting the killing of others, its still against the law, i.e, the moral standard we are accountable to God under, even if the state abdicates its responsibility to put God’s law into legislation.”

    Dr. Haymond, how would you reconcile this view with Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2? You, yourself acknowledged in your parenthetical that there is a moral requirement to obey the law. So if something is illegal based on legislation, then isn’t it inherently immoral not to abide by said legislation (unless of course, said legislation demands an immoral action under God’s law, which the legislation relevant to Flynn in no way does).

    1. @ Nathan and Darth Vader. Its just making the point that many parts of what we call law, which I am calling legislation, are not driven from what is right or wrong but from our social preferences. We could decide on different social preferences and we would be no less or no more moral. Easy example. In pursuit of energy conversation, the federal government established 55 mph speed limits. Subsequently there was a different social goal, and the speed limits were changed (increased). We weren’t more or less moral driving 55 in 1980 than we were driving 65 in 2005, as long as we were obeying the legislation.

      But let me concede this point other posters, this was just an explanatory note, not germane at all to my point–let’s think about the partiality of justice. If people are really interested in this issue, read Hayek’s 3 volume set, Law, Legislation and Liberty.

  3. Dr. Haymond – Thanks for the blog post. I think I’m still a little lost. You’re criticizing impartiality here–and in the VLOG–as if the Mueller investigation is using some kind of unique, weaponized selectivity to carry forth its mission. I’m not seeing any evidence to substantiate that concern.

    I went back and listened to the most recent VLOG to try and understand the “impartiality” with which you’re concerned. It seemed to me you raised two distinct concerns: (1) when Paul Manafort was charged for something for which many others are likely guilty, and (2) when General Flynn was questioned about conversations the FBI knew already the occurred.

    Regarding (1): Law enforcement enjoys broad discretion–whether police officers or prosecuting attorneys–in how they go about enforcing laws. Police officers routinely and selectively stop certain speeders while letting others go; prosecutors routinely and selectively cut deals, while dropping other charges, to concentrate their strategy on the most promising or impactful counts. In both cases, law enforcement is “partial” insofar as it is selective. And it is selective not due to nefarious impropriety, but for various strategic reasons and practical limitations. I’m not sure those things count as the kind of theologically significant partiality you’re arguing about.

    Regarding (2): Law enforcement will often use known information and lies to corner suspects. Not only that, SCOTUS has determined that law enforcement efforts to entrap suspects with patently false information is a constitutionally protected police method. Unless you’re saying the near-national approach used by law enforcement is wrong–leveraging a suspect’s lies against them–I don’t see how what Mueller’s team used against Flynn constitutes the wrong you’re criticizing here.

    Thus, as far as I can see, there appears to be nothing uniquely impartial with regard to the tactics used against either Manafort or Flynn. The strategies you’re concerned about, the ones used by Mueller and his team, are the same strategies used across the country.

    So–and correct me if I am wrong–what I think you’re actually concerned about is the existence of a motivating political animus present in the Mueller investigation, one that comes close to matching your example of racist policing. While there is significant evidence which demonstrates local law enforcement tactics have a disparate impact on racial minorities, I don’t see that kind of evidence establishing a political animus motivating Mueller’s investigation. Mueller is widely respected as a genuine, top-notch, impartial professional. He was appointed not by President Obama’s administration, but by President Trump’s Assistant Attorney General. And in a recent incident, Mueller unceremoniously fired one of his most experienced FBI aids when that aid revealed his anti-Trump bias (see below). Is there some other evidence of political animus you know of that leads you to believe Mueller’s investigation is uniquely, inappropriately impartial?

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/us/politics/mueller-removed-top-fbi-agent-over-possible-anti-trump-texts.html

    And yes, I have to agree with the previous comments. I am having a difficult time following the logic of your asterisk. While you may believe Flynn’s conduct is perfectly moral, you cannot argue his conduct is not criminal given his clear and unambiguous violation of the law. Aside from Nathan’s point above–that Christians bear a unique duty to respect the laws of local governments–legally speaking, whether something is a crime has little to do with whether something is moral. Your opinion on the morality of his behavior has little bearing on whether his behavior constitutes a “crime.”

    1. And again, thanks for making the time during a busy season to write a blog post in response to one of my questions. I appreciate your effort!

    2. Wow. After re-reading your commentary on partiality (which I did not find particularly relevant to the Manafort/Flynn charges per my comment), I think your perspective deserves a separate, lengthier discussion.

      “…it seems reasonable to conclude that if impartiality is required for the courts, it would be required of government action in general.”

      You reach this conclusion by (1) analogizing from salvific passages (with qualification), then (2) by analogizing from Levitical passages set in a law-court context, and finally (3) by analogizing to a passage in James which condemns partiality that favors the rich (something you never acknowledge).

      There are obvious distinctions between government policy and court decisions (where judges rule on the merits of a case and do so without respect to the class or status of the citizens before them). That maneuver allows him decontextualize the passages and make a logical leap: “Since economic impartiality is essential to evaluating criminal charges, and to welcoming people into the church community, it must be essential in all government policies!” But to jump from to that conclusion–that absolute partiality is necessary in all aspects of government–is confusing and misleading.

      There are so many questions. How do you define partiality? How do you define government? How do you address the Bible’s silence on matters of Christian’s political expression in a participatory democracy? But the most important question is this: Are all government policies which treat certain citizens differently than other citizens inherently unbiblical?

      If so, are zoning policies inherently unbiblical because they treat citizen property owners differently? Or are capital gains deductions unbiblical because they treat citizen income earners differently? Is the ADA unbiblical because it treats qualified disabled citizens differently than non-disabled citizens? Is the 1964 Civil Rights Act unbiblical because it treats protected classes of citizens differently than others?

      Those are just a few policy-level examples. And if I understand you correctly, this hardline, absolute principle of biblical-civil-impartiality must condemn each of the above policies for their inherent partiality. Each of those examples treat certain Americans favorably (though, hopefully, to achieve a more socially beneficial and just outcome). And if your view is so unworkable that it doesn’t allow for the ADA, I think it’s worth re-examining the view altogether.

      Returning to your hermeneutics: had you kept the passages properly contextualized–away from tax policy, centered on the judicial system and church community–you would never have been painted into such an awkward corner. Leviticus isn’t condemning partiality in general; it is condemning courtroom partiality which disfavors someone based on their status. Likewise, James isn’t condemning partiality in general; it is condemning partiality in the church which favors the wealthy and powerful. Further, the Christian value of mercy–an inherently “partial” idea—is celebrated by James in verse 13 of the very same chapter. Mercy towards the marginalized is one of the foundational truths of James’ epistle.

      The problem with partiality–in Leviticus, in James, throughout the Bible–is not an absolute problem. Partiality is not a sin in and of itself. If my son is sick, I’m going to show partiality towards him relative to my health wife. No, partiality becomes problematic when the people of God show favorable partiality towards the powerful and wealthy in a way which harms the marginalized.

      That is also why I must disagree with your overarching idea that true, biblical justice involves absolute, blind impartiality. Instead, I contend biblical justice involves a kind of “partiality” (at least you would presumably define it): special care for marginalized groups of people. As Tim Keller has explained: “The mishpat, or justness, of a society, according to the Bible, is evaluated by how it treats [widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor]. Any neglect shown to the needs of the members of this quartet is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of justice, of mishpat. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to ‘do justice.'”

      https://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-web/static-blogs/tgc/files/2010/10/Chapter-One_Generous_Justice1.pdf

      Biblical justice as Keller defines it means to give people their due as imago dei creations of God. It means treating the wealthy and powerful without special partiality; it also means treating the poor and marginalized with extra care and concern.

      1. Just to add a quick thought: it is not at all obvious that impartiality is attainable or, if it were, a good idea. Impartiality is often associated with, and in fact ideally demands, disinterested participants. Humans of course are anything but disinterested in matters of justice, and if they were really disinterested I think we would all question whether they really understood the stakes and issues involved. Placing impartiality on a pedestal implies that, really, a good computer could replace judges, taking facts and spitting out neutral rulings. But this kind of cold, impersonal justice is not actually what any of us envisions as an ideal.

      2. Jonathan,
        “Any neglect shown to the needs of the members of this quartet is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of justice, of mishpat. ”
        We’ve discussed this before, while I greatly admire Tim Keller, I believe he is wrong on this interpretation, and I’ve shared with you a citation from Bruce Waltke previously to show that I believe Mr. Keller is wrong in his conclusion. You are of course free to disagree with me, but in an appeal to authority, I will argue that as a Biblical scholar Mr. Waltke is a better authority than Mr. Keller, even though Mr. Keller is a great pastor!

      3. ““…it seems reasonable to conclude that if impartiality is required for the courts, it would be required of government action in general.” You reach this conclusion by (1) analogizing from salvific passages (with qualification), then (2) by analogizing from Levitical passages set in a law-court context, and finally (3) by analogizing to a passage in James which condemns partiality that favors the rich (something you never acknowledge).

        First, go re-read the passage–I specifically addressed the fact that James condemnation is against favoring the rich and why you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that he only was concerned about favoring the rich.

        But regarding partiality, I am not saying that impartial treatment even by the government means that the government treats everybody identically, I’m saying that in matters of justice, they treat people impartially–which means that people that are similarly situated are treated the same.

        Obviously you and I disagree because of our differing views on justice. I believe mercy and justice are complementary but different concepts. I think you believe they are more necessarily linked ( a la Keller).

      4. “There are obvious distinctions between government policy and court decisions (where judges rule on the merits of a case and do so without respect to the class or status of the citizens before them). That maneuver allows you to decontextualize the passages and make a logical leap: “Since economic impartiality is essential to evaluating criminal charges, and to welcoming people into the church community, it must be essential in all government policies!” But to jump from to that conclusion–that absolute partiality is necessary in all aspects of government–is confusing and misleading.”

        Jonathan, you have read too much into what I wrote. Obviously you didn’t mean that I actually said what you have in the quotes (which I didn’t) but that was not the implication you should have drawn. But you should have drawn the conclusion that in matters of justice that absolute partiality is required. Because you have an expanded view of what justice is and what government therefore should do you draw a strong negative reaction. I still believe you are failing to deal with Lev 19:15. Perhaps my view is too broad…but yours is certainly too narrow. I’ve done quite a bit of research on that passage in the commentaries (some of which I quote in the text); I’m quite confident if you do similar research you’ll at least have to conclude that most of the commentaries are doing the same flawed exegesis as Haymond!

    3. “And it is selective not due to nefarious impropriety, but for various strategic reasons and practical limitations. I’m not sure those things count as the kind of theologically significant partiality you’re arguing about.”
      I agree that there are practical limitations as to what authorities can spend their time pursuing. But I am arguing that the Biblical model of justice requires whatever process we use it must be impartial. Let me address here further at what I mean by impartiality (which you hit further down). Impartiality requires people that are similarly situated be treated the same. For example (and I don’t know the real numbers–but it is reportedly not uncommon) It can’t be the case that many lobbyists in DC are not registering per the law, and this is generally well-known, and yet we rarely prosecute until this president is elected and we want to get rid of him. So let’s pull this law off the shelf and charge someone near him ( a law that we could also apply to many others but we don’t care enough about it to do so unless it gives us this political advantage) in order to politically wound Mr. Trump at the minimum, and hopefully get some dirt on Mr. Trump to take him out. And its ok to selectively enforce the law only against one of Mr. Trump’s minions because we know what a scoundrel Mr. Trump is. Now its true that the law has been used before, but it is very rare:
      http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/manafort-faces-rare-charge-of-failing-to-file-as-a-foreign-agent/article/2638976

    4. Jonathan:
      “Thus, as far as I can see, there appears to be nothing uniquely impartial with regard to the tactics used against either Manafort or Flynn. The strategies you’re concerned about, the ones used by Mueller and his team, are the same strategies used across the country.”
      Let’s remember what Mr. Mueller did to Mr. Manafort on the pre-dawn raid of his home. Patting down Mrs. Manafort in bed to make sure she doesn’t have guns? I don’t like Mr. Manafort, but what Mueller’s team did here was totally unnecessary and fraught with danger to all involved, and to me is outrageous. I’m surprised that you would normalize this.
      https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/nov/1/fbi-agents-manhandled-manafort-and-his-wife-during/

    5. “So–and correct me if I am wrong–what I think you’re actually concerned about is the existence of a motivating political animus present in the Mueller investigation, one that comes close to matching your example of racist policing. While there is significant evidence which demonstrates local law enforcement tactics have a disparate impact on racial minorities, I don’t see that kind of evidence establishing a political animus motivating Mueller’s investigation. Mueller is widely respected as a genuine, top-notch, impartial professional. He was appointed not by President Obama’s administration, but by President Trump’s Assistant Attorney General. And in a recent incident, Mueller unceremoniously fired one of his most experienced FBI aids when that aid revealed his anti-Trump bias (see below). Is there some other evidence of political animus you know of that leads you to believe Mueller’s investigation is uniquely, inappropriately impartial?”
      Jonathan, admittedly, I disagree with disparate impact as a way of assessing justice going the other way, but surely you can’t be arguing that only treatment that leads to disparate impact is worthy of being called injustice? Regarding Mr. Mueller’s behavior, I don’t see how you can congratulate Mr. Mueller on his handling of Mr. Strzok, when he only took action AFTER the press reported it, and had stonewalled congressional committees for months. He invited the criticism he rightfully receives by placing many Democratic operatives on his team early on. But of course, you could make this cleverly absurd argument, that Mr Mueller is an objective fellow because he hires lawyers on his team and most lawyers are Democrats!
      http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-bonica-chilton-sen-mueller-investigation-bias-20170728-story.html

      1. Dr. Haymond – So many comments! I’ll try to respond with just one. :)

        “We’ve discussed this before, while I greatly admire Tim Keller, I believe he is wrong on this interpretation, and I’ve shared with you a citation from Bruce Waltke previously to show that I believe Mr. Keller is wrong in his conclusion”

        Reviewing your email to me, you asserted Keller argues (in contradiction of Waltke) the marginalized have a “claim” against the privileged. I don’t see Keller arguing that; I see him urging Christians to fulfill their duty as Christians (a duty you acknowledged in your email to me) to uphold the rights and imago dei of the marginalized. That argument is consistent with Waltke’s own understanding; in very same the commentary on Proverbs which you cite, he defines “righteousness” as a social term where one disadvantages oneself to advantage others.

        Regardless, whether this is an issue of “mercy” or “justice” isn’t that relevant if, under either standard, Christians bear a duty to to the marginalized. Or are you arguing Christians bear no such duty under either standard? My position is pretty straightforward: Christians bear a duty to the marginalized, but not because the marginalized have a “claim” against Christians necessarily. Instead, Christians’s horizontal duty to the marginalized stems from their vertical relationship with God.

        “I am not saying that impartial treatment even by the government means that the government treats everybody identically, I’m saying that in matters of justice, they treat people impartially–which means that people that are similarly situated are treated the same.”

        Again, as I argued above, I’m not convinced the passages you cite stand for the proposition you’re advocating. For one, the impartiality condemned is always favoritism towards the wealthy and powerful, not favoritism/”partiality” as a whole. For another, I’m not sure how you reconcile your absolutist vision against “partiality” (regardless of its object) with common government policies that “treat people…similarly situated” in different ways (see my earlier mentioned policy examples).

        “…you should have drawn the conclusion that in matters of justice that absolute partiality is required. Because you have an expanded view of what justice is and what government therefore should do you draw a strong negative reaction.”

        I apologize if I mischaracterized your view. May you please clarify how I did? You’ve now used the phrase “matters of justice” a few times in these comments. Per your earlier blog post, that phrase must be broad enough to include progressive taxation schemes. I assumed (maybe wrongly?) that “matters of justice” therefore included other kinds of government policy. May you please clarify where you are drawing the line, if at all, between “government policy” and “matters of justice” in a way which includes progressive taxation but does not include laws like the ADA?? I don’t want to continue to mischaracterize you.

        “…yet we rarely prosecute until this president is elected and we want to get rid of him. So let’s pull this law off the shelf and charge someone near him ( a law that we could also apply to many others but we don’t care enough about it to do so unless it gives us this political advantage) in order to politically wound Mr. Trump at the minimum, and hopefully get some dirt on Mr. Trump to take him out. And its ok to selectively enforce the law only against one of Mr. Trump’s minions because we know what a scoundrel Mr. Trump is.”

        So, here’s where I’m having trouble following your argument. I can’t tell if you’re using Mueller’s investigation to criticize nationwide strategies (and practical limitations?) which lead to selective prosecutions…or if you are arguing Mueller’s investigation is an abuse or aberration of those nationwide strategies. To make matters worse–and as far as I can tell–this particular portion of your comments is almost entirely speculative. You’ve characterized the entire Mueller-led investigation as a political hit job designed–solely, maliciously–to remove the sitting president.

        I think a more plausible and reasonable interpretation of what’s occurred is Mueller–applying traditional, federal prosecutorial methods–is working his way up a chain of suspects involved in the special prosecution for which he’s responsible, and as he confronts these suspects, he uses every appropriate means at his disposal to gain leverage against them so he may continue to claim the chain. Again, maybe you think the methods he’s using–the methods used nationwide–are improper (or illegal?). Or maybe you think he’s working outside those methods. I can’t tell.

        “Let’s remember what Mr. Mueller did to Mr. Manafort on the pre-dawn raid of his home. “

        Setting aside the fact that the alleged in-bed pat-down of Mrs. Manafort has been sourced by exactly one anonymous source in a Washington Times article…what exactly is your concern with Mueller’s raid of the Manafort home? Do you take issue with the judge’s decision to find probable cause and grant Mueller’s team a warrant? Or that Mueller’s team arrived unannounced at an inconvenient time? I’m trying to understand you’re guiding principle. Are you arguing all early-morning home-searches should be constitutionally barred? If Manafort is guilty of greasing a foreign power’s efforts to tip the presidential electoral scales, I don’t see why a properly-warranted search–no mater how untimely and inconvenient it is–is inappropriate.

        “Jonathan, admittedly, I disagree with disparate impact as a way of assessing justice going the other way, but surely you can’t be arguing that only treatment that leads to disparate impact is worthy of being called injustice?”

        Nope. :) That isn’t what I said or even implied. By citing that standard of proof, I sought to show how I don’t think you could provide evidence sufficient to satisfy a standard of malicious impact even less than actual intent.

        I’m also not sure why you dispute the “disparate impact” standard; it is a constitutionally-recognized approach to identifying racist outcomes when racist intent isn’t present in the public record.

        “Regarding Mr. Mueller’s behavior, I don’t see how you can congratulate Mr. Mueller on his handling of Mr. Strzok, when he only took action AFTER the press reported it, and had stonewalled congressional committees for months..”

        That’s fair. Maybe the timing suggests Mueller wouldn’t have otherwise taken the action he took. I’m less inclined to believe that, but I see your point.

        “He invited the criticism he rightfully receives by placing many Democratic operatives on his team early on. But of course, you could make this cleverly absurd argument, that Mr Mueller is an objective fellow because he hires lawyers on his team and most lawyers are Democrats!”

        I encounter this argument more and more often, and to me, it strains credulity. Yes, 8 (or 9) of the 15 lead attorneys have contributed (most just once) to a Democratic campaign. Some have even worked closely with Democrats. But in a two-party political system, these sorts of high-profile (and in some cases former-government attorneys) are bound to have worked for and supported various campaigns and politicians. I don’t see how a slight imbalance in the team’s political representation (8 or 9 out of 15!) necessarily condemns the entire investigation as a political malfeasance. Comey, the originator of the investigation, is a life-long Republican. Mueller–with his sterling, straight-arrow reputation–is a lifelong Republican. And he was appointed by a life-long Republican, the current Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Meanwhile, the other 6 or 7 attorneys bear Republican roots in some way, shape, or form.

        At this point, the burden of proof is on you—and on institutions like Fox News as the WSJ—to show how a slight imbalance among Mueller’s extremely accomplished, all-start team of lead attorneys compromises the whole special investigation.

      2. @ Jonathan
        “For one, the impartiality condemned is always favoritism towards the wealthy and powerful, not favoritism/”partiality” as a whole. ” Jonathan, I honestly don’t know how you can say this. That is precisely the point of Lev 19:15. ““You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” How can you read this and not come to the conclusion that in court, NO ONE is to be favored, or to be shown partiality. See also Exodus 23:2-3. If we can’t agree to this, not sure where we can go.

        “Regardless, whether this is an issue of “mercy” or “justice” isn’t that relevant if, under either standard, Christians bear a duty to to the marginalized. Or are you arguing Christians bear no such duty under either standard? My position is pretty straightforward: Christians bear a duty to the marginalized, but not because the marginalized have a “claim” against Christians necessarily. Instead, Christians’s horizontal duty to the marginalized stems from their vertical relationship with God.”

        Careful here Jonathan, you are starting down the path to the Dark Side (i.e., agreeing with me!) :-)
        I agree with everything in your statement here. But once you leave the justice argument and head to mercy, then there is no longer a case for the state to forcibly interfere. The state cannot force mercy, it can and should force justice. I agree completely with our horizontal duty to the marginalized, but I disagree with Keller (and who he draws from, Nicholas Wolterstorff) that there is a corresponding right on the part of the marginalized, nor have I wronged them if I fail to do what God requires of me.
        Seriously, I am with you on the goals of serving the poor and marginalized, but for me, voluntary action is the only way to get the sanctification that God desires for us. Forcing action through government short circuits the transformative process that God intends.

      3. Leviticus – You’re right. I should not have used the word “always.” Although the majority of passages which speak to fairness and partiality condemn favoritism toward the wealthy and powerful, there are a few exceptions.

        …that still leaves a lot to discuss. :)

        Mercy and Justice – Thank you for clarifying what you perceive as the different stakes with respect to matters of mercy and justice. If by “mercy” you mean it is optional for Christians to treat the marginalized with less than equal value, dignity, and purpose, I just don’t agree. And if by “mercy” you mean a state should never leverage its resources to improve the condition of the marginalized, I also don’t agree.

        Still, though, I don’t see how the distinction works for your position. In your argument against progressive tax, you cited to John Hartley to contend the people of God out to establish “in their courts” the same impartiality God commands of them in their personal lives. The principle seems to be what God commands of his people, his people ought to actualize in their political institutions. If so, doesn’t that principle likewise apply to even something like “acts of mercy?”

        …and again, after walking down that rabbit trail, we’re still left the unresolved, actual substance of this post regarding “partiality” and policy.

  4. Jeff (not me) said, “Does the fact that Mr. Flynn lied about perfectly legal conduct to an investigation that never should have happened bother me? Yes! But I don’t like open-ended, “let’s see what we can find,” investigations”

    Never should have happened? !

    The investigation originally started in December 2016 and it had to do with hacking the 2016 presidential election. The investigation was NOT about Flynn, originally. His name came up during the investigation.

    Comparing this investigation to injustices against minorities makes no sense whatsoever. I am deeply disappointed in your attempt to make Flynn out to be a victim.

  5. Dr. Haymond, you’ve expressed issues with the existing system of open ended investigation and political discrimination, but have not offered any sort of practical solution to this problem. True, the law must be impartial, but what steps do you believe ought to be taken to prevent partiality and preserve justice? Are there any limitations on government power that are being ignored within the body of law, or do you know of any limitations that ought to be added to help solve the problem?

    1. There is a reason why both parties let the special prosecutor rule lapse. It invites this political theater. We should never give someone an unlimited budget to go find something, somewhere. Investigate specific, credible crimes when there is probable cause. But probable cause cannot be people are unhappy with the election result–and everyone knows this is really the issue. But they’ll never admit it. If Mr. Trump had lost the election, with every underlying behavior the same (at least with Mr. Manafort, since Flynn’s lies were post-election), would be doing any of this? And since we all know the answer is no we would not, I ask you, is the current process one of justice?

      1. Of course this is not justice! Unfortunately, politicians will always find some way around the rules to persecute those they dislike. The best way to end this nonsense would likely be to cut funding for special prosecutors. The only issue with that move is that they may choose to only pursue political cases and abandon true criminal investigations entirely.

      2. Carter-

        Cutting funding for special prosecutors is not going to halt criminal investigations and lead to political shows. The special prosecutor is inherently a political show (part of the reason why Justice Scalia dissented so vigorously against it), and there’s little reason to keep it around. Democrats hated it during the Bill Clinton years, and Republicans hated it during the Bush years. Moreover, the whole idea of a special prosecutor circumvents the Justice Department and starts to undermine the separation of powers. It’s better to cut the whole thing loose.

  6. It seems to me that there is blame to go around. Flynn should not have lied. It doesn’t even make sense. However, a lot the investigation I think was not intended to bring Flynn into questioning. Therefore, the investigation left its scope and that’s a problem. That does not excuse Flynn for lying in anyway

    To your point on injustices: I think you’re pretty much spot on. On all sides of the debate, I think that a lot of strife could be avoided. In your example with the broken taillight for example, had the police officer pulled both cars over, there would be no issue. At the same time, I think the officer had more reason to question the beat up car with the broken taillight, not because of the race of the driver, but because of the car’s condition. I think we’d also need more facts. For instance, if the white guy is wearing a nice suit and tie, I’d think there’d be less reason to be suspicious.

    People always seem to get upset at police stereotyping based on appearance. They seem to think that if the police never stereotyped, the injustices would never occur (or at least greatly decrease). However, if the police did not make judgments based on appearance, they’d be in much more danger. For instance, if the police are confronting someone and see a bulge in the pocket of his hoodie and their hands in the pocket, the police don’t know if that is just hands or if they have a gun. They should take the appropriate steps to protect themselves. This is where the divide of injustice in this example occurs. What actions can the police take without going too far?

    To summarize, Flynn has no excuse for lying. The investigation should not have taken the path it did. Injustice is a tricky issue and I think a lot of it is blown out of proportion and could be handled in a far more civil way than it is handled now.

    1. Why shouldn’t it have taken “the path”?

      What about it specifically was wrong?

      I mean, after all, Flynn’s name came up at the very start. It wasn’t as if the investigation left its original path: Flynn was right at the start of the path. :-)

      It seems that many of those who are critical of the investigation–Sean Hannity and other “entertainers” at Fox News included–are angry about Mueller not because of the investigation itself, but because of what the investigating is uncovering.

      1. The anger is not about Flynn as much as it is about the double standard that those of one political background get as opposed to others (Hillary Clinton and company). They covered up her investigation and Comey drafted a statement clearing her before even interviewing her. Members of Mueller’s team donated to the Clinton campaign and are clearly biased. The same person, Strzok, who recommended changing the wording regarding Mrs. Clinton’s e-mail case went into aggressive mode when the Flynn interviews were ongoing. He has been shown to be partial toward the Democrats. This stuff is why people are upset. There is clear evidence of bias and not equal treatment.

        “Sean Hannity and other “entertainers” at Fox News included.”

        If the people at Fox are ‘entertainers’ I’d hate to think what the liberal hack-jobs at others networks such as, well, basically every other news network are. Certainly not journalists.

  7. I agree with the article asking for justice to be blind. Obviously this is never going to be true in our society, and even us at Christians instantly think differently of other and nonbelievers. Even at Church people get caught up in judging each other. I do not believe that your article needed to have the example of the white and black person. And saying that the crack might have been planted just was kind of offensive and not necessary at all. We could have gotten this idea without this fake profiling. I live in a community that is roughly 78% African-American, so the majority of police that are protecting me are of color. So it just seemed a little unnecessary and offensive towards police.

    1. Tommy, you really don’t know much about the police do you? Dr. Haymond’s hypothetical is pretty common, there’s a perception in our culture that black people are more dangerous than white people, so yes even black cops can discriminate against black people, that’s how you get so many police brutality cases where the victim is black, so many wonderful imprisonments. A cop planting evidence might even feel like they’re doing a good thing because it takes a dangerous person off the streets.

      There’s a reason that in the neighborhood I grew up in you didn’t trust the cops. Cops were considered the enemy.

      1. Darth Vader, I am glad that you have this great prejudice against police. I am sure all of their misjustices toward you is why you are so freed up to comment on evangelical politics blog. Its a good thing you use a fake user name so you can be sure no one is out to get you. Look I understand Police do have prejudices, they have been in enough situations for those thoughts in their head to grow. When you have a family like many of these people do, they do develop possibly bad judgement for their own self-protection because they aren’t trying to leave their families without a dad or mom. Some police can take it too far which leads to some of the problems that we find our self in. There are 900,000 police in America, with all of them out there doing their job 250 African Americans were shot and killed in 2016 by them. Now I know 250 people being killed does not tell the whole story because many more our in prison, but even so how can you dare to think that police are mostly dirty or out to get different races. There has almost been a stunningly low amount of police brutality cases. How many in the last year? Like 14 major ones? Out of 900,000 people you could find 14. Wow that’s a great testament to how great our police really are! Thanks for bring that to our attention Darth Vader. I am glad for you that you have to sleep with one eye open for the cops, but I do not. My city was the murder capital of the US a few years back, and I can tell you that the people’s main enemy was not the police it was the gangs and the violence around them. So keep putting this idea in your head that police might not be safe. But just know 135 of then died last year trying to protect people like you who are ungrateful for their efforts.

  8. Thank you for your response to comments given in the last post. While most of the arguments listed were far too technical for the average person to follow, I appreciate your examples of biblical impartiality.

  9. Flynn should not have lied and to me it doesn’t even make sense why we would lie! Your point on injustices I think was clearly laid out in the in example with the broken taillight. If the police officer pulled both cars over, there would be no issue but, I think the officer had more reason to question the beat up car with the broken taillight, not because of the race of the driver, but because of the car’s condition.
    Flynn in my mind had no excuse for lying. The investigation should not have taken the path that it did take but since it did and since injustice is a very tricky issue I think most people blow the incident way out of hand and there must have been a more civil way than the way it is happening.

  10. I agree that everyone should be treated with impartiality, especially within the legal system and regardless of political power or fame. It is a fallen world where many people do not follow Christ and even the ones that do still tend to judge one another based off what is seen. It would be interesting to hear your opinion about how we could minimize our sinful way of automatically judging people on first impressions in order to ultimately minimize partiality.

    I do, however, think it’s important to consider the power that political leaders have. As people who are making decisions for our states and country, perhaps, they should be held to a higher standard and should have more checks in place to keep them honest. If they have nothing to hide, then they should not be lying.

  11. Stereotyping and judging off first impressions (like in the tail light example) is part of our sinful human nature, not that that justifies it. And I do think assuming a police officer planting crack is a stretch but that doesn’t mean it is not possible. I take your point, but also it is hard to find what one is looking for without searching. And since no one really knew why Flynn lied, the assumption was he was trying to hide something. I understand your stance of why it was not really right but it is only logical to question why he lied. I think maybe the extent was unnecessary but he also should have been honest. I think it is hard to find a good balance in this situation.

  12. I think if we are all completely honest, we all judge off first impressions. It is just in our basic sinful nature that is a result of the fall. Despite this, it is essential that the judicial system treat all of the citizens with a sense of impartiality. This was demonstrated in the Bible with Solomon and the two women fighting over the child. The American judicial system must now and always demonstrate a high sense of impartiality towards everyone.

    In regard to political leaders, I think that they should be held a higher standard. They are not average joes, they are the leaders of our nation and the front face of our nation. We cannot let them have loose standards because if we cannot hold the leaders of our nation to a higher standard how we can expect to hold the regular citizens of our nation to a standard?

    1. “In regard to political leaders, I think that they should be held a higher standard. ”
      Before the ballot box yes, but not before the judge.

  13. You are absolutely right that we need to be impartial in our judgements. It is easier said than done of course. If in fact we were impartial in how we dealt with judgement like that, then a lot of the issues that we deal with now would not be something that we would have to worry about. Impartiality is something that is biblically proven and that is a standard that we should live up to.

  14. Thank you for explaining this idea of impartiality from a Biblical perspective. As you’ve mentioned it is a big concern in justice and faces a lot of criticism. Seeing that it is God’s standard, we must seek to live it out and accept it as what is true. However, we must keep in mind that we are sinful in nature and this concept of impartiality goes against it; we will have to be very intentional in order to bring it about.

  15. I completely agree that justice should be blind. It seems to be almost impossible in current times for this to actually happen, but it is something that I would like to see one day. The fact that Flynn lied to the police is definitely a problem, and I hope to see that justice is brought to him for what he did.

  16. I definitely think that lying to the FBI on multiple occasions is a big problem and reveals that Flynn must have been trying to hide something that he believed would be harmful to himself if he was exposed.

    In my opinion, our justice system should be blind, although as humans, I really think it is impossible to not allow our perceptions of appearances or past experiences to be projected onto people. Thus, I don’t think that a totally “blind” justice system is achievable.

  17. I do agree that our judgments should be impartial. Though this may be hard, it is what we should do. Now in regards to Flynn, I definitely don’t think that it was alright for him to lie to the FBI on multiple occasions. However, I don’t think that we should be surprised to hear this. In our sin nature, we will do things like this, and while they may be wrong, there is no need for surprise that they happened.

  18. I agree that justice has to be consistent, or else it wouldn’t be justice at all. I haven’t followed the Flynn investigation very closely, but it seems like there aren’t any “good guys”– Flynn shouldn’t have lied but the investigation shouldn’t have been there in the first place. One would assume that since Flynn lied, he was trying to hide something, and the logical thing to do then would be to keep going and investigate further to find out what he was trying to hide.

  19. As Christians we need to balance the idea of being rationally ignorant to political situations, where the benefits of being informed on our political and judicial ordeals are less than the value of time it takes to comprehend these things, with the idea of being informed on what is going on so that we can best be salt and light on this earth.

    In this case I believe it is a great opportunity to look at the case so that we can view it biblically, rather than avoiding it and just call it being “rationally” ignorant

  20. I find very interesting the allusion to Hayek’s distinction between law and legislation. that “just because something is illegal doesn’t make it an action of morality.” It makes me want to dig deeper into his work explaining this. What is the application then to something like Cedarville’s code of conduct. Is disobeying it then not a moral action if it is something not against my Biblical morals?

    1. Andrew–
      We are still morally obligated to follow any law that does not forbid us to do what God commands or command us to do what God forbids. But as a Christian, we should understand that legislation that is not consistent (or required by God’s law is only necessarily obeyed because its the law, not because its right in and of itself.

  21. I really liked what you said, or re-said in this case, about be impartial to Everyone from all walks of life. I think that it is important for our justice system to emulate this, yet I realize that complete impartiality is nigh impossible.

  22. I 100% agree with the statement that differential-justice is in fact an injustice. Part of the definition of justice is equitableness, or equality, so therefore, differential-justice cannot be considered justice by any standard of the word. Impartiality is ingrained in the definition of justice, as it is a key part of the definition of justice. Without it we don’t have a standard of true justice but rather, people’s opinions guiding their decisions.

  23. Impartiality is crucial to a Christian witness. God abhors unjust measures and unfair treatment of the oppressed. This gets complicated with the various stereotypes and distrust that is commonplace today (much like the story in the article casting doubt on whether or not the suspect was actually carrying crack). We must be truthful and just in all our actions, but at the same time be loving. It is a hard course to walk, especially with how downtrodden some people groups are in today’s society. Only through prayer and careful consideration can we exemplify His justice here on earth, but no matter what we will not be perfect until heaven. At least we can rest in the assurance that He is the ultimate Judge and He is merciful but always fair.

  24. It is important for us as a society to not pretend like white people have a huge advantage in the justice system. Although this may sound silly, this blog post reminds me a conversation I had with my friend Stephen, who is black, in high school about an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In the episode that I watched, Will and Carlton are pulled over and end up going to jail. Stephen and I had a very progressive conversation about the episode the next day that ended up being essentially that if Carlton can be thrown in jail for crimes he did not commit, any black male could be, which is a huge problem with no solution in sight.

  25. Of course, I totally agree that justice should be blind. However, I think it is near impossible for this to happen. We are programmed to judge at first glance and base our opinions off of another based on a single first impression. However, I think that we can take steps in the right direction to make this happen.

  26. “There is strong Biblical support for treating people impartially, and in an opposite way, strong condemnation for showing partiality or favoritism.  This is because we are supposed to image God, and God is impartial.  Romans 2:11 states clearly that God shows no partiality with respect to salvation.” I found this section very interesting. I have never thought about partiality/favoritism like this, but I would have to agree with you that the Bible absolutely supports impartiality. This does make me think through question such as: Should we be completely impartial in every circumstance? Should we treat strangers the same as family members? Is it sinful to have best friends or favorites?

  27. I do agree with the statement that justice should be blind and impartial. The bible says that we are all made in the image of God and there shouldn’t be any impartiality to that. It isn’t right when someone is thrown in jail or punished differently than another person when they commit the same thing.

  28. Unfortunately, the real problem here is sin. Yes, there are prejudices against essentially everyone: minorities, and majorities, women, and men, Republicans, and Democrats. The predefined way of thinking just is different depending on who you are. None of this is going to go away with our sinful flesh. The best we can hope to do is minimize it. But that task falls on everyone’s shoulders, not just those in the majority.

  29. It seems as though at the present time, so many people are finding the justice system to be rather suspicious. A great deal of this stems from the belief that the justice system is bent on punishing individuals unfairly based on race and other distinctive factors. I resonate with these protesters in their concrete belief that the justice system must be blind to things such as race. Each person in this country must be judged on his actions alone and not be given extra suspicion for factors he has no control over.

  30. I think it is easy to say that the justice system should be impartial, and I believe that it should be, however clearly it is not. Those in control will change and bend the rules in order to appeal to their best interests or beliefs. Our culture shapes the views of those that have the power so that they are no longer impartial but willing to make allowances.

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