Jesus for Revolutionaries: A Blog About Race, Social Justice, and Christianity

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

God's Equal Protection Clause: The Biblical Basis for Social Justice

The Equal Protection Clause (EPC) is the prime guarantor of civil rights in the United States Constitution.  It reads:  
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The EPC was originally created to protect the rights of newly emancipated African American slaves after the Civil War.   Basically, the federal government was afraid that states would treat blacks unequally following the abolition of slavery by passing racist policies and laws against them.   The EPC was constructed, at least in theory, to prevent the states from denying African Americans “the equal protection of the laws.”  As we know from history, states blatantly disregarded the EPC, discriminated against African Americans in every horrible way imaginable, and found legal loopholes to justify their racism. 
Although originally designed to protect African Americans, the reach of the EPC was eventually extended to protect Asian Americans, Latinos, and other minorities from governmental discrimination.   In the present-day, the EPC guarantees the civil rights of all people (including whites), based upon race, national origin, gender, and religious affiliation. 
One controversy surrounding the EPC is that it has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to offer little protection to the poor.  Poverty is not a "suspect classification" according to the highest court in the land, and the result is that the federal government, states, and cities can pass almost any type of law which discriminates against the poor and it will be found constitutional.  With the current conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court it is likely that the same might become true for the civil rights of undocumented immigrants as well. 
         Thankfully, the Bible has a very different view than the Supreme Court of the United States.   The Bible is very clear that any discrimination against the poor and immigrants violates God’s Equal Protection Clause.   In fact, the Bible is also abundantly clear that God’s equal protection extends to every individual regardless of race, nationality, gender, or socio-economic status.  More than 2,000 verses of Scripture establish the biblical basis for God's Protection Clause. 
         A summary of biblical teaching on the civil rights of the poor and immigrants (God’s Equal Protection Clause) might be summed up in this way:
All persons born in the world are made in My image, and subject to the jurisdiction of Heaven… No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of immigrants and the poor who are made in My image; nor shall any state deprive them of life, liberty, or property, without consideration of My rigorous ethical standards; nor shall they deny any immigrant or poor person the equal protection of the laws.  Those who violate My Equal Protection Clause will be subject to divine judgment. 

As expressed by this reiteration of the Equal Protection Clause, Scripture teaches that oppression of immigrants and the poor is offensive to God.  At the same time, the Bible is also clear that such injustice is the defining reality of a humanity which has chosen to turn its back on God.   

Tune in in a few days for a specific discussion of the Scripture which forms the basis for the biblical EPC... 

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