WTMA commentary broadcast 6/27/08:
The decision this week by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that states cannot execute child rapists is troubling for a number of reasons, both constitutional and moral. For example, according to the ruling, the death penalty can still be applied in cases involving “treason, espionage, terrorism, and drug kingpin activity, which are offenses against the state,” but, “as it relates to crimes against individuals… the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken” said the court.
But why would we execute traitors and spies? Or terrorists? Or drug lords? – many of whom have never taken lives, at least directly? Because the gravity of their crimes damage and further endanger the well being of the American public, or at least this is the court’s logic.
But what about a grown man who forces himself sexually upon a child? In some cases multiple children, multiple times?
The irreparable damage done psychologically and physically to the child is without question. As the most innocent among us, the first and most important protectors of children are not and have never been the courts – but their parents. In an earlier era, parents and their neighbors would have known exactly how to handle such a crime, and if you thought our ancestors were hard on horse thieves, just imagine what they might do to those who robbed children of their sanity, self worth and soul.
But today we have courts to handle such matters, and in declaring the death penalty improper for child rapists, our court system has stated emphatically that it will not seek proper justice for both the victims of child rape and their parents.
As goes the cliché, if you want something done right, you do it yourself, and this is often true. If I were to hire someone to do a job and he was incompetent, no one would be surprised if I decided to sidestep the employee altogether and do the job myself. Possible vigilante action against child rapists would be no different – and if the courts can’t insure justice, parents certainly can and might, I wouldn’t blame them one bit, and shame on any court that would punish them.
The question of the death penalty has always inextricably also been a question about the role of the state, and many of my libertarian friends are opposed to the death penalty precisely because they believe it gives the government more power than its citizens. This is a good and valid point.
But if the people willingly relinquish the dispensation of justice to their government, as we have in the form of a court system, why would we deny the courts the right to dispense the ultimate justice? In some cases, anything less than execution is not true justice. Child rape is certainly one of those cases, as it is essentially a crime against humanity in individual form and should be punished with the same severity.
But for libertarians or anyone else concerned about intrusive and overpowering government, it might be worth noting the importance courts place on crimes against the state, as opposed to those against children. Crimes like treason, espionage, terrorism and drug trafficking can occur without a single life being taken, and yet the government still considers each worthy of the death penalty. But not child rape. Why? What makes offenses against the government more heinous than offenses against children?
If David Koresh of Waco, Texas was indeed molesting children, an allegation that remains questionable to this day, then he should have been executed. As it turns out he was executed anyway, as were the children themselves, but not for rape – for crimes against the government, in the form of unregistered weapons. What kind of logic is this? To paraphrase conservative writer Joseph Sobran, if I had to choose between the dangers posed by a man who thinks he’s god and a government that think it’s god, I’ll gladly choose the cult leader.
With this week’s decision, the Supreme Court effectively declared our government incompetent and inept in giving child rapists their just due. And when such a crime occurs again, we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if parents decide to go into the justice business themselves, even if illegally, in order to do the job American government won’t do.