The oath of office for nearly every civil servant and military officer of the United States of America requires that the individual “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”Â. Just as in war it is important to know who your enemy is and what their strategy entails, so too in government is it important to know who our enemies are, and how they plan to attack.
While those in control of our government continually strive to make us aware of who our foreign enemies are, rarely will you hear a list of domestic enemies. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the individuals frequently reminding us of our foreign enemies’ identity are among those who might be labeled as domestic enemies of the Constitution.
The Congressional oath of office reads as follows:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. (Emphasis added)
The oaths for federal judges and newly-commissioned military officers are the same. In sum, this means that millions of individuals have taken upon them such an oath. How, then, can so many people swear to defend the Constitution from its enemies, yet remain unaware as to who such enemies are and how they are to defend the Constitution from them?
Further, when the enemy is comprised of one’s neighbors, friends, business associates, fellow church-goers, or amiable, well-known individuals, how many people would uphold their oath to oppose them? And how many would ignore their oath when convinced that the individual in question is doing what’s best in any given situation?
Several decades ago, J. Reuben Clark spoke about the need for a solid support of the Constitution:
God provided that in this land of liberty, our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is, to government officials, no matter how great or how small they may be. Under His plan our allegiance and the only allegiance we owe as citizens or denizens of the United States, runs to our inspired Constitution which God himself set up. So runs the oath of office of those who participate in government. A certain loyalty we do owe to the office which a man holds, but even here we owe just by reason of our citizenship, no loyalty to the man himself. In other countries it is to the individual that allegiance runs. This principle of allegiance to the Constitution is basic to our freedom. It is one of the great principles that distinguishes this “land of liberty” from other countries. (J. Reuben Clark, via Quoty)
As President Clark indicated, by reason of our very citizenship we are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the Constitution. All those desiring to become citizens of this nation are likewise required to affirm with an oath that they will defend the Constitution from its foreign and domestic enemies. This is not an effort relegated to the high ranks of government; We the People are responsible for the eternal vigilance necessitated by the constant encroachment of the numerous hosts of enemies that seek to destroy and ignore the Constitution.
Who, then, are the domestic enemies of the Constitution? Few like to point fingers and accuse others of so heavy a crime, and yet every day there are more people taking oaths to affirm that they will do so. Before one may act in support and defense of the Constitution from such people, one must know who they are. The relative ignorance of the citizenry regarding such domestic enemies affords them a wide open door for their activities. Our Constitutional defense thus becomes nonexistent, and the enemy wins the day.
I believe that there are two basic groups of domestic enemies. The first and most obvious is the group of political opponents within our own government who pursue legislation and programs that are contradictory to the powers and principles embodied in the Constitution. These are the individuals who either refuse to acknowledge the Constitution at all, or speak praises about its importance in public, but in private act in a manner that contradicts its restraint. These enemies are not just those in power, however. Domestic enemies of the Constitution likewise include all those who support political officers who themselves are enemies of the Constitution. Anybody who rallies around such a banner (or plasters the bumper sticker on their car) shows through word (support) and deed (vote) what side of the field they are on. They, too, must be opposed, and exposed for the enemies of the Constitution that they are.
The second and more subtle group of Constitutional enemies are those who adhere to and advocate for a moral standard that rejects natural law, traditional morality, and Judeo-Christian values. Many of the Founders spoke of this situation, one of them being John Adams:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. (John Adams, via Quoty; emphasis added)
President Benson agreed when he said that “Constitutional government, as designed by the framers, will survive only with a righteous people.” These are the enemies that embrace legal positivism, sue for nihilistic libertinism, and seek after ways to avoid the consequences of their actions. As our Constitution cannot function with a people that reject the very principles upon which it was created (e.g. reverence for natural law and divinely-granted liberty), those who would defend it from its domestic enemies must work to promote the morality and righteousness necessary for it to remain efficacious as a restraint of power on elected leaders.
Whoever the enemy may be, what is important is that we 1) identify the individual or group, 2) demonstrate on what grounds they are opposing the Constitution, and 3) oppose their efforts through a counter-measure of our own. Indifference, apathy, or the benefit of the doubt do not help in supporting and defending the Constitution. If anything, seeing such widespread inaction likely emboldens the enemy and assures him an easy victory.
We are at war, and it is incumbent upon each of us to stand up and be counted. We must identify our enemies, not forgetting to look within our own ranks. Our success (and the Constitution’s) depends in large measure upon our ability to accurately identify the threats around us, prioritize them, and act appropriately and diligently.