Jonathan Lange: Encourage Wyoming’s “Lesser Magistrates” To Stand Firm

in Column/Jonathan Lange

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By Jonathan Lange

The genius of the United States Constitution is its separation of powers. This concept, in turn, derives from a centuries-old line of reasoning sometimes known as “the doctrine of the lesser magistrates,” later developed as “subsidiarity.” It is needed now, more than ever.

After October’s special session failed to pass legislation to protect Wyoming citizens from federal overreach, a November 10 Press Release from the governor announced a “three-pronged approach” to challenge “unconstitutional federal vaccine mandates.” Wyoming joined three separate lawsuits “against the Biden administration for imposing [] vaccine mandate[s]” on federal employees and contractors, on private businesses with more than 100 employees, and on all healthcare workers.

On December 7, 2021 a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction against the federal employee mandate. Combined with numerous injunctions issued in November the “three-pronged approach” has temporarily halted all three mandates and has a good chance of becoming permanent. 

Most recently, Governor Gordon, and four other governors, sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense asserting their rights as Commander in Chief of the state’s National Guard. He wrote, “Under Title 32 duty status, the Wyoming National Guard is under my command and control.” Thus, the vaccine mandates on Wyoming Guard members “are an overreach of the federal government’s authority.”

Beyond the immediate subject of vaccine mandates, these actions uphold the broader principle of the separation of powers. This, in turn, is built on the Bible. It is the practical outworking of the Bible’s teaching most concisely articulated in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

These words teach Christians that governments should be respected as divine authorities. But that is not all. They also teach that all government officials—from school board members to presidents—wield authority from God. They are not mere functionaries of the king but have duties and responsibilities in their own right. 

Further, since all authority is from God, all authority is ultimately answerable to God. Kings that use their authority to do objective evil—like murder, theft and homewrecking—act illegitimately and outside their governing authority. 

When higher authorities usurp the power of other God-appointed authorities (i.e. “lesser magistrates,”) they are taking over what God has given to another. And when they do this in open defiance of justice, the “lesser magistrates” have a duty to protect their constituency from the unjust higher authority. 

Wyoming’s July 29th filing of an amicus brief with 23 other states to oppose the unjust and unconstitutional rulings of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey provides another example of this principle at work. 

Protecting Wyoming citizens from unlawful medical mandates and unjust hindrances in the protection of women and children is a welcome development. Both indicate that the governor’s office understands its duty to oppose federal authority when doing so is necessary for the protection of its citizens.

However, a new development, called Corporatism or Fascism, is harming Wyoming citizens in another way. Fascism, thus defined, is not a cartoonish word-weapon used meaninglessly to smear political opponents. It has a precise meaning. It is the collusion of government and business in the implementation of undemocratic policy. It deliberately breaks down the line between government and private enterprise and weaponizes corporations to enhance the power of the state. 

Here’s how it works. Governments threaten to enact rules that will hurt an industry’s bottom line. Then, they induce it to enact a policy that the government is constitutionally forbidden to enact. Businesses comply to receive favorable government treatment and, thus, become an arm of the state disguised as private enterprise. The circle is closed when the state fails to prosecute any laws that the business breaks in the process.

This alarming trend has seen financial institutions collude against the firearms industry as in “Operation Choke Point.” It has seen government collude with social media giants to encourage censorship. And it was used in the infamous “war on coal.”

Now, Wyoming is beginning to push back against such Fascism. After reports that the Biden administration is “pressuring U.S. banks and financial institutions to limit, encumber, or outright refuse financing for traditional energy production companies,” State Treasurer, Curt Meier, signed a letter from 15 energy-producing states. These states promised to yank $600 billion from financial institutions that kowtow to the administration’s pressure.

This is good news for Wyoming’s energy-producing families. Better still, it is a sign that Wyoming’s “lesser magistrates” are seeing the clear and present dangers of federal overreach combined with corporate collusion. It will take firm resolve and cooperation with other states to build walls of defense. But so doing will yield high dividends of peace and freedom.

Let us encourage all of Wyoming’s elected officials in this work. By grounding the constitutional separation of powers in the biblical foundation of Romans 13, we can provide both clarity and moral backbone to Wyoming’s government. Good government is not only judged by its practical results, but by its moral rectitude.

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