Florida Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently declared that his state would not comply with President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In blatant defiance of the federal government, Florida will not expand its Medicare program or implement any of the other changes that “Obamacare” requires. While a flat-out refusal to comply with federal law on the part of a lower authority is relatively uncommon, it is by no means unprecedented. The history of the United States is filled with individuals and groups who have decided to obey their consciences in the face of laws that they believed to be illegal or immoral, or both. In fact, our country’s very founding began with an act of civil disobedience against the unjust and illegal actions of England’s King George III.

Even before our nation was formally established, adherence to true justice and the natural law, rather than to the whims of tyrants, was a hallmark of the American spirit. Witness the turmoil that took place in the American colonies in the 1760s and 1770s over the actions of England, including the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Once the Constitution was written and established, adherence to its principles, rather than to subsequent legislation, has marked American history. Certainly the most well-known and the most culturally and historically significant is the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which helped to bring about a radical, positive change in culture, and to end many forms of institutionalized racism.

As with any action that involves society at large, prudence should be used by anyone who wishes to engage in civil disobedience for the sake of changing the laws or improving society. What is noticeable about the examples of civil disobedience upon which we look back and are proud is that they were conducted in a humane and non-violent way. People like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and the Founding Fathers did not seek to uproot the foundations of civil society or to massacre or wreak destruction upon their oppressors. They desired simply to right a wrong, and were determined not to let the pomp of tyrants deter them from obeying the natural law and their consciences. And they succeeded. Let us hope that Governor Scott’s refusal to comply with Obamacare brings about a similar result.