A Mike Ebnet word salad
by Steve Timmer
Jul 2, 2019, 8:00 PM

Natural law is in the eye of the beholder: his name is Mike Ebnet

Fellow Edinan Mike Ebnet got some ink in the letters section of the Strib:

Here’s how I interpret that book excerpt and natural law

A couple of things surprised me about a June 23 letter about the June 16 excerpt from “The Conservative Sensibility,” a new book by Washington Post columnist George F. Will.

One, the writer stated that he saw racism when Will wrote “ ‘inequalities of wealth … rising from exceptional natural aptitudes” and their “genetic bases.’ ” Well, I saw that quote as a fancy way of referring to exceptional talents and intelligence, which are not restricted to one race or another but are genetically based.

Two, in rejecting Will’s assertion that judges should “enforce natural law,” the letter writer asserts: “[As] unequivocally noted in the U.S. Constitution, the source of authority in this country is ‘We the People.’ ” The problem is, and I think that this is what Will was getting at, “We the People” are fickle. Natural law is not.

Need examples of how fickle “the People” are? “We the People” have amended our Constitution 27 times, repealing one amendment after 14 years. I will also add that in 2012 we elected Barack Obama and in 2016 we elected Donald Trump. You say “We the People” gave more votes to Hillary Clinton? Well, we will need a 28th Amendment to change how we elect presidents.

Natural law is part of our DNA. It is the ultimate authority. The Declaration of Independence, which predates the U.S. Constitution by 15 years, says that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and that “it becomes necessary for one people … to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”

The Constitution changes. Natural law, the inalienable rights provided by our creator, does not.

This was immediately interesting to me for a couple of reasons. Mike likes enumerating things, so I will, too.

First, the “June 23rd letter” that Ebnet refers to is from William Beyer, and it won a Spotty™. I urge you to go and read the award.

Second, in the run up to the last school board election in Edina, Ebnet penned a choleric response to a letter that I wrote and which was published in the Edina Sun Current. I invite you to read the letters, because there, as here, Ebnet offers some wild but entertaining remarks. In my letter, I criticized the Center of the American Experiment for trying to throw the school board election with a lavishly produced and widely-disseminated screed by Katherine Kersten about how diversity curricula were bringing ruin to the Edina schools. Ebnet responds:

Do you think Timmer would have criticized the U.S. Supreme Court when it told the Board of Education of Topeka that separate schools for blacks and white was unconstitutional? Or if Timmer would have criticized President Eisenhower for sending in troops to override local control of Little Rock Central High School? I think Timmer only wields the “local” argument when it is convenient to him. Doesn’t build a lot of trust in what else he says, does it?

This was the first time I ever heard Katherine Kersten elevated the the pantheon of the U.S. Supreme Court or President Eisenhower.

It was utterly charming, of course, to hear people who championed equal protection compared to Kersten, who champions unequal protection. It was pretty Orwellian really.

But this is the kind of thinking we’re dealing with.

Naturally — so to speak — Ebnet invokes the natural law aficionados’ cheer about “endowed by their Creator, etc. . . . ” in his pitch for natural law. And he says, after all, the Declaration of Independence predated the Constitution by 15 years!

Yes, Mike, and the Stamp Act predated them both, but we pretty much ignore it. And like the Stamp Act, the Declaration of Independence has no force of law. The Declaration of Independence and ideas of inalienable human rights obviously animate our thinking about the law, and they should, but they aren’t the law. The law flows from the entirely human document called the Constitution. As William Beyer so aptly observed.

Mike and all his flushed pals so want natural law to be a thing because they believe they know what it is and can tell the rest of us what it is and how to behave. Authoritarians love natural law, as they believe they’ve received it, anyway.

Natural law is just a license for unmoored theologians like George Will, Doug Tice, and Mike Ebnet to announce what the law is. Ebnet says that natural law is in our DNA. I doubt, however, that Mike and I have the same DNA. I’m not sure we’re the same species.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.