What Would You Do?

Scott Warren is a geography teacher at a local high school in Ajo, Arizona. On January 17, 2018, Scott was arrested for providing humanitarian aid to two immigrants who were dying of thirst. Scott is a member of the religious group called No More Deaths.

The federal government alleged that humanitarian aid was a crime in that Scott was aiding illegal entry into the U.S. The arrest involved three felony counts. When brought to trial, the jury deciding Scott’s case was deadlocked. The federal government could have decided not to try Scott again, but it opted for a second trial. The jury in the second trial found Scott not guilty. Scott’s response to the verdict was: “The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness.”

Scott faced a misdemeanor charge of littering for leaving gallons of water in the dessert for migrants. This case was dismissed. He was found guilty of driving on a restricted road. The U.S. Attorney commented that Scott’s actions were “a misguided sense of social justice.”

How is saving a life a misguided sense of social justice? One of the most cherished parables from the Bible is that of the Good Samaritan. A man who is left half-dead along a road is refused help by two passersby. He is then helped by a Samaritan even though the man and the Samaritan come from groups who hate each other. The parable’s message is that we need to show mercy to others no matter what.

If you had been on the jury in Scott Warren’s case, how would you have decided? When does the rule of law take precedence over what we think is the moral thing to do? This is a question that is fundamental to our society today. How would you decide whether to subject a terrorist to near-death punishment in order to obtain vital information affecting our national security? Could you initiate the administration of a lethal injection in a capital crime?

Just imagine how we might balance what our moral sense tells us is right and what our legal system tells us is lawful? Just imagine how we decide on whose sense of morality is determining? Just imagine how we can transform morality from a sign of weakness to one of justice?

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“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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