Would you go to jail for what you believe in? Would you give up your freedom in the pursuit of liberty? Are you sure?
I’ve been asking myself that recently. It’s not that I feel immediately threatened with imprisonment, but because in doing some reading about views of citizenship in the Bible I was reminded the Apostle Paul was arrested at least three times. The first time his imprisonment lasted a day, the second for five years, and the third for less than a year though ending with his martyrdom.
Set his martyrdom aside; Paul was willing to be repeatedly jailed for his beliefs. His movement and freedoms were restricted because of his faith.
He wrote to Galatians: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Our Founding Fathers famously pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty. That included the knowledge they, and possibly their families, would be imprisoned – before being marched to the gallows. Comparatively, today we risk much less.
A flashpoint in the Civil Rights Movement was a woman willing to be jailed over race-based bus seating assignments to make an indelible point about systemic injustice.
A couple years ago my friend Jim Graham of Texas Right to Life and I were briefly threatened with jail because we and other activists were protesting a state representative’s campaign re-election announcement. Instead, we were merely ticketed for holding an “illegal parade” – even though no one was going anywhere. The tickets were later laughed out of court.
But no one in my lifetime has more readily embraced imprisonment for the cause of liberty than Shelley Luther. The former school teacher is a part-time rock band performer and a full-time salon owner.
When Gov. Greg Abbott followed the lead of the Democrat governors in New York and California and ordered the shutdown of the Texas economy, Shelley Luther found her family – and the families of the stylists who worked with her – couldn’t last through the shutdown. So she risked jail and reopened her store. Risked it… and was tossed behind bars by a leftwing judge eager to exercise the powers granted to him by our Republican governor.
The Supreme Court of Texas intervened and ordered her release. The episode revealed Greg Abbott’s carefully coifed conservative image to be photoshopped cronyism rather than principled substance. And it showed Texans that if a salon owner can go to jail for her rights, and survive, so can they.
Shelley Luther, like so many in history, risked her freedom to defend liberty – and in so doing put a check on our governor’s power grab.
Being a prisoner of conscience requires having principles that aren’t dulled by convenience or comfort. Being jailed for liberty requires an understanding that freedom of movement is less important than standing firm in our beliefs.
As citizens, we can be thankful for men and women who have placed their lives, fortunes, and honor on the line to defend the gift of liberty and self-governance. And we should be willing to do likewise.