I hadn’t thought there was much worth commenting on with this story until I heard the attorney filling in for Bill O’Reilly on his radio program this evening commenting on it.
A central Illinois bank robber who was turned in by his three sons was sentenced on Thursday to 40 years in prison for his string of small-town holdups.
This attorney was taking the position that it was perfectly natural, normal, honorable and right to put government before family. He even went so far as to hold an “affirmative action” program where only callers taking the other view were allowed to call, based on the idea that there wasn’t any good argument to be had against his view.
Now, certainly there is room for discussion that the attorney is correct ethically as well as legally, but this attorney had a fair amount of gall to take the position that it was an ethical no-brainer to turn dad in. His position implied strongly that the rule is, always turn someone in if you know they committed a crime regardless of your relationship.
But, suppose with me that this attorney had information that the bank robber was his client? Oh, well, that’s a different story, of course, isn’t it. Exception that proves the rule and so on. Okay, so now suppose this attorney had information that the bank robber was his wife? Hmmmm…another legal exception to the rule that you always turn someone in, but certainly doesn’t disprove the idea that we should always put the state first… Suppose this attorney were a priest on the side and one of his parishioners confessed to being the bank robber? What if he were a doctor and saw some distinguishing feature that only a doctor would notice? In our society, in any free society, we hold many relationships to be more important than the relationship of government with governed. We hold many institutions – church, marriage, counselor – in higher regard than government.
Family is, or certainly should be, one of those institutions. Given the option of living with Hillary Clinton’s Village and no Family or Rick Santorum’s Family and no Village, I’d reluctantly take the latter.
While there is no current law providing for filial privilege, perhaps there should be and even aside from the legal question there certainly is room for debate on the moral/ethical aspect of this. It certainly isn’t a no-brainer that sons should side with the state against their fathers.