Justice is to be impartial. This is the repeated teaching of the Scriptures and what most civilized nations profess to believe. The rich are not to have advantage over the poor, nor those with friends over the friendless, nor those with popular appeal over the unpopular. Being the sinners that we are, we fall short of the scriptural standard. Nevertheless, individuals and society are to strive to attain it. For example, we are not to apply one standard of rectitude to former Supreme Court Justice Fortas and a different standard to the man nominated to replace him, Clement Haynsworth. Nor are we to say that we oppose a nominee because of questionable financial dealings when what we really object to are his judicial decisions.
The sudden dismissal of the charges against the Green Berets is another example of the need for impartiality. If what these men did has long been common practice, then it was wrong to injure their reputations by singling them out for trial. That public outcry apparently led to more humane treatment for the men and then to their release and the dismissal of charges is a sad commentary on military justice. How many others are unjustly punished because the public does not get word of their condition? Or, if the men were guilty, why should public clamor be allowed to influence justice? Mixed into speculation about the case was the fear that intra-service or inter-agency rivalry was behind the charges. If the missions of the Special Forces are to be redefined, surely there are ways to do it with much more justice than by charging eight men with murder, then dropping the charges on a technicality.
Meanwhile the Army is faced with a Mafia-style scandal in its non-commissioned officer clubs. That wrongs may have been done is bad enough; even worse is the alleged attempt to cover up wrongdoing. Respect for law is lost if concern for the reputation of an organization prevents proper law enforcement. Talk about “law and order” loses its credibility when we don’t want laws enforced that affect us and our friends personally.
Impartiality is not easy to achieve or maintain. Yet the attempt must be made. In the instances of Judge Haynsworth, the Green Berets, and the NCO clubs there is indication that strict impartiality is not being practiced, that men have been accused or exonerated for reasons other than those that true justice would approve. In the ongoing trial of the eight accused of conspiracy to foment riot at last year’s Democratic convention in Chicago, there is another real test of impartial justice. However much one may dislike the ideas, antics, language, or hairstyles of the accused, impartiality requires that they be judged solely on the basis of the charges presented in court. All Americans, and especially Christians, must continually strive for the impartial administration of justice. Only in this way can we hope to maintain the kind of respect for the law that is needed for the functioning of society.
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