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Radio interview
Alan Keyes on the Jan Mickelson Show
March 29, 2005

JAN MICKELSON, HOST: We've got a chance to briefly latch on to former Ambassador Alan Keyes for a moment or two, dealing with the Schiavo case. As she nears death, Ambassador Keyes, what are your thoughts?

ALAN KEYES: Well, I think that this is just one of the most tragic moments that I have seen in my lifetime in America, for two reasons. One, because an individual's basic constitutional rights are being destroyed by a judicially-mandated murder, because a chief executive, Jeb Bush, in Florida, who has the explicit authority to act, has refused to do so. And I have made that case very clear. It's very clear, it's very simple. He is the supreme executive authority. His oath says that he must protect, defend, and support the constitution of Florida. That constitution guarantees to Terri Schiavo an inalienable right to enjoy and defend her life. That's what it says.

And inalienable, by the way, Jan, as you know, means that you cannot give it away, and it cannot be transferred by law. So, Judge Greer, when he claims to have transferred the exercise of this right to Michael Schiavo, does something that's contrary to the constitution of Florida, on the face of it--because inalienable rights cannot be transferred to others. And that is what he purports to have done in his judicial actions.

So, basically, she is being done to death in an unconstitutional way, and Jeb Bush has the sworn duty to act against such destruction of the constitution.

Also, by allowing some county sheriff, combined with a local judge, to trump the supreme executive authority he has been granted by the constitution, he also undermines the integrity and the authority of the office of governor. And so, on two counts, he is in dereliction of duty, in a case that is clear, in terms of the obligation of conscience, not to stand by while injustice is done in this case. It's just a total tragedy.

MICKELSON: Yeah. If you could be convinced of two things--one, that this was her expressed will; and two, that there is no longer any consciousness there to protect--would your opinion be different?

KEYES: On the second point--let me start with the second point first, because I think it is dangerous. You know, I am strongly pro-life. And that means from conception to natural death, you treat a human being like a human being.


KEYES: And when people say, "Well, from our point of view, she has no consciousness," I say, "Well, what consciousness do we have before our brains develop in the womb?" We must treat life with a holistic integrity.

So, it seems to me, that, as a matter of principle, it doesn't matter. We are making judgments that I think we don't have the knowledge or the right to make in this particular instance.

As I often point out to people, before we could measure brainwaves, we thought the gross signs of life were what indicated whether you were alive or dead. Now, because we can measure brainwaves, we say the gross signs of life don't indicate life? And yet, I'm looking at that and saying, "Well, we were ignorant before. What if we are ignorant now of something that we can't yet measure that is indicated by the heartbeat and the brain and the breathing continuing, and so forth?"

This is the limit of scientific knowledge, and yet we want to take a life or death decision, based on the ignorance of our experts. It doesn't make any sense.

MICKELSON: Can I borrow your theological expertise and shift gears completely on you here?

KEYES: Um-hm.

MICKELSON: Here in Iowa, we are experiencing another one of these child abductions and murder/kidnapping cases, and it did not end well here in Iowa. And we are thinking of whether or not we should reinstitute the death penalty for kidnapping, murdering, child molesters.

Cardinal [Theodore] McCarrick said the other day that we cannot defend life by taking life. And I assert that that is self-refuting nonsense. He represents the liberal Left of Catholicism in this country. Alan Keyes, you represent the traditional Catholic worldview. What do you think about applying the death penalty?

KEYES: Well, Cardinal McCarrick is making a statement that is contrary to the Church's teaching through all of its existence. And I think he knows it.

The Church's teaching is based on a distinction between situations where you are taking innocent life, and situations where you are acting in defense of life. And in the latter case, up to and including the taking of the life of the individual who is assaulting an innocent person, it encompasses the authority, especially on the part of the state, to implement capital punishment. It was never questioned.

And as I often point out to people, Christ was subjected to capital punishment. He was subjected, contrary to right. He was an innocent person. And when Pontius Pilate reminded Him that he, Pontius Pilate, had the authority to put Him to death, Christ could have looked at him and said, "No you don't. I'm an innocent person. You can't have the authority to do an unjust thing."

But instead, he looked at Pontius Pilate and said, "Whatever authority you have comes to you from above." And that phrase has been understood to mean two things: one, from Caesar, his superior; but also from above, a phrase that is used throughout the Old Testament to mean "from God."

And so, the Apostle Paul also, when he talks about the power of the sword, said that the magistrate does not hold the sword for nothing--reminding people that that is an authority that comes from God.

So, from a theological point of view, I think it is difficult to sustain the notion that the state does not have, in fact, the right to mete out the ultimate punishment--because it is not, by the way, in defense of individuals or in revenge that it does so. It is, in fact, in defense of the integrity of the law which then protects all of us from rampant abuse by those who are minded to do us violence.

MICKELSON: Ambassador Keyes, thank you for your eloquence and your expertise. Thank you for being a faithful witness for life, sir.

KEYES: I do my best, Jan. You, too.

MICKELSON: Thank you. Bye-bye.

KEYES: Bye-bye.

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