If you've poked around in our Reading Room you may have had a chance to explore the Christ county Vault (http://lawfulpath.com/ref/ccvault/index.shtml). This is an archive of some of the work and related documents generated by a (now defunct) Christian jural Society which went by the name Christ county, kingdom of God.
I was involved with that project. When Christ county was abandoned, roughly sixteen years ago, I established the Vault in hopes others might pick up the work where we left off. I've gotten feedback over the years showing this is a topic of interest for many readers but, so far, if anyone has really used the info much they haven't told me about it.
One of the issues of Christ county with which I was heavily involved, and the one which I thought might hold the most promise, was the creation of the Court Rules (http://www.lawfulpath.com/ref/ccvault/crtruls.htm).
More people than ever before, no longer think it is an extreme position to believe that the United States government, and its corporate subsidiaries, have become a criminal syndicate rather than a legitimate government.
The Court Rules were created to give Christians an alternative to going into the courts of the unbelievers (1Cor:6).
True, it is not always possible to stay out of their courts, particularly if one is dragged into them in chains. But what of the myriad civil lawsuits brought by brother against brother? Many of these are avoidable.
For a short time Christ county had a functioning court system, complete with rules, a Clerk, and at least four judges (which provided a tribunal for oversight). The Court allowed members who had signed the Christ county Compact (http://lawfulpath.com/ref/ccvault/compact.htm) to claim conflict of law in regard to both civil and criminal matters brought against them in foreign (U.S.) courts.
Christ county collapsed before most of these principles could be tested to their full extent. However, the Court did facilitate both mediation and arbitration for its members. I believe this is a valuable and much needed service for which most Christians have nowhere to turn.
I have no intention of establishing another original-jurisdiction-court. This would require starting up another jural society, and I'm not up to it. It's a lot of work; it's dangerous, and I'm not in a position to put forth the level of in your face required to make a go of it. I make no apologies.
However, I have begun to consider the possibility of offering the service of private Christian Dispute Resolution through The Lawful Path.
What are the Basics?
I've been teaching these principles for years. Our foundation for the Court Rules began with the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17:
15. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Thus the steps for proper dispute resolution are laid out in four successive steps, with the honest hope that each step will resolve the problem without having to resort to the next step:
- Private. Go privately, man to man, and try to settle.
- Mediation. Meet in the company of one or two mutual friends and talk it out. Try for a voluntary settlement.
- Arbitration. Take the matter before a mutually agreeable third party (the church). Each party to the dispute presents his case. The arbitrator makes a binding decision to which all parties must abide.
- Excommunication. Any man (or woman) who refuses or fails to comply with a judgment in arbitration is to be publicly shunned.
Who Can be a Mediator/Arbitrator?
Literally anyone can be a mediator or arbitrator. Given that by some counts there are now more than seven billion people on the planet, it should be pretty easy to find a judge, right?
The catch is that whoever is chosen must be agreeable to all parties in dispute. Obviously you will look for qualities such as honesty, impartiality, and reasonable intelligence. If you are Christian you will (or ought to) look for someone who will offer you resolutions which are consistent with Christian doctrine and principles.
In the past this used to be a regular function for a pastor, or the deacons of a church. However I can testify that my attempts at persuading pastors and deacons of various churches to step up and fulfill this function have been deeply disappointing. An offended member might move to another church, which affects their bottom line. Besides, they might risk losing their 501(C)(3) exemptions.
So who do you ask? A mutual friend? He risks offending one or the other party, and will likely refuse. Your bartender? Your barber? They'll refuse for the same reason. Between actual blood siblings? Dad, or Mom, if they're still living. Otherwise, all of us are probably out of luck. Which is why the secular courts have risen to such prominence.
Even if you find someone willing to do it, can all parties agree that he's the right one for the job? When people are getting along, there are plenty of things upon which they agree. By the time they are in dispute, it's often harder to reach agreement on even the simplest matters.
I've been trying to solve this issue for myself, since Christ county dissolved sixteen years ago, and I haven't had any luck. I figure if it's a problem for me, then I'm not alone.
How to Make it Official
Let me stress again that the court I envision creating will be strictly voluntary. This means that in order to access the services of the court, whether they be mediation or arbitration, all parties must agree.
If I decide to do this, I'll start with the aforementioned Court Rules as a base, and re-work them a bit to convert them from a court of original jurisdiction to a private service. Otherwise their character will be preserved.
A man or woman who comes with a dispute will grant jurisdiction (give the court the right to hear the case) when he makes application. There will be a form.
As to the other party in dispute, there are two possibilities:
- If he has signed a prior contract agreeing to use The Lawful Path's services then he must participate.
- If there is no prior contract, then The Lawful Path will invite him to participate. In this case, if he refuses there can be no prejudice brought against him.
The prior contract is the preferred method of granting jurisdiction. It can be easily done as a clause within a contract between the parties. For example, let's say Andy rents a donkey to Bob for one year. They draw up a contract that includes the expiration date, how much money Bob will pay Andy, what Bob should feed the donkey, etc. Each of those statements is a clause. They also include a clause which says something like this:
The parties hereby agree that in the event of a dispute arising from this contract, they may not submit the dispute to any court other than The Lawful Path (lawfulpath.com), which shall have full authority for mediation and final arbitration of all matters related to this contract.
That's the short version, just so you get the idea. The clause should include a link to the Court Rules, which would be published online. The clause could allow for mediation, but not arbitration. Or arbitration, but not mediation (if you preferred mediation be done by someone else, for example). But that's the gist of it. I would publish several example clauses to make it easy for folks.
You should also note that the service will not be free. The Christ county Court had a fee schedule, and this one will too, if I do it. The fees will not be excessive, but they will cover costs, and justly compensate the people involved for their time. A cost is also beneficial to all parties as it serves as a minor barrier to filing frivolous claims.
Ultimately I would like to get enough people involved that I can use the service myself. For that I'd need other judges to avoid conflict of interest.
Day to Day Operation
Since I'm in Tennessee and you're probably not, most of the day to day operation will be done using encrypted technology. That means sending evidence by encrypted email; giving testimony over encrypted audio/video channels, etc.
I'll work this out if the plan goes any further. Yes, I expect I'll have to help some of you with the technical details from time to time.
Membership and Excommunication
There's one more part to this I need to work out, and it deals with the enforcement of judgments.
Obviously if the court issues a judgment and you refuse to honor it, I'm not going to send a big hairy Christian over to your house to beat you up. There are two methods of peacefully enforcing judgments issued from a private court.
- Government courts have rules which allow foreign judgments to be brought before them and enforced. The rules usually afford very little leway for the government court to alter the judgment.
- My preference for enforcement would be for The Lawful Path to publish a list of any members who have not honored judgments. This would be in accordance with Matthew 18:17:...but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
I've done considerable reading on this subject, and I'm contemplating maybe having a membership with small yearly dues to support the system. If I go this route there would be a list of membership, accessible only to other members, showing the member to be in good standing ordinarily, or not in good standing if the member had failed or refused to comply with a judgment. This would enable Christians to advertise, for example:
Member, in good standing, of Lawful Path Dispute Resolutions
or whatever I decide to call it.
When Would I Use This?
Ideally it would become common for you to invoke this private jurisdiction in all your dealings with others, whenever possible, both private and business. There's an old saying that goes,
The palest ink is more powerful than the sharpest memory.
What this is saying is that in your dealings with people, whether they be friends, family, or just business acquaintances, your best practice is to put your dealings in writing. This minimizes disputes before they even begin.
So when you loan or borrow money, buy or rent a car, house, or donkey, offer your services for a price, or any number of day to day transactions, it is best to have a written contract. The contract should include these parts, not necessarily in any particular order:
- Name and contact information of all people involved (the parties).
- The effective date, and the duration or expiration date.
- The purpose of the contract.
- The consideration given (money paid).
- Clearly set forth everything each person agrees to do or not do.
- Set out the penalty for each party if he doesn't do what he promises (breach of contract)
- Name the method for dispute resolution (the subject of this article).
Another prime example of the need for private dispute resolution is marriage. In my article Coverture and the Courts (http://lawfulpath.com/ref/news/v03n01.shtml) I write about the importance of a couple signing a marriage compact prior to joining together in marriage. They should contemplate in advance how they should resolve their disputes, and how property, children, and other matters should be decided in the event of divorce. Better to decide these things in advance, when you are in love and agreeable, than after things (hopefully never) become bitter.
If you don't name the method for dispute resolution, then the government courts conclude you have abandoned your right to make the choice. This is called escheat. For more information on the fine points of jurisdiction, see my article A Radical Perspective on Jurisdiction (http://lawfulpath.com/ref/jurisdic.shtml)
Okay, now here's the part where you come in. If I do this it's going to be a bit of work putting it together. I need to know if there's enough interest from readers to make the effort worthwhile.
How about it? Feedback anyone?