Building a Shining City on a Hill

The News Magazine of HBU

Building a Shining City on a Hill

By John Tyler, JD, PhD

Photo: Courtesy Michael Tims / Houston Baptist University

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

The Morris Family Center for Law & Liberty is dedicated to the “promotion of American Founding Principles, the Rule of Law, and the Preservation of Liberty.” Our mission is to promote and preserve our nation’s history and founding principles. Our new home will feature a main building modeled after Independence Hall and two adjoining classroom buildings. These facilities will recreate the physical environment in which our foundation documents were born, giving a new birth to our founding principles in the minds and hearts of our students. These unique facilities symbolize our commitment to three principles.

First, the Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty recognizes the existence and fundamental importance of natural law to our founding principles. Natural law maintains that human conduct is subject to eternal and unchanging moral laws. These moral laws originate, not in human legislation, but in a divine lawgiver. These moral laws govern all people, at all times, and in all circumstances. Human happiness depends on obeying these moral laws and pursuing justice.

Our lives and liberties are given to us by our Creator. As such, no mortal may lay claim to own us, use us, infringe on our liberty, or harm us in any way without our consent.  No government can take away our rights to life, to liberty, and to pursue our own destiny. These rights exist prior to government, not as a result of it. In the political realm, natural law prevents tyranny by protecting individual rights and limiting government power. In the legal realm, natural law prevents injustice by abolishing unjust laws.

Second, the Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty is committed to the establishment and preservation of sovereign and just laws. Our system of ordered liberty requires a government of sovereign laws, not sovereign men. This means that rightly constituted laws must wield supremacy over political officials. Political officials are subject to the same laws as other citizens, and they are obligated to enforce the laws. They have no power to ignore the laws or suspend their enforcement.

Third, the Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty is committed to the establishment and preservation of liberty. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end, necessary for security and for pursuing the best and highest objects in life. The U.S. Constitution is the greatest charter of liberty in human history, and it adopts the wisdom of 24 centuries of success and failure in laws and government.

The founding generation established our Constitution, but no constitution can enforce itself. Every succeeding generation, therefore, has the duty of preserving and maintaining our Constitution. To fulfill this duty, we must equip our students with a thorough understanding and appreciation of the Constitution’s principles, including the sovereignty of law, a mixed constitution, the separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and the protection of private property and individual liberties.

As we help our students develop their minds, we must also help them develop their hearts. Despotisms are common, but representative republics are rare, and they cannot endure without the political virtue of their citizens. We must therefore foster a love of justice and liberty in our students. We must encourage them to truly love their neighbors as themselves. This mission is only possible, of course, if we love the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls as well as our minds. We can then achieve our goals of building our shining city on a hill, establishing justice, and preserving the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.