from conscientious objectors whose church affiUation wasneither bizarre or nonexistent. It became fairly obvious thatnrehgion could not be the test. Perhaps it never should havenbeen, except in a very restricted sense. Reinhold Niebuhr,nonce a leading pacifist, was right to censure the inconsistencynof religious pacifists who enjoyed all the fruits of civilnorder but insisted on their right to let others bear thenburden. Groups that left the world—Shakers or Trappistnmonks—were one thing, but worldly and prosperous Quakersnwere quite another.nThose who actively assist illegal immigration are engagednin more than a conscientious refusal to comply with INSnregulations. They are actively involved in what they see as ancampaign of civil disobedience against our treatment ofnCentral American refugees. The civil rights and antiwarnprotests of the 1960’s are an obvious historical parallel. Civilndisobedients, in the strict sense, do not simply disagree withngovernment policies; nor do they, on the other hand, seeknto subvert the system. While agreeing with the essentialnfairness of the system of justice under which they live, theynobject to specific lapses in the application of justice. Theynappeal not just to their own conscience but to the consciencenof the nation.nMost civil rights workers acknowledged the rightness ofnthe American principle of equal rights. What they protestednwas the fact that Blacks did not seem to enjoy the same legalnprotection as the rest of society. Many members of sanctuaryncongregations believe they are doing the same sort ofnthing. American immigration policies do, in fact, recognizenthe special status of political refugees. All they want, theynclaim, is to arouse public consciousness to the point that thengovernment will show the same compassion to the Salvadoransnas it does to the Nicaraguans. As William SloanenCoffin puts it, “We must continue the sanctuary movementnin its present form until Congress makes it unnecessary tondo so.”nAlthough civil disobedients like to lump their activitiesntogether with the more traditional forms of conscientiousnobjectors, their cases are different. Since they object to thenapplication of laws and regulations, they must, as RonaldnDworkin insists, “exhaust the normal political process . . .nuntil these normal political means hold out no hope ofnsuccess.” It is not at all clear that the friends of thenSalvadorans have exhausted the ordinary and routine stepsnof the legal and political process. They have not evennsucceeded in putting debate on open immigration fornCentral Americans high on the political agenda. It was notna major issue of the 1984 campaign, nor is it likely to be anhot item in the ’86 congressional races. But instead ofnlobbying and petitioning, they seem ready to break the lawnat the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, the left has beennbattered in recent elections. The American people, given anchance to vote on their agenda, have rejected it decisively inn1980 and 1984. Like the spoiled children of the 60’s theynonce were, they refuse to abide by decisions arrived at byndemocratic process. Many of them, if given half a chance,nwould eliminate that process and substitute for “governmentnof the people” a government in the name of thenpeople—the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is not simplynthis or that policy they disagree with, but the Americannform of constitutional government.nMost of the clerics express their rebellion in the familiarnterms of liberation theology, an enterprise in which thenemphasis is definitely on liberation and not theology.nStripped of its passionate appeal to the gospels, liberationntheology calls for a violent overthrow of existing socialninstitutions as the prelude to a reign of social justice, anformulation with which few Marxists would argue. SisternDarlene Nicgorski, one of the Tucson 12, has all the rightncredentials; she campaigns against “the dinosaur” Reagan,nvisits Nicaragua, and rants against U.S. “incursions” intonCentral America. William Sloane Coffin is, if anything,nmore open. In his speech at the “Inter-American Symposiumnon Sanctuary” in Tucson last January, Mr. Coffinnproclaimed that “a successful revolution in Central Americanwould not only bring economic and social change therenbut would also cast a few hopeful rays in our direcfion.” IfnCoffin means to imply that the “refugees” will bring thenrevolution home to the U.S. (a suggestion made by morenthan a few members of the movement), then his activitiesnamount to more than a defiance of U.S. immigrationnpolicy, more than a protest against our foreign policy: ifntaken seriously, this active assistance to illegal immigrationnwould have to be seen as part of a general program ofnsubversion against the legal government of the UnitednStates.nBy any ethical or legal standards, the sanctuary movementnis on very shaky ground, but it is not surprising if mostnpeople are confused by questions of civil disobedience.nEven after dismissing all the possible justifications for thenmovement, a nagging suspicion remains. Christian charity,neven if it is understood only in the attenuated Sundaynschool sense, obliges us to help the poor and unfortunate.nHow can we refuse to assist the Salvadoran refugees onnpolitical or prudential grounds alone?nIt is a difficult question. Genuine charity is so rare a giftnthat we should avoid any attempt to limit it. On the othernhand, most men and women have what James Fishkin callsnprimary moral obligations to family, friends, and community.nThese responsibilities take precedence over our merelynuniversal obligation. Man is, as we must never forget, ansocial animal, whose sociability is rooted in his experiencenof family life.nOlder ethical systems took account of man’s socialnnature. Charity, so the proverb used to run, begins atnhome. Aristotle wondered if a man could be accountednhappy if his friends and family suffered affliction. ThenAristotelian view of an ethics based on family and communitynis not simply a fine old idea to read about in books: it isndescriptive of the way people actually live.nThe older approach to the ethical dilemma presented bynCentral American poverty would begin by recognizingnmore than our “primary obligations” to our own families.nMost people, in fact, see their ethical obligations as a seriesnof rings radiating outward from the center, family and closenfriends, to the local community and the church, and to thennation. By the hme it reaches “all mankind,” it is a weaklynfelt obligahon, like the magnetic force of the north pole,nwhich is powerful enough to attract a compass needlenalmost anywhere on earth but too weak to move a carpetntack a quarter inch.n(continued on page 21)nnnJANUARY 1986 / 7n