Unpublished Papers

LAW, TRUTH, MEANING AND LIES: A METAPHYSICAL LOOK AT BEREA COLLEGE V. THE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY

Eric Z. Lucas, Seattle University Law School

Abstract

Berea College was a private school located in Berea Kentucky where, since the late 1800's blacks and whites had been taught side by side as students. In 1904 the Kentucky legislature passed a statute making it unlawful to "maintain or operate any college, school, or institution where persons of the white and Negro races are both received as pupils for instruction."

Shortly after passage of the act, Berea College was indicted under the statute and at trial was found guilty of violating the act. The college appealed saying that this statute violated its rights under the First (Freedom of Association) and Fourteenth Amendments. The college lost its appeal at the state level and lost again when it appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

However, what is most interesting about the case is the nature of the arguments used. The Supreme Court of Kentucky based its decision on the now defunct doctrine of natural law and the divine principle of the natural separation of the races. And although I do not agree with the outcome of the case or the courts rationale, I have always found this case to have profound power and logical coherence: even though, as an American Black, I completely realized that the court’s arguments constituted a pack of lies.

Given the political power of the white race in America at the time of Berea College and the political power of the Nazis at the time of their destruction of the Jewish people—why the need to lie? If all law is truly “normative” in nature, why not just claim the right to act on the basis of the obvious position of the majority’s raw power, privilege and authority? My article answers these important questions and suggests that the answers have critical import for our society today.

Suggested Citation

Eric Z. Lucas. 2009. "LAW, TRUTH, MEANING AND LIES: A METAPHYSICAL LOOK AT BEREA COLLEGE V. THE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY" ExpressO
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/eric_lucas/1

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