Oct. 1, 2015 - Family District Court Judge John Schmude led a lively philosophical discussion recently at the University of Houston Law Center about reconciling the principles of natural law with the law of the land when they conflict.
“This is good for the legal education,” he said Tuesday in welcoming about 40 students to the lunch-hour program sponsored by the student organization Advocates for Life.
Quoting the Declaration of Independence, Schmude defined natural law as a universal and immutable right based on human dignity given by the creator that cannot be taken away by any government.
Students argued the founding fathers were violating principles of natural law - “that all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” - because they owned slaves at the time those words were written.
The focus shifted to the idea that the principles of natural law are often violated because the laws of different countries vary widely based on that population’s morals and values. Schmude said not everyone might agree, but the common thread is humanity, and it is based on dignity.
“Why do we say that slavery was wrong even if the law said it was right?” asked Jacob Karam, president of Advocates for Life. “Because it undermines human dignity and no government has the right to undermine human dignity based on natural law.”
Jorge Muñoz, an LL.M. student disagreed. “The judge was a good speaker, but I am not convinced of the position because it is a more complex discussion philosophically speaking and if there is an objective truth it is yet to be seen by who interprets the law.”
“This was a very interactive group,” Schmude said as students continued the discussion as the hour-long session came to a close. “Just what I was expecting.”