Joan Andrews Bell by Patrick Henry Reardon

Joan Andrews Bell

by Patrick Henry Reardon

Yesterday, January 15, 1998, here in Pittsburgh Judge Raymond Novak sentenced Joan Andrews Bell to incarceration from 3 to 23 months. One of her attorneys, challenging that sentence before the bar, pointed out the irony to his honor that it was the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. The two cases were clearly parallel. In both instances it was the matter of citizens heading off to jail for choosing the superior claims of conscience over civil laws that they considered unjust. Both individuals very explicitly appealed to the principle that, should the two things come into conflict, it is better to obey God’s law than man’s.

Joan’s case has nowhere near the notoriety of Dr. King’s, of course. In fact, today’s final edition of the major daily here, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, evidently esteeming the event very little, reduced its coverage to a captioned photograph.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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