ABUSE OF POWER includes the blatant, aggressive, and widespread abusive acts by tyrannical dictators (think Bashad al-Assad of Syria, Hitler, Stalin, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez). ABUSE OF POWER causes extreme poverty when corrupt governments accumulate wealth while denying the basic necessities of life to their own people. ABUSE OF POWER occurs when individuals are martyred for their religious beliefs. And ABUSE OF POWER also includes judicial abuses and prosecutorial misconduct, such as when a judge accepts a bribe in exchange for a particular ruling or a prosecutor engages in witness tampering or knowingly and intentionally withholds exculpatory evidence that would prove a defendant’s innocence (see Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and the Brady Rule), resulting in false imprisonments and the destruction of lives. ABUSE OF POWER includes actions by the government or its agencies that limit or deny religious freedoms, free speech, or other constitutional rights and basic human rights.
You may have heard the saying, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and 21st century America is no exception. One look around the current state of the Department of Justice and the FBI reveals that powerful individuals and groups are not only susceptible to corruption but often are seemingly immune from oversight or discipline, no matter how egregious and verifiable their corrupt acts may be. As Americans, we often naively believe that our judicial system, our prosecutors and judges can be trusted to perform their duties justly, fairly, and with great care to protect citizen rights. The sinister reality is that the very American institutions charged with protecting our constitutional rights actually oppress and target citizens by denying:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of religion
- Right to a fair and just trial
- Individual liberties and civil rights
- Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
It is at these times, however, when Justice calls out and pleads with us to take action and stand up against abuses of power. We must walk alongside those who are oppressed and downtrodden, the victims of injustice. It is a part of our humanity and our spirituality that we long to see justice accomplished and the persecuted set free. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and we, too, must proclaim this truth.
Jeannie Finnegan, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Abuse of Power