The problem with false preachingPriest Park Chang-shin cried out before fellow followers. “The democracy has fallen. We are back to the Yushin [the military regime of Park Chung Hee]. The National Intelligence Service and other public forces have been mobilized to disrupt the election and computers have been manipulated to falsify vote results.”
He justified North Korea’s skirmishes and attacks around the Northern Limit Line (NLL) by likening it to Japan’s provocations near the Korean territory of the Dokdo islets. He also advocated for North Korea, denying its involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship that killed 46 sailors. He claimed President Park Geun-hye cannot be the country’s legitimate president because she was elected through a scam.
Modern law-abiding governments have created a national structure based on social agreements, bringing all realms including religion under the legal umbrella. The religious sector enjoys various privileges and protections from the state. Justice, however, rules over religion, as no existence is possible without grounds.
The Roman Catholic Church also does not tolerate sexual crimes committed by priests. Religious activists have the right to raise their voices over wrongdoings and violations of human rights and can make political statements. But practitioners of religions symbolizing love and benevolence have a higher duty to not make false accusations or wrong their neighbors.
Park’s sin is that he spoke lies and demagogue during a religious congregation. Philosopher Immanuel Kant said lying was always wrong because it corrupts the moral capacity of humans and undermines the dignity of others. Lying becomes the basic recipe for all crimes, using others for means and not as the objective. Park led the people in the congregation to believe the election results had been adulterated, that U.S. Aegis destroyers had been present during the sinking of the Cheonan and, therefore, that a North Korean submarine could not have been responsible for the attack and that the NLL on the South is part of North Korean territory. He thus disregarded the dignity and intelligence of his audience.
Another wrongdoing of his has to do with the Aristotelian concept of justice. Say we have nice flutes. Who should get them? According to Aristotle, it is not the rich man or the good person. Because the purpose of flutes is to be played, they should go to the best flute players. Justice must be served for the purpose of a good, an institution, and a person. Anything else is unjust.
The priest must answer for his false preaching. The activities by the Counter Intelligence Program, of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, aimed at watching and discrediting domestic political organizations that targeted civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, could provide guidance to prosecution investigation. The FBI’s covert operations motivation is to protect national security, prevent violence and maintain political order by surveying the writings, communications, contacts and financial support of groups and individuals deemed “subversive.” Religion and thoughts are absolute when their realms are limited to the inner self. But religious activities and congregations are relatively free. To disobey a prosecution investigation is hypocritical of a religious leader who teaches equality while demanding immunity. Equality under the law is tantamount to equality under God in the secular world. Park must take off his robe and voluntarily present himself to the prosecution office.
There are many reasons for a prosecution investigation. If he confesses to wrongdoing, he could be pardoned. Even if found not guilty, investigation is still necessary, as we saw with the much-publicized criminal trial of O.J. Simpson.
The former professional American football star was acquitted in criminal court in June 1994 of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her boyfriend; he won over a mixed-race jury with a teary defense about discrimination against African-Americans.
However, in a subsequent civil trial, the court ordered Simpson to pay the victims’ families $40 million in punitive damages. The prosecution will argue in its case that Park will have to compensate for the psychological damage caused by his false accusations and lies.
The prosecution shouldn’t fear losing its case against Park but should concentrate on uncovering the truth. It is the law’s justice against religion’s excess. I understand the argument that secular reasoning cannot win over heaven’s work. The ancient goddess Dike, of moral justice and law, is portrayed as blindfolded and carrying a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. It signifies that justice must be applied to anyone regardless of who he or she is.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is a law professor at Dongguk University.
By Han Hee-won