Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group D/Natural Law
Nicole, Mario, Sabah, Lorraine
Traditional Natural Law Theory: Law for the Common Good
Natural Law Theory
Thomas Aquinas is a natural law theorist who believes that the source of law is independent of human creation, and that it can be discovered by human beings through the exercise of their reason. Thomas Aquinas takes a teleological approach by stating that the purpose of law is to obtain the common good. The common good aims for goods that are essential to all human beings, such as the pursuit of self-preservation, happiness and living in a stable community. Human beings' ability to reason, as crafted by God, inclines him to the common good. He acknowledges that human beings are not perfect, and that there may be times where reasoning leads to unjust laws. In these cases, there is a duty to not obey unjust laws.
Four Elements of a Valid Law
In order for a law to be valid, the law must be satisfy the following criteria: (1) it must be derived from reason; (2) it must be issued by the person or group who holds lawmaking authority within the community; (3) it must be directed toward the common good; and (4) it must be promulgated.
As mentioned above, a valid law must be discovered through the exercise of reasoning. It must be issued by a valid lawmaker who holds position by reason of natural order. Thomas Aquinas believes that some people are natural rulers who knows what is best for a community aiming towards the common good. Law must be written and known because laws are impossible to obey if they are unknown to society.
Application to Case
In the present case, the court held that the omission to provide medical coverage for sign language interpreters infringes on s.15(1) of the Charter, which aims to protect disadvantaged groups from discrimination. The omission was not reasonably justified under s.1 of the Charter because the government's total denial of medical interpretation services for the deaf was not a minimal impairment of their rights. Thomas Aquinas would most likely decide the case differently based on the importance of striving towards the common good. He believes that the common good is associated with creating universal happiness for the community. He notes that the lawmaker is tasked with this duty. In carrying out his duty, the lawmaker is not bound to carry out the will and wishes of the community because his task is to aim for the common good. In addition, the lawmaker is in the best position to create laws because in a naturally ordered relationship, some people naturally rule while others are naturally ruled. This objective is so important that the use of threats, force, and punishment is permissible in order to regulate behaviour towards a stable community.
In the Eldridge case, the court held that by treating everyone the same, the deaf population is exposed to adverse effects discrimination. On its face value, there is no discriminatory purpose of intention in the provision, but it nonetheless has the effect of denying the deaf population from access to equal benefit of the provision. In contrast, Thomas Aquinas would reason that the Medical Services Commission's omission to provide interpreters for the deaf population is permitted because it is not contrary to the common good. Common good focus on human prospering in both moral and spiritual values. In this sense, all are equal in the eyes of God, and equal treatment should be given to individuals. The differences between individuals are part of the natural state created by God, and human reasoning should not interfere with this unique characteristic given by the divine.
In addition, Thomas Aquinas' definition of equality for the common good does not take into account equality against discrimination. Natural law is the human interpretation of God's eternal law. Under this approach, physically disabled individuals are created by God naturally as deaf, and so it would be unequal to work against the natural workings of God through human interference. Thomas Aquinas is more concerned with the objective of ensuring order and stability within the community. Similarly, compensating for individuals who are deaf would not be for the benefit of equality since society would have to provide for the minority group. This would create great instability, and be contrary to the intentions of the lawmaker to invoke rules to lead individuals toward a common good.