Many people think obedience means merely following instructions. In other words, someone in authority gives you an order or directive and you follow it. But what if your authority is “out from under authority?”
One of the criticisms we often face when teaching the principle of authority is that we are advocating blind obedience. Nothing could be further from the truth. We recognize that there are times when an authority has made a bad decision and it is proper to make an appeal….
In order to make an appeal in court, there must be constitutional or procedural grounds. Otherwise there is no basis for the appeal. You cannot make an appeal simply because you disagree with the decision. In fact, the character test for obedience is often found in your willingness to follow directions that you disagree with.
In a character-based organization, “grounds” fall into two categories: ethical violations or additional information. If your authority instructs you to violate a clearly defined ethical or legal standard, you have grounds to make an appeal. And to respectfully disobey if necessary.
More often… you have additional information that may influence your authority’s decision. In this case, you have grounds to bring this information to their attention. Examples could be pointing out a consequence of the decision that your supervisor may not have considered. Or, it could be informing them of a prior conflicting instruction that you had received from another supervisor. Or, maybe there is a well-established law or policy that prohibits that course of action.
In addition to having grounds for an appeal, you must also have “standing.” In other words, you must be in a lawful position to address the court. The same is true in making an appeal to an authority. Your standing is established through your reputation of good character. If you have been a faithful and loyal employee, then you have the right to make an appeal.