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If That Crazy Nevada Rancher Had Cried Religious Liberty, the GOP Would Have His Back

George Frey/Getty Images

One of the most heartening developments in recent weeks is a recognition on the part of many conservative opinion makers that Cliven Bundy—the tax-protesting Nevada cattle rancher, who has refused to pay federal grazing fees applicable to him and other ranchers—is not within his rights to just ignore the law because he doesn't agree with it. 

Just today, the conservative Weekly Standard described Bundy as "a rancher gaming the system to his own financial advantage, and disguising his scheme in populist rhetoric: refusing to pay a tax which others must pay, and “tying up the courts”—for two decades!—as he continues to ignore the law."

Bundy's a compelling or useful figure to agit-prop peddlers like Sean Hannity, but the rule-of-law right isn't uniformly treating him like a martyr for liberty, which is progress of a sort.

Or maybe it's just that Bundy hasn't been savvy enough. If he'd followed the news more closely, he would've known that the road to conservative martyrdom runs through irrefutable assertions of government infringement upon free practice, and a claim to exemption from the grazing fee on religious grounds.

"Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities. The cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts. The pasture lands of the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits around."

—Numbers 35:2-4