Mike Huckabee Backs Instituting Slavery For The Poor

Huckabee Twitter Pic

There were certainly opinions I disagreed with in this weeks’ Democratic debate, but no views were expressed which were totally off the wall. Republicans provide a steady stream of such opinions, often with the worst coming from those who prefer religious law to secular American law. Think Progress reports that Mike Huckabee even agreed with instituting slavery in a recent interview:

Host Jan Mickelson began by bemoaning that the “criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives.” In order to fight back, he argued, conservatives should look to the biblical Book of Exodus. “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold,” Mickelson explained. “If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them.”

Mickelson went on to argue why jails, which he claimed are a “pagan invention,” are inferior to slavery: “We indenture them and they have to spend their time not sitting on their stump in a jail cell, they’re supposed to be working off the debt.”

“Wouldn’t that be a better choice?” the host asked.

“Well, it really would be,” Huckabee replied without missing a beat. “Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.”

Huckabee, who was a Baptist pastor before entering politics, is no doubt familiar with the Exodus 22:3 passage to which Mickelson referred: “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.”

But U.S. law, unlike biblical penal prescriptions, forbids selling human beings like chattel. The United States also bans debtors’ prisons and the Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to imprison people who are too destitute to pay court fines. (Contra these bans, manylocalities are being sued for still running debtors’ prisons.)

Considering that Huckabee is not the only member of the religious right running for the Republican nomination, maybe the candidates should be asked about slavery, and perhaps other aspects of Biblical law, at the next debate. They might have to do something to keep the debate lively with Donald Trump threatening not to participate if he does not get his way on the rules.


  1. 1
    Mike Hatcher says:

    I presume this article was written as light hearted satire rather than something seriously worthy of in depth discussion.  But I find it intriguing to ponder what, if anything, is better about a modern prisoner's life compared to an Jewish slave at the time Exodus was written.  The article uses the term "chattel" which may indicate that the writer didn't know that a thief forced into slavery under that law was only a slave for a limited time. A little like a prison sentence today. The thief would be freed at a scheduled time.  Prisoners today can be locked up in a tiny cell 23 hours a day.  If given the opportunity, most of them "voluntarily" accept working a job in the prison for I don't know, perhaps 50 cents a day?  So, which would be better for the criminal and/or society, forcing someone to herd goats for 7 years as a Jewish slave might have done 4000 years ago or being "free to choose " between sitting in a box all day for 7 years instead of building bed mattresses or license plates for virtually nothing?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    The fact that prison conditions need to be reformed does not mean that slavery is either a wise or a morally defensible alternative. I also would not assume that conditions for slaves would be acceptable.

  3. 3
    Mike Hatcher says:

    I don't know anything about Jan Mickelson but I don't believe Jan or Huckabee were defending slavery.  The main theme seems to be advocating restitution over incarceration.  The context of Exodus is a people that came out of the whole nation having been enslaved in Egypt for a very long time.  Egypt not only had slavery, it also had prisons.  The Israelites, when they left, did not abolish slavery but started a form of government free of prisons and imprisonment.  That, as well as limiting the time a Jew could be a slave, could be argued as a step in the right direction.   Let me ask you, do you find any and all compulsory service morally indefensible?  A judge ordering someone to a certain amount of hours of unpaid community service?  In the gun debate, I've heard people reference the Swiss compulsory military service for men. The article also touches on the subject of punitive damages in addition to actual damages.  Do you see that as off the table in discussing dealing with criminal conduct?

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Slavery is hardly the same as community service. I dislike compulsory military service, but a universal system such as that is also far different from a system of slavery which primarily affects the poor.

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