Divorce is a part of my practice in which I sometimes feel conflicted from a Christian perspective.  Jesus himself spoke to the importance of marriage as recorded in Matthew 19, going so far as to say that it was only out of the hardness of heart that Moses allowed for divorce.  Jesus goes further in stating that divorce should not happen except on the grounds of sexual immorality.  He told people that what God had put together in marriage should not be broken.  The Apostle Paul provides further scriptural elaboration with allowing for divorce on the grounds of abandonment.  I must navigate my sworn duty as a licensed attorney to follow the law and provide the best possible legal advice to a client while maintaining my integrity as a Christian.  This can sometimes be tough, but I believe I have found the way to reconcile my duties and beliefs in practice.

         First, I found early in my practice that parties seldom come into my office to discuss divorce unless there are serious, life-altering issues involved.  I can't recall a prospective client coming in to tell me they are not getting along with their spouse and sought a divorce.  In almost every case, the person comes in with huge issues they have contended for lengthy periods of time.  Many times, the issue bringing consideration of divorce is adultery and in those cases the potential client has usually been through it multiple times or their spouse has left them for another.  In other cases, the potential client is in substantial danger due to either the violence of the other spouse or habitual intoxication of the other spouse.  Sometimes, the potential client and spouse split apart years previously and were even living with other people but just hadn't become legally divorced.

         In the few cases in which the potential client is not facing substantial life issues like adultery and the other fault grounds, they are usually open to attempting to work through the problems in the marriage.  This doesn't always work, but clients have gone back with their spouse.

        When I am advising clients, I will provide the laws of South Carolina relevant to divorce.  The state of South Carolina allows divorce only on the "fault" grounds of adultery, habitual intoxication, abuse, abandonment, or divorce on the no-fault ground of one full year separation.  I will tell them things they need to know to protect themselves legally regarding property and custody.  I must warn the client, for example, that if the other spouse has cheated and the client is on notice of the adultery, they potentially give up the fault ground of adultery by living together again as husband and wife.  I must provide information to protect custody and property rights in the event of the divorce (or even during the temporary period waiting for the divorce).  That is my ethical duty as a lawyer to a client.

        At the same time, I will provide my Christian advice about Biblical grounds for divorce.  The rules allow me to counsel clients on considerations outside the law, and I have never had a client tell me they did not want the Christian perspective on this tough decision.  The lack of Biblical grounds is not going to prevent me from representing a party (though, as I can choose clients, I do not want to be party to representing a party acting in bad faith about an issue like divorce), but I want them to always consider the importance of marriage and the good of fighting for the marriage.  Whenever possible, I can advise clients to consider the moral (Christian) considerations, particularly if the couples have children.

       Something I do as an attorney to help save any marriages when possible is only to charge a refundable retainer.  This means that if the representation is terminated by the client because they have decided not to divorce, I will refund all funds not earned or spent as a cost.  I would never want a client to feel like they must go through with the divorce because they have paid for it.  I am happiest when I see marriages come back together, and that has happened during my practice.

       During all my representation, but particularly during a divorce, I believe I am in the best position to make a Christian witness to clients.  This is one of those times in life when people understand they need God more than ever, and turn to God to get through those times.  I remember feeling that way when I was in Ranger School and combat:  I knew God was all I really had in this world to get me through.  Clients are going through a terrible experience with divorce, and yet during that time they can come to a wonderful relationship with the Lord.

       Though I handle divorce as a Christian attorney, I have even more of a love for the institution of marriage.  Divorce is so terrible in so many ways, particularly when children are involved.  I do not see either party ever come through a divorce feeling happy or that they "won".  If more were able to see what I see in representing divorce, more would fight harder for the marriage.  That said, the process can bring people closer to God through the hardship.  In some case, the marriages do come back together with an even better couple and better marriage.  We can only thank God when that happens.

In the week leading up to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I was asked to give my observations and opinions to various media outlets, including TV and newspapers. This came from my unique experience of serving with then-Lt. Harry Windsor (now Major and Duke of Sussex) in Helmand Province from December 2007 through February 2008.

During this period, Harry's service "downrange" in Helmand was a secret to the world, and the official story was Harry being back in the United Kingdom incognito. I met Harry Christmas Eve 2007 on a remote forward location facing the Taliban at the southernmost point of coalition control.

A small group of us then spent Christmas and the following days on a small forward base near Taliban locations. Though the interviews before the wedding were of my thoughts and observations of Harry and the wedding, I believe it appropriate to write of Memorial Day and it's relation to Harry and the wedding.

First, it is important to remember that Memorial Day is about those who gave their lives on the battlefield defending the nation. Veterans Day honors living veterans of all wars, and Armed Forces Day honors those who are still serving. Though veterans always appreciate being thanked for service, on Memorial Day I must defer that thanks and remind all that this day is about those who gave their last breath for our freedom.

Now for how Memorial Day fits into the experience with Prince Harry in combat. Though it was an honored experience serving with a prince of the famed and historic British royal family, the reality of the sacrifices and hardships of combat were seared into my memory during that period.

A short time prior to Harry arriving, our advisory unit had lost two wonderful young men. These men, SSG Bullard and SGT Philpot, were fathers, husbands, Christians and patriots, and their deaths were a tough blow to those of us Americans in southern Afghanistan. Every Memorial Day we think of these men and their families at home, and that is part of what had been on my mind while serving with Harry.

In addition to those American losses, the British had suffered extensive losses in Helmand Province, dead and wounded, in the months leading up to Prince Harry's arrival. I can remember my times at the British headquarters in Helmand attending multiple ceremonies for British soldiers who lost their lives. This was particularly the case for the British there in the summer and fall of 2007, which coincided with the Taliban offensive of 2007.

This period saw a substantial increase in firefights and IED attacks from anything prior in Afghanistan. It should be noted that Prince Harry was aware of this prior to arriving, and yet voluntarily went downrange to the most active areas. He and I later saw each other in northern Helmand during major combat operations there in February 2008. Again, a unique experience seeing a member of the royal family in combat, but the memories of those dead or wounded are always there in my mind's eye.

From what I later discovered after Harry left Afghanistan (this was quick after being outed by the media), he left on an aircraft with the body of a coalition soldier and wounded British soldiers. Harry has credited the experience of being on that flight to be a great motivator toward his work in helping wounded veterans through various charities. This included founding his "Invictus" games for disabled veterans to participate in various sporting events similar to the Olympics.

Harry has many of the same memories of the ceremonies honoring the dead, and those memories remain forever with those of us who have served. I'm sure that has changed him as it has changed me.

How does this fit into the wedding? I believe that despite the many hardships of combat, and particularly of losing comrades, those who have come through it understand the precious nature of life. Just being alive, regardless of whatever else happens after combat, means something new. Due to the sacrifice of those we honor on Memorial Day, we can draw strength and dedication toward selfless service in our own lives.

Prince Harry has drawn strength from them, as do all those who served with the ones we honor on Memorial Day. If he takes a dedication to a lifelong commitment to the marriage and his wife, as well as selfless service to his family, his marriage will be long and happy.

One final point: In my experience, most of those who have served in combat, and particularly those who have lost friends and comrades, grew in their faith in God. In my own case, I was in constant prayer for those around me and for God's protection. Knowing that as a Christian, death is not the end, but only a beginning of eternal life, allowed me to do my duty in the face of death.

I know that so many of those who we honor on Memorial Day are in God's presence now, and that brings peace. The relation to Harry and the wedding: If Harry puts God first in his marriage, it will succeed. God will be part of the marriage and bless it royally!

        As a Christian attorney, I come to the profession with firm and unchangeable values and beliefs.  The Bible is clear on a number of issues lawyers deal with on a daily basis:  Marriage, custody, dispute resolution, stewardship of money among others.  At the same time, lawyers have taken an oath before God to practice law under the ethics rules.  That requires lawyers to zealously represent clients within the law, protect privileged information from clients, and other such duties of advocacy.  These rules apply to all lawyers, regardless of religious beliefs, and because all lawyers take that oath, they are all bound.   Those rules do not conflict with Christian values and teachings.  That being the case, what makes a Christian lawyer different?  

       I think the first unique attribute of the Christian attorney is in the Christian admonition "In everything, do all for the Glory of God" (Corinthians 10:31).  The primary motivation for a Christian lawyer to practice law should be from a calling to the profession for a higher cause.  One verse perfectly justifies the higher calling of the Christian lawyer "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).  Many other similar verses and the admonitions of Romans 13 about justice and the power of the Judge/Magistrate give justification for Christians to act in the role of attorneys and officers of the court.  

      With clients, a Christian lawyer should go beyond legal advice when appropriate to discuss Christian values to consider, particularly with Christian clients.  The Bible tells us God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) but has provided specific grounds in which it is permissible.  In counseling someone considering divorce, the lawyer can make clear he will respect the decision of his client (within the law), but also provide Christian considerations about grounds.  This goes the same for other types of disputes, in which Christian advice can help keep within Biblical grounds in handling matters.  Romans 13 allows for Christians to take meritorious matters to the Courts, but the Apostle Paul also recommended Christians first attempt to handle disputes among themselves before going to the Courts on certain issues.  The Christian lawyer should be looking for ways conflicts can be handled in a Christian manner, particularly for Christian clients.

      Lastly, a Christian attorney should be diligent and professional in a case, attempting to do the best for his client within the law.  Ephesians 6:7 tells Christians to work hard and well, not to please men but to please God.  A Christian attorney should always have in his mind his professionalism and diligence are a witness to the world and to be commended by God.  Anything less is not within Christian values.

      I am not perfect, but strive to be a good Christian lawyer in all that entails.  It's what my clients expect, but more importantly what God expects.

  Most of my articles on the website have been attempts to explain the law in a way that can be understood and used by non-lawyers facing legal questions or issues.  This article is not intended to define the current state of jurisprudence over church/state issues, as I believe the Courts have veered so far from the original meaning of the First Amendment. I sincerely think it will take all Americans, and not just lawyers to help set the courts straight on this issue and overturn much of the precedence setting in the post World War II Court.  I hope to provide both a historic and legal argument for why our courts should not be enforcing a secularized public square, which itself is discrimination in favor of the secular worldview. 

   It's important to note that at the time of the Constitution Convention, the United States was overwhelmingly Christian, though with a multitude of denominations in the various states.  Most Americans, particularly after the influence of the first great awakening before the Revolution, were devout and passionate Christians. At the same time, Americans generally opposed the restrictions and perceived unfairness of the monopoly of the Church of England over religious worship.  They did not want a Church of America and insisted on the prevention of a National Church with special powers and privileges over the other denominations.  This was the primary justification behind the First Amendment's establishment clause: “Government will make no law respecting the establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.”  The issue was not public recognition of God, but state Church.
    Few Americans in modern times are aware that “Wall of Separation between church and state” is not Constitutional language, but pulled from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists written in 1802.  This letter was pulled out of context and improperly used by the post World War II Supreme Court to expand the reach of the establishment clause.  It was used to begin the faulty precedence to end of Bible Reading, School prayer, and recognition of God in the public square.  In fact, Jefferson was writing to the Baptist ministers to allay their fears of government intervention into the Baptist denomination and not the other way around.  To help lend context to the letter, a year after writing it Jefferson lobbied Congress for money to send missionaries and evangelistic resources to Native Americans.  His many references to God, Prayers, and Actions clearly establish that Jefferson did not believe God should be stricken from American public life.  As a practical argument against using the letter for Constitutional interpretation, Thomas Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention.  

    As clear evidence of the original intent of the First Amendment "establishment clause": the day after passing the First Amendment Congress passed a resolution calling for a day of prayer and thanksgiving to God for the freedoms bestowed.  No, Congress did not require an Atheist, Agnostic, or polytheistic resolution.  You just won't find that kind of thing until the last few decades of American history.   Those same men who were responsible for the drafting and passing of the First Amendment were also those who stood behind Jefferson's words in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.  That they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights.  
   America's Christian character and open recognition of God in public life, at least up until the middle of the 20th century, went unquestioned on the grounds of an alleged wall of separation demanded by the First Amendment.  Famed Harvard professor Samuel Huntington put it best, when surveying American history: “To deny God is to challenge the fundamental principle underlying American society.”  Recognition of God is a major part of who we are as Americans and has helped keep us both free and strong.  As John Adams told us after his major part of the drafting of the Constitution:  "This Constitution was made for a moral and religious people, it is wholly unsuited to the governance of any other." 
  The Constitution allows and the Declaration demands we recognize and thank the divine author of our rights and freedoms.  Wisdom tells us we should never allow the prayer and/or worship of that which opposes that which bestows our rights and freedoms.  Let us ponder another quote from Alexis de Tocqueville which we ignore only if we desire the end of American greatness:  "America is great, because America is good, if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."  It is time Americans demanded the Courts reverse course on banning God from the public square and allow the system our founders intended.  

As we celebrate the opening of our new law office, I am proud to work alongside a number of fellow attorneys and friends in Orangeburg.  Orangeburg law firms like Williams and Williams, Lanier and Burroughs, Horger Barnwell Reid, and so many others have long records of serving the legal needs of the citizens of Orangeburg and the rest of South Carolina.  What I think makes this firm unique is in the long and continuing experience and service with the United States military (Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve).  I will continue to serve while practicing law, including active duty during hurricane season!  Equally important, we seek to foster a Christian environment in the way we do business.  The DNA of this firm is being built on those principles, and I look forward to growing and developing long relationships with everyone associated with us.  Look forward to seeing many friends today at the open house!

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A Message From Attorney Bill Connor


Bill Connor is a professional author and blogger contributing to The T&D newspaper as well as publishing is own book titled Articles From War


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