Why Jurisdictions Matter
Published on November 17, 2021
why jurisdictions matter

Imagine you’re having lunch at a local sandwich shop.  The County Sheriff walks in and orders a sandwich.  He proceeds to eat his lunch among the other customers.  However, when it is time to leave, he tells the cashier, “There is no charge for my lunch…  You see, I am the County Sheriff.  Since I am the authority in this county, there will be no charge for my sandwich.”  How would you feel?  Is he correct?  I mean, after all, he is a legitimate authority in the county.  Romans 13 says we should submit to the authorities.  But still, something doesn’t seem right here.  What is it? 

The Sheriff is a legitimate authority.  If he is having lunch and some kind of a crime situation breaks out, nobody would question him immediately taking action to stop the crime and arrest or even use appropriate level of force as needed to stop the crime.  If the Sheriff pulled you over on the way to lunch and asked you whether you stopped at the stop sign, you had better answer his questions!  However, he has no authority to demand a free sandwich. 

Does it Matter?

The term used to describe the proper boundaries of an official’s authority and where it starts or stops is called jurisdiction.  The Sheriff has jurisdiction to stop a crime, or to investigate whether you broke the law.  However, to require a sandwich shop to give him free food is outside of his jurisdiction.  If the Sheriff used his position to demand free food, it would be an abuse of his position and he would be operating outside his proper jurisdiction.  He would be, in fact, a criminal, and guilty of theft. Yes, it matters.

Would it be any better if our fictional Sheriff were to come into our homes and tell parents how to raise their children?  Would it be less offensive if he came into our churches to tell the Pastor what parts of the Bible he could or could not preach from?  No, these scenarios would evoke similar emotions, and for good reason!  Any example in things like this would clearly show there are lines where the Sheriff has proper authority on one side of the line – and on the other side of the line, he does not.  Should the Christian reader have a Biblical requirement to honor these excursions by our Sheriff into areas outside his jurisdiction, based on Scriptures like Romans 13?  I think everything in each of us cries out “NO”.  These are areas where he has no authority.  He has no jurisdiction.  These are areas outside his legitimate role, and are therefore not protected by the Biblical requirement for submission to authority.  He has no authority in these areas because he is outside his jurisdiction. 

Definition of jurisdiction

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary offers several definitions of the word “Jurisdiction” that may be helpful:

-The legal power of authority of doing justice in cases of complaint; the power of executing the laws and distributing justice.

-Power of governing or legislating.

-The power or right of exercising authority.

-The limit within which power may be exercised.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

The founders of our nation understood jurisdiction.  Read through the Declaration of Independence and you will see where they outline specific ways in which King George III had abused his authority and went outside his proper jurisdiction.  After listing all the infractions, they concluded the King was a tyrant and, “Unfit to be the ruler of a free people”.  A tyrant is someone who seeks to exert authority in areas that are outside his or her proper jurisdiction.  The Sheriff in our example who demanded free food is a thief.  He could also be properly called a tyrant.  I am afraid Americans have lost their understanding of what tyranny is and what it means to operate within proper jurisdiction. 

Everyone in public office today is sworn to support the Constitution of the United States, which defines very limited roles for officials.  Yet, many of these officials, like the Sheriff in our example, exert control over areas well beyond their rightful jurisdiction.  They think that just because they hold a position of responsibility, they should not be limited to the defined boundaries of the powers of their office.  As Americans, we have to learn the way our government is supposed to work.  We need to know the defined, proper role of government, as found in the Constitution, so we can hold all of our officials accountable to their oath and make sure they stay within the limits of the role they are acting in. 

The Bottom Line

Our Constitution created a government with strict limits on powers, because our founders knew people naturally tend to abuse power.  Thomas Jefferson said, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”  Americans must know the Constitutionally defined limits of legitimate government power and hold their officials accountable to staying within those boundaries.  Our Constitution is an “Express Powers” document.  That means each branch of government is limited to those powers that are specifically listed, or enumerated, in the Constitution.  If something is not specifically listed among the enumerated powers of the government, then it is outside the proper jurisdiction of the federal government.  In future posts, we will examine the specific, “Enumerated Powers” of Congress, the President, and the Judiciary.  Then we will better know when they are attempting to take a sandwich to which they have no right! 

Being a Faithful Steward within the Family

Being a Faithful Steward in the Church

Being a Faithful Steward in Civil Government


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  1. Tom Shumaker

    Rank has its privileges was a bogus concept in the military but we saw examples of it from a small scale to gigantic ripoffs. Sometimes they get held to account and could lead to nonjudicial punishment or even court martial. We need to use the Constitution to “court martial” more of our self important potentates who think they are above the law or deserving of taxpayer paid perks. Examples abound in our Congresscritters and Federal employees.

    • Jason Southerland

      All of our officials are sworn to support the Constitution of the United States. So, yes I agree we should hold them accountable to their oath and get rid of them if they aren’t doing what they swore to do! Thank you for the comment!

    • Patricia Carole Dunnavant

      Would that more people were aware of the specific limitations of each branch of government, especially on the local level. And locally, nothing should be done that is not in agreement with the Constitution.

      All over this country, people “in power” are devising legislation and policies that are outside of their purview. In California, they have usurped the authority God has given to parents. Parents can be jailed or lose their children if they do not affirm their children’s gender choices. They need to do what was done in Virginia where the people voted for the candidate that supported parental rights over his opponent who proclaimed the children belonged to the State and that parents had no place in determining curriculum in schools. The ballot was used instead of bullets.

      The Executive Branch of this Administration tries to use back door attempts to further its agenda when the Supreme Court defeats their ideology. Executive Orders and attempts to override decisions through the various departments are tactics used.

      Because many citizens have abdicated their authority to the government or are in lockstep because of their dependence on the government, the government has ventured into areas where they do not belong.

      • Jason Southerland

        Yes – very few of our officials in office today, despite their oaths, make any effort to stay within the limits of their Constitutionally defined offices. We want to be a part of helping Americans learn (or remember) the foundational principles of this nation and how our Constitution was designed to work so we can hold these official accountable to their oaths of office! Thank you for your comment!

  2. Glenn Curlett

    Tom Shumaker has a great reply to your blog. Because of my military experiences, I identify with his example. This pairing of the two groups, military and government, I am left with a deeper impression of our current state of affairs. The train is off the tracks, the boat is out of the water, this airplane will not fly. May we learn and share the knowledge of the birth of the United States of America. Let us be united in prayer, together, that our Country finds its way back to Godly Principles. Our forefathers were blessed in construction of our Constitution with a dependence on our Creator. Let us live by what glorifies the Kingdom of God. Repentance!

    • Jason Southerland

      Amen Glenn! Thank you for the comment. I couldn’t agree more. We need to humble ourselves, repent, and turn from our wicked ways back to God.

  3. Lela Goar

    Washington D.C. is completely out of control with what they are allowed to do and what they aren’t. Just like when they utilize the DOJ and FBI to do their bidding when someone is not agreeing with them. I am amazed at the size of our government and the lack of ever getting anything done from so many people. They talk a good talk, but that is all it is. I think there are a lot of departments in our government that need to be shut down, i.e. education, EPA, energy, etc. No wonder we are in so much debt and they just want to keep spending money we don’t have.

    • Jason Southerland

      Yes, I think we, as Americans, need to hold our government officials to the enumerated powers listed in the Constitution. If it isn’t in there (like the departments you mention), then we either need to get rid of it, or if Americans really want the federal government involved, then it would require a Constitutional amendment to make it right, to give the federal government new authority (like they did with the 18th when Americans wanted the feds to have authority for prohibition). Thank you for the comment!

  4. Scott Newquist

    For the US congress to pass laws without their specific intend and to rely on the governmental departments to discern their meaning through copious number of rules and regulations is irresponsible and at time, and probable most the time, outside their jurisdiction. This improper way that regulations have and are being developed has gone on for so long that it has become the norm and it appear that we never look to see is these regulations are actually constitutional. You have to ponder how are legislators have become so rogue and what appears at times to be out of control and forget the oath that they took to the constitution of the United States.

    • Jason Southerland

      Yes, I agree. Article 1, Section 1, the first line of the Constitution after the preamble, and the first line that has force of law says, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…” So the power to make law was given to Congress. Now what they do is Congress creates an agency, or passes a law that grants broad authority to the agency, and then it goes off and passes regulations that hold the force of law… I agree – this is outside of their jurisdiction! Most of those agencies are not found in the Constitution at all, and Congress can’t just cede its Constitutional responsibility to an agency anyway. They are the only one with law making authority. We need to fix this – which in my mind, means either getting rid of unConstitutional agencies, or pass a Constitutional Amendment to authorize them (If it is something Americans want government doing). Thank you for the comment!

  5. Cathy Morris

    “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”
    Like the lines on a football field define the boundaries the players must know to participate legally in football, so our elected officials have specified lines as well.

    • Jason Southerland

      Great example! Did you get that from class? 🙂 Yes, our officials swear to support the Constitution when they take office. Those proper Constitutional roles have limits – and they are bound to abide within those limits! Thank you for your comment!

  6. Kakie

    I keep praying America will return to God and the Constitution (which I believe he inspired). We have failed as a nation to hold our representatives to their jurisdiction and corporations to their lanes. Everyone wants to virtue signal without actually having virtue. I believe if we arm ourselves with truth and knowledge, we can get rid of government overreach, redundant agencies, UN-constitutional taxes, bureaucrats, and bad policies.

    • Jason Southerland

      Amen! we believe that too! If things are going to get better, Americans have to learn these truths again and hold officials accountable! Thank you for your comment!

  7. Sharlene Alexander

    Our County just refused to issue a conditional zoning permit to a church having an annual car show / craft family event on church property saying it was not allowed under the current A-R zoning! This same church had the same event last year, and it was a huge success with no public objection or negative comments. The Church Pastor says that they are proceeding with the show, that this is a clear overreach and violation of religious liberty. I say the County Zoning Director and Commission are outside their jurisdiction on this so maybe I should contact the County Sheriff since he is the highest law enforcement authority in our County.

    • Jason Southerland

      Wow – I agree with your pastor that this is an overreach. I am grateful there are pastors willing to take on fights like this. Do you know which way your Sheriff would fall on the issue? If he is on your side, he would be a great ally. If he is on the City Zoning side, he would be a powerful opponent. Thank you for the comment – please check back in and let us know how it turns out! Thank you!

  8. Suzy Enney

    The jurisdiction of (proper boundaries) an official’s authority and/or role of our elected officials, while clearly defined are being ignore, defied, and even challenged even when outside their authority.
    Proper exercising authority has even been challenged by those having , authority. Call it ignorance or a blatant disrespect for the founding principles, it leads me to believe these elected officials need to be reeducated beginning with the oath of office they all attested too, founding doctrine including the law of nature. This will bring back to our national motto: “In God We Trust”. This will be a great place for their “restart”, so they have the proper understanding of OUR ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. His social order will them be in place and all can operate from truth as our forefathers fought for, put in place and prayed. In addition, it is our duty as “We the People” to question and call them out.

    • Jason Southerland

      Amen! Yes maam, it is our job to hold them accountable to their oath. We should question and call them out for sure. One thing I also think is important is instead of asking the red or blue side of any issue – we need to ask why they think they have authority at all! For example, whether a “stimulus” check should be $600 or $2000… instead of arguing one way or the other, we need to be saying something like “who do you think you are!” when they are trying to legislate unconstitutional things into “law” – regardless of amount. Thank you for your comment!

  9. Catherine (Cathy) Spencer

    Thank you for writing an article that is absolutely correct, brief, and to the point.
    I just finished listening to a forwarded post by Rick Green; the post was the interview of the former Chief of Police during the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
    I haven’t paid much attention to that situation because I didn’t know who to believe; however, I cannot call the person who was supposed to have authority to take charge denied the power of his job a liar. I’m glad he is speaking truth based on his experience. Wow! the wickedness of the people who grabbed power at that time, or refused to do their job correctly and then try to hide it is beyond my understanding. I have looked up this gentleman’s book and intend to purchase it before someone overreaches and demands it be pulled before I can purchase it.
    Thanks again for the jurisdiction article it helped me evaluation the interview.

    • Jason Southerland

      I have not seen the interview you mentioned but it sounds interesting! I will have to track that down and see it. Thank you for your comment!

  10. Patricia Carole Dunnavant

    I forgot to mention that I love the Thomas Jefferson quote.

    • Jason Southerland

      Amen – bring on those Constitutional chains! 🙂

  11. Tim Rennie

    I know it sounds cliche, but our elected officials in our nation’s capital are much too often out of bounds with respect to the jurisdictions to which they are limited as defined by the enumerated powers in the constitution. Not only so, but equally ignorant is the American public as elections have become ideological as opposed to ensuring our Constitution is adhered to and complied with.

    It took several decades to get to where we are today, and it will be neither easy nor quick to correct things. The good news is it can happen one person at a time, and we all have our jog ahead of us to see that the direction is reversed.

    • Jason Southerland

      Amen – I completely agree. Americans have to learn how this nation was designed to work and then start holding these folks accountable to the oath each of them took to support the Constitution. We have to get good people in office and start getting this nation back on track. Thank you for your comment!

  12. Sue Ellen Smith

    I was about to say the same thing. Our officials are walking all over our constition and not being held accountable. This is fustrating and so wrong. The word in the definition is justice. Most of the officials have lost sight of justice and do not pratice justice.

    I am so thankful for Patriot Academy who is teaching us the Constition. Each one of us need to do our duty and leave the results to God.

    • Jason Southerland

      Yes – amen, we have to hold them accountable! I think we need to stop asking them about the democrat side, or the republican side, and start asking them where in the Constitution do they find to legislate in that area at all! We don’t hold them to those limits like we should! Thank you for your comment!


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