A beit din has power only to rule according to the Torah, but not against the Torah. No matter who you are, the Torah is our constitution, and no one, no matter how powerful or influential, has power to contradict it. Ein shaliah b'davar `averah ("There is no proxy in the case of sin", i.e. one cannot just act as another's unquestioning proxy or messenger when one is ordered to violate the Torah), one must obey one's lord's Lord and not one's lord alone.
Harut on the luhot, "engraved on the Tablets", can be read as herut, "freedom", for only one who keeps the Torah is truly free, and true liberty is found in obeying the law and not obeying one's superiors when they command one to disobey the law. When a slave wishes to stay with his master, we bore his ear, for the man whose ear heard "I am the Lord your God" but chose a new master deserves to be bored. When the people asked Samuel for a king, God said this was tantamount to rejecting Him.
(By the way, regarding true liberty being found only in observing the Torah, the Calvinists and Swiss-type Reformed Christians said the time, and this was a common theme of Massachusetts's Protestant preachers, that true liberty is found only in obedience to G-d. As the cartoon "An Attempt to Land a Bishop in America" proclaims, "No Lords Spiritual or Temporal in New England" and "Liberty and Freedom of Conscience", and the comic depicts colonists hurling a copy of John Calvin while holding copies of John Locke and Algeron Sidney. By the way, John Adams said that the Reformed Christian John Ponet already said everything important about liberty, which Locke and Sidney merely elaborated on, according to Adams. The Swiss Reformed Christians created federal democracy and social-contract when Scottish Protestants asked whether a good Bible-observant Christian must obey an evil idolatrous Catholic monarch; the answer was no, that obedience to G-d takes precedence over obedience to mere men, and thus democracy was born.)
"An Attempt to Land a Bishop in America": http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/5600/5684/bishop_america_1.htm ---> http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/5600/5684/bishop_america_1.tif
(Speaking of the Calvinists, they are very useful for another reason. As I once said while tipping my hat to Rabbi Saul Lieberman, regarding my disgust for the Israeli government, "Incitement to rebellion is sedition, but quotation of historical incitement to rebellion, that is scholarship!" Can the Israeli government charge me with anything for quoting the Calvinists and merely adding my own running commentary (explicating only the peshat, to explain the 400-year-old language) and expecting that ha-meivinim yavinu?)
A taqana or gezera is valid only if the people accept it, and so no dayan or beit din has the power to foist unpopular laws on the people. Also, any individual can promulgate a new minhag or taqana or gezera, and if the people accept it, it is minhag ha-maqom, and binding as law, even though the promulgator was only a layman.
If the law is a Torah law, however, then of course anyone, dayan or not, may foist it onto the people, and the people cannot complain.
A beit din is a community institution, and presumably, just as the parnasim are appointed by the people, so too the dayanim. Rambam, in Hilkhot Sanhedrin 1:1, implies that the mitzvah to appoint dayanim devolves onto each individual, and the language in the Torah implies the same; it says you will appoint shoftim and shotrim, but it doesn't say any one special person will appoint judges. Presumably, this means that if the community didn't appoint someone as a dayan, then he has no power; one cannot install himself tyrannically as a self-appointed dayan.
If this is not Locke-ian federal ( = Latin for "covenant" or "contract") democracy, then there is no such thing as democracy on earth.
"But where says some is the king of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is." - Thomas Paine, "Common Sense".
But thank God that the rabbis in the Israeli Rabbinate who oversaw my conversion, aren't reading my blog or on Facebook.
Unfortunately, I haven't read Rabbi Haim Hirschensohn's writings yet, but something tells me that I'll like him very much.
I was talking to someone from Hungary, and she told me that as a Hungarian Orthodox Jew, that she was anti-Zionist. The following is my entire, unabridged reply to er:
Personally, I don't interpret Zionism as necessarily including any sympathy or love for the secular Zionists. Now, don't get me wrong; I fully hold by the Arukh la-Ner [ = Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger] and Rav Kook and such regarding tinoq she-nishba. I also agree with Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook that many of the Reformers and Halutzim [ = Zionist pioneers] left Orthodoxy because Orthodoxy was overly concerned with legal minutiae and not with hashqafa [ = weltanschauung] and ideals and changing the world, tiqun olam. These seculars and Reformers were idealists and truly did want to improve the world, and they did have good intentions. So as far as that goes, I do have great affection for the non-Orthodox.
But unlike many religious Zionists, I see no need to go out of my way to have reverence for any particular political figure or organization. Yitzhak Rabin boasted of being personally responsible for the incident of the Altalena, and as such, I see Rabin as nothing more than a cold-blooded murderer, and that's without even considering the treacherous Oslo Accords.
Politically, I'm a libertarian (classical Locke-ian liberalism), so I see governments as artificial entities with no particular metaphysical standing. When Devarim and Samuel criticize kingship, I cannot but nod approvingly with all my heart and soul. I see my foremost obligation to do only what is right, and not what the government's laws say. For me, there is nothing more sacrosanct than ein shaliah b'davar `averah [ = the obligation for one to obey the Torah and not one's human commander if the latter's commands contradict the former's]. If the Israeli government tells me to expel settlers from the West Bank, nothing could convince me to do anything but rebel against such a tyrannical anti-democratic regime.
So for me, Zionism means that Jews can establish a state in Israel, but that if this state does anything contrary to the Torah, that I will disobey its orders and possibly even attempt to overthrow the regime, if things come to such a head. For me, Israel is to be both Jewish and a democracy, but today, it is neither. I don't have time to explain now, but to stand on one foot, I believe that both theocracy and democracy are compatible under the head of Judaism.
In brief, what this all means is that I don't believe the Three Oaths are binding, but all the same, I don't worship the state of Israel. The "moderate" religious Zionists in Israel, those equivalent to the Modern Orthodox, are also called the mamlakhtim [lit. "kingdom-ians" or "regime-ians"], and they practically worship the state. (This is bewildering, because such statism is exactly opposite of true democratic liberalism, and it's rather odd that the Modern Orthodox of all people reject democracy and liberalism.) By contrast, the Hardalim [lit. "Haredi-nationalists"], in Merkaz ha-Rav, tend to worship the state far less, and they'll advocate civil disobedience as per ein shaliah b'davar `averah. On most issues (such as egalitarianism) I stand with the mamlakhtim and MO, but on politics, I'm closer to the Hardalim. Ironically, the Hardalim, who are nearly Haredi, are more liberal and pro-democracy in their politics than the mamlakhtim and leftists, both of whom are quite statist and anti-democratic.
Actually, Western democracy today has nothing to do with Athenian majoritarianism, despite the literal meaning of the word "democracy". True liberalism and democracy (which was created by Scottish and Swiss Calvinists in the Renaissance period) means that everyone has certain rights and obligations, and that the government exists solely to uphold those rights and obligations, and that the government has no power but that which justice and the consent of the governed grant it. Thus, the Hardalism are actually pro-democracy, even if they don't know it. By contrast, the leftists and mamlakhtim, in worshiping the state no matter how unjust its policies, are actually anti-democracy and illiberal. The mamlakhtim and leftists uphold an elected oligarchy, not different in kind from a monarchy, exactly what true democracy opposes.
Somehow, I feel like the "moderate" religious Zionists worship the seculars more than they worship the Torah. I remember a Neturei Karta friend of mine showed me a quotation of a certain gentile, and I replied to him that I rejected that gentile's opinion. He was bewildered and flabbergasted. He yelled, "But...but..but...aren't you Modern Orthodox??!!". I replied that as a Modern Orthodox Jew, I accepted the Gemara's command to be modeh al ha-emet (lit. "to admit to the truth") and to be m'qabel et ha-emet mi-mi she-amrah (lit. "to accept the truth from whomsoever speaks it). Therefore, I said, I will accept a gentile's truth as surely as I will accept a Jew's truth. All the same, however, I will reject a gentile's falsehood as surely as I'll reject a Jew's. So too, just because I don't hate the seculars for being secular, doesn't mean I cannot hate them for the actual wrongs they do. I don't love evil religious Jews, and I don't like it when religious Jew have idiotic or evil political views, so why must I love evil secular Jews, or why must I worship the political views of the seculars when they are evil or idiotic? Does tinoq she-nishba mean I must unconditionally love every deed and belief of the seculars? Surely not!!! But the "moderate" religious Zionists seem to disagree; they'll rail against the Haredi politics even as they worship secular politics. This is almost surely idolatry, for a rejection of G-d's kingship is idolatry, and as Rav Hirsch teaches in his commentary on the Tower of Babel, to subjugate G-d's children and turn them into cogs in the statist regime's machine , is itself to wage war on G-d.
 Cf. the midrash about all crying when a brick fell but not when a man fell.
 Cf. ibn Ezra, that the Tower was built as a vainglorious rallying flag, for the self-aggrandizement of the state and its people.
 Cf. the midrash about the Tower being a stage from which to wage war on G-d Himself.