Month Archives: April 2014

George Washington Takes the Oath: “So Help Me God” — April 30, 1789

by Robert Morrison

April 30, 2014

It remains my favorite portrait of President Obama and the one I hope will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery. Showing our first black president in the attire of our first president is a mark of greatest respect. The New Yorker Magazine cover — which was published in 2009 — even shows our young president wearing the brown American-made suit that George Washington was careful to have made for his Inauguration. He studiously avoided any likeness to a military uniform. On this most auspicious of occasions, our first president took care to emphasize civilian authority over our military.

I took my young family to New York City for the Bicentennial of George Washington’s Inauguration in 1989. There, my wife, our seven-year old son, five-year old daughter, and I witnessed the re-enactment of that first Inaugural ceremony.

We watched as the Washington figure recited the presidential oath, adding the four words “So Help Me God.” Then he bent low to kiss the Bible. No one in 1989 questioned any of this.

President George H.W. Bush came to Lower Manhattan to lend his dignified presence to the observance of two hundred years of constitutional government in America. Ours is now the oldest written constitution in the world.

Only now, twenty-five years later, are there some people confused enough or mendacious enough publicly to express doubt that George Washington actually added those words to the constitutionally prescribed presidential oath. Or, question whether he kissed that Bible.

So great is the acid bath of skepticism today that if I claimed that the sun rose at 6:12 (EDT) this morning over the Washington Monument, there would be doubters yelling “prove it.” (Here’s the U.S. Naval Observatory’s confirmation, adding one hour for Daylight Saving Time.)

It’s also the case that some of our best historians casually inform us that Washington was “not very religious.” So they tend to minimize his life membership in two Episcopal parishes — Christ Church (Alexandria) and Pohick Church (Lorton). And they must not have taken seriously his frequent references to God in his public statements. When he resigned his Commission to Congress in Annapolis in 1783, he gave an important address. In it, he did not thank his soldiers, his officers, or even the French allies who made our victory in the War of Independence possible. Instead, he thanked “the Supreme Power of the Union and the patronage of Heaven.”

Sen. William Maclay was a sometimes waspish observer of events in the First Congress. The Pennsylvania Jeffersonian did not much like the formal manners and practices of New Yorkers and the “Republican Court” that formed around President and Lady Washington. Maclay thought it all seemed too monarchical.

Even so, Maclay was impressed when Washington took the Oath for the first time.

even the great Washington trembled when he faced the assembled representatives and senators. “This great man was agitated and embarrassed,” Maclay added, “more than ever he was by the levelled Cannon or pointed Musket.”

Maclay was not the first one to notice that George Washington, who charged into British cannon at Princeton and who had several horses shot out from under him on the Pennsylvania frontier during the French & Indian War, trembled when he stood in a vast public assembly and performed great civic duties.

Perhaps that’s because George Washington feared God and no one else. He believed that Providence — that eighteenth century expression for God’s Hand among us — was physically present on these august occasions.

How do we know that? He told us so, repeatedly. In his Inaugural Address, he offered:

my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.

George Washington felt the presence of God in this first presidential swearing-in ceremony two hundred twenty-five years ago today. In his habitually dignified language, in his eighteenth century locutions, he says so explicitly. And we all know Washington could not tell a lie.

Recognizing Family Decline as a Driver for Income Inequality

by Chris Gacek

April 30, 2014

Income inequality has become a hot political topic recently, so I welcome a Wall Street Journal article by Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch. Maranto and Crouch express surprise that the current public and academic debate largely ignores a powerful factor driving income inequality: the rise of single-parent families during the past half-century. The article goes on to describe the indisputable advantages of two-parent families and concludes observing that there are no “quick fixes”:

Welfare reform beginning in the mid-1990s offered only modest marriage incentives and has been insufficient to change entrenched cultural practices. The change must come from long-term societal transformation on this subject, led by political, educational and entertainment elites, similar to the decades-long movements against racism, sexism — and smoking.

The Maranto-Crouch / WSJ article has received some positive notice in other media. On Monday evening Professor Maranto was interviewed by John Batchelor on WABC Radio. (Use this link and begin listening at 31:00 on the player’s counter.)

Maranto has a humorous bio indicating that he is a professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas where Mr. Crouch is a researcher. Apparently, the professor is highly adept at writing very boring books.

Free from moral authority?

by Travis Weber

April 25, 2014

In a recent blog post explaining his refusal to support a statement pertaining to free expression and political positions on marriage, Professor Ilya Somin claims there’s a limit to the rule that people should be free from stigmatization for holding certain views. His own view is that people should not be stigmatized for opposing same-sex marriage, but should be for supporting the KKK:

Indeed, there has never been a society, no matter how liberal, that did not regard at least some ideas as “beyond the pale.”

… .

In an ideal world where everyone carefully weighs opposing arguments strictly on the basis of logic and evidence, stigmatization would be both ineffective and unnecessary. In the real world, unfortunately, it can be a necessary evil, albeit only in extreme cases.”

In so holding, Professor Somin is making a moral judgment. But what is it based on? I’m not opposing his rule here, but only pointing out that it begs the question: to what moral code or ethical authority does he look in determining what views should and should not be stigmatized?

Schuette, Marriage, and Democratic Rights

by Travis Weber

April 25, 2014

What do all these things have to do with one another? On April 22, 2014, in Schuette v. BAMN, the Supreme Court ruled on a constitutional challenge to a Michigan ballot measure providing that its state government, along with universities and schools, “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin… .” Opponents claimed that such a measure violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on the grounds that it prevented race-based preferences which were needed to achieve equality. Proponents claimed a measure mandating equal protection under the law regardless of race could not possibly violate the Equal Protection Clause. Without deciding the issue of whether race-based preferences themselves were constitutional, in an opinion authored by Justice Kennedy, the Court distinguished this case from others in which a law was enacted to address a specific history of discrimination, and sided with the proponents in holding that this law mandating equal treatment did not violate the Equal Protection Clause. But how did the Court really get there?

While the case carried with it much emotion, and dragged around a legal thicket of cases dealing with race-based preferences in education, Justice Kennedy’s decision was remarkable in weighing heavily in favor of permitting voters to decide how their states will handle difficult and sensitive public policy issues. It is true, as the Court reminded us, that constitutional rights must be respected and cannot be overridden by the voters. But “[t]here was recognition that our federal structure “‘permits innovation and experimentation’ and ‘enables greater citizen involvement in democratic processes.’”Scheutte v. BAMN, 572 U.S.___ (2014) (slip op., at 4-5) (quoting Bond v. United States, 564 U.S.__ (2011) (slip op., at 9)).

Consider the following reasoning by Justice Kennedy, which could just as well be applied to a challenge to a state marriage law:

  • ‘[T]he States may perform their role as laboratories for experimentation to devise various solutions… .’” Schuette, slip op., at 4 (quoting United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 581 (1995) (Kennedy, J., concurring)).
  • [Windsor] Grutter acknowledged the significance of a dialogue regarding this contested and complex policy question among and within States.” Schuette, slip op., at 4.
  • While this case arises in Michigan, the decision by the State’s voters reflects in part the national dialogue regarding the wisdom and practicality of [legalizing same-sex marriage] race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.” Schuette, slip op., at 5.
  • Perhaps, when enacting policies as an exercise of democratic self-government, voters will determine that [a preference for natural marriage] race-based preferences should be adopted… . The holding in the instant case is simply that the courts may not disempower the voters from choosing which path to follow. In the realm of policy discussions the regular give-and-take of debate ought to be a context in which rancor or discord based on race are avoided, not invited. And if these factors are to be interjected, surely it ought not to be at the invitation or insistence of the courts.” Schuette, slip op., at 13.
  • The Court, by affirming the judgment now before it, in essence would announce a finding that the past 15 years of state public debate on this issue have been improper.”
  • By approving Proposal 2 and thereby adding §26 to their State Constitution, the Michigan voters exercised their privilege to enact laws as a basic exercise of their democratic power. In the federal system States respond, through the enactment of positive law, to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own times. Michigan voters used the initiative system to bypass public officials who were deemed not responsive to the concerns of a majority of the voters with respect to a policy of [how to define marriage for their own state] granting race-based preferences that raises difficult and delicate issues.” Schuette, slip op., at 15 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
  • Yet freedom does not stop with individual rights. Our constitutional system embraces, too, the right of citizens to debate so they can learn and decide and then, through the political process, act in concert to try to shape the course of their own times and the course of a nation that must strive always to make freedom ever greater and more secure. Here Michigan voters acted in concert and statewide to seek consensus and adopt a policy on a difficult subject [touching upon how states will define the foundational institution of marriage] against a historical background of race in America that has been a source of tragedy and persisting injustice. That history demands that we continue to learn, to listen, and to remain open to new approaches if we are to aspire always to a constitutional order in which all persons are treated with fairness and equal dignity. Were the Court to rule that the question addressed by Michigan voters is too sensitive or complex to be within the grasp of the electorate; or that the policies at issue remain too delicate to be resolved save by university officials or faculties, acting at some remove from immediate public scrutiny and control; or that these matters are so arcane that the electorate’s power must be limited because the people cannot prudently exercise that power even after a full debate, that holding would be an unprecedented restriction on the exercise of a fundamental right held not just by one person but by all in common. It is the right to speak and debate and learn and then, as a matter of political will, to act through a lawful electoral process.” Schuette, slip op., at 15-16.
  • The respondents in this case insist that a difficult question of public policy must be taken from the reach of the voters, and thus removed from the realm of public discussion, dialogue, and debate in an election campaign. Quite in addition to the serious First Amendment implications of that position with respect to any particular election, it is inconsistent with the underlying premises of a responsible, functioning democracy. One of those premises is that a democracy has the capacity—and the duty—to learn from its past mistakes; to discover and confront persisting biases; and by respectful, rationale deliberation to rise above those flaws and injustices. That process is impeded, not advanced, by court decrees based on the proposition that the public cannot have the requisite repose to discuss certain issues. It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds. The process of public discourse and political debate should not be foreclosed even if there is a risk that during a public campaign there will be those, on both sides, who seek to use [sexual] racial division and discord to their own political advantage. An informed public can, and must, rise above this. The idea of democracy is that it can, and must, mature. Freedom embraces the right, indeed the duty, to engage in a rational, civic discourse in order to determine how best to form a consensus to shape the destiny of the Nation and its people. These First Amendment dynamics would be disserved if this Court were to say that the question here at issue is beyond the capacity of the voters to debate and then to determine.” Schuette, slip op., at 16-17.
  • The electorate’s instruction to governmental entities not to embark upon the course of race defined and race-based preferences was adopted, we must assume, because the voters deemed preference system to be unwise, on account of what voters may deem its latent potential to become itself a source of the very resentments and hostilities based on race that this Nation seeks to put behind it.” Schuette, slip op., at 18.
  • This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.” Schuette, slip op., at 18.
  • Deliberative debate on sensitive issues such as racial preferences all too often may shade into rancor. But that does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the voters’ reach. Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate.” Schuette, slip op., at 18.

This is strong language from the Court justifying its decision to leave sensitive public policy issues for the voters of each state to decide. The Court should apply the same reasoning to any challenge to a state marriage law. Apart from the lack of support for a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage, this is a sensitive issue touching on how communities within America choose to live and organize themselves. The Court shows wisdom in staying out of such issues in Scheutte, and it should stay out of such issues in the context of state marriage laws.

Justice Kennedy’s justifications for declining to involve the Court in classifying racial groups according to their interests is also of some relevance to marriage. If courts should not determine the interest of groups as regards race because such a “venture not only would [] be undertaken with no clear legal standards or accepted sources to guide judicial decision but also it would result in, or at least impose a high risk of, inquiries and categories dependent upon demeaning stereotypes, classifications of questionable constitutionality on their own terms,” Schuette, slip op., at 12, why should the court not also avoid perpetuating “classifications of questionable constitutionality” in the same-sex marriage context?

Consider the following:

  • The Court properly refused to review under strict scrutiny “[a]ny state action with a ‘[marriage] racial focus’ that makes it ‘more difficult for certain [marriage] racial minorities than for other groups’ to ‘achieve legislation that is in their interest.’”
  • In essence, according to the broad reading of [Windsor] Seattle, any state action with a “[sexual] racial focus” that makes it “more difficult for certain [sexual] racial minorities than for other groups” to “achieve legislation that is in their interest” is subject to strict scrutiny. It is this reading of [Windsor] Seattlethat the [district courts] Court of Appeals found to be controlling here. And that reading must be rejected.”

If providing minority groups with the advantage of constitutional strict scrutiny in order to achieve legislation “that is in their interest” would not be considered constitutionally required, Schuette, slip op., at 11, it must be asked: why bless with strict scrutiny the almost identical claims of same-sex marriage groups, though they be in the minority, are “legislatively disadvantaged,” and certainly have had difficulty in achieving their “interests” legislatively?

Indeed, it is precisely because they’ve had only limited success in state legislatures that proponents of same-sex marriage have sought constitutional rulings in order to ensure these “matters [are] foreclosed from voter review or participation.” Schuette, slip op., at 13. “Including” a right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution will ensure that no states’ rights are protected, voters will grow disenfranchised at being shut out of the political process, and states will be denied their place as “laboratories” according to the design of the federal constitutional structure.

Despite lower courts’ attempts to twist their way out of the law, well-settled Supreme Court jurisprudence has always mandated the result that the Constitution does not provide a right to same-sex marriage. No such right is enumerated, and cannot now be invented at this time. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997). The Court should decline to dictate a federal constitutional right to same sex marriage and should leave this determination to the states. The reasoning in Schuette v. BAMN makes this result more hopeful.

The Social Conservative Review: April 24, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

April 24, 2014

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends,

Want to start an emotional discussion? Ask people what they think of “Common Core.”

The new federal education standards being advanced by the Obama Administration are of great concern not only to parents and teachers but all who fear big government intrusion in American education. As President Eisenhower said years ago, federal aid to education leads to dependence by states and localities on Uncle Sam and also to Washington-based control of what’s taught. His prophecy is coming true before our eyes.

FRC has just published three new studies of Common Core that will help you understand what’s really happening and what’s at stake. Written by our talented Common Core Coalition Manager, attorney Sarah Perry, you can download these relatively brief but thorough and carefully-researched documents at no cost:

Ten Things to Know About Common Core

Common Core State Standards: Mathematics

Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts & Literacy

Parents, not the government, are entrusted by God with the education and care of children. FRC is committed to keeping it that way, and we value your partnership with us in this effort.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. Be sure to watch a presentation by Arina Grossu, Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, on the current state of euthanasia initiatives in the U.S. and how you can oppose them.


Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
Abortion

Euthanasia/End of Life Issues

Stem Cells and Biotechnology

Marriage & Family
Common Core

Family Life

Human Sexuality

Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage”

Pornography

Human Trafficking

Religious Liberty

Religion in Public Life

International Religious Liberty

Other important articles

Book Reviews

Missing Bill Bass

by Robert Morrison

April 24, 2014

What? Too many blacks in Annapolis High School?” That was the sharp comment I received in one of my first meetings with Bill Bass. I was being introduced as the new fellow in our Men’s Bible Study. Asked where my kids were going to school, I answered Annapolis Area Christian School. I was completely unprepared for such a kick in the solar plexus. In a Bible Study? Was this freshman hazing?

No, I was quickly assured. That was Bill’s style. He was then in his early 80s. Brilliant, fearless and blunt, he said what he thought and did not care who liked it. I was so taken aback I never had the chance, or the quickness of mind, to give a proper answer. I might have retorted: “Well, Bill, since my children attended our Lutheran elementary school, where 85% of the students are black, I guess I just got out of the habit of counting by race.” Or, I might have added that one of the few black students in my son’s class at AACS had saved his life.

Bill was a proud Texas liberal. He had been a top Navy and civilian aide to the legendary Vice Admiral Hyman Rickover. “The Admiral,” as Bill always referred to him, was the Father of the Nuclear Navy. And Bill was his right hand man for decades. Strong and brave men would get a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs when they received a pink telephone message: “Call Bill Bass.” And these were submariners.

Over the years in that Bible Study, it became clear that Bill Bass could take it as well as dish it out. He regaled us with many a story of “the Admiral.” When Bill Bass turned fifty, the Admiral took note. No touchy feely session, though. “So, Bass. You’re now fifty years old. I guess this is as good as you’re gonna get.” Another time, the Admiral admonished Bill. “Bass, you don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself. You could learn from other people’s mistakes, you know.” This was clearly before they invented self-esteem.

I recall a Saturday session of our group in 2005. Bill Bass was describing how he served on the great WWII battleship USS Missouri when she was grounded in Chesapeake Bay in 1950. Bill was a junior engineering officer at the time of that most embarrassing incident. Missouri’s Harry Truman was sitting in the White House then. And Harry’s daughter Margaret had christened this mighty warship. To run aground in home waters was a major blunder for the ship’s skipper and her crew. Nonetheless, Bill related every ingenious maneuver required to free the grounded battlewagon. In minute detail, for twenty-seven minutes, he kept us spellbound with an exact rendering of kedging, and of the pumping action that sloshed bilge water back and forth from port to starboard to rock the great ship free.

When he finished, we all applauded his total recall. And then we used his story as a text for not growing weary in doing good. (Our Bible Study gets a bit distracted at times.)

I generally try to keep my work week out of the Bible Study. Because Family Research Council believes that everyone deserves a birth day, that brides should marry grooms, and that this is one Nation under God, some people find us controversial. But there was one Saturday when I was asked to report on my travels on the FRC/Heritage Foundation Values Bus. I spoke of our defense of marriage. I quoted Dr. Patrick Fagan’s famous study of child poverty. Pat and his colleagues at Heritage Foundation, where he worked before coming to FRC, virtually married by computer modeling the parents of the four million American children living in poverty. Pat and his colleagues found that if those parents were married, only 750,000 of those unfortunate kids would still be living in poverty.

I thought that was pretty persuasive evidence of the power of marriage to lift young lives out of poverty. Most of my Bible Study friends agreed. Not Bill Bass. He piped up: If their parents had access to free and legal abortion, none of them would be living in poverty. I confess I was struck dumb. I had not expected such a Herodian viewpoint in our Christian Bible Study.

Bill Bass was as liberal in his theology as in his politics. He was forever saying we cannot take the Gospels literally. After all, they were written by fallible men some fifty or sixty years after the events they purport to chronicle.

Only years later did this rejoinder occur to me: Bill Bass — you related the entire story of the grounding of the USS Missouri fifty-five years after the event. You missed no significant detail. And “Big Mo” never ascended from that sand bar into Heaven!

I admit I was shocked by Bill’s recent death, just short of his ninetieth birthday. He seemed so alive, so strong-willed. When we visited him in the hospital, we asked him how the food was. “Lousy,” he roared! And then he proceeded to tick off every item he’d ordered for breakfast and how they gave him nothing he wanted.

Whenever he uttered some truly outrageous comment, I would remind myself of his service to God and country. For fifty years, we were all kept safe by our nuclear submarine force. Because of Admiral Rickover’s driving genius, and Bill Bass’s indispensable help, the rulers of an Evil Empire always knew they could not strike us with nuclear weapons without being wiped out themselves. They were deterred. Rickover and Bass were our shield and buckler.

In the end, the only thing Bill Bass and I agreed about was Jesus. That is enough. And I do miss Bill.

War on the Pledge: new tactics, but the same tired thinking

by Travis Weber

April 23, 2014

The American Humanist Association (AHA) recently filed suit against the Monmouth County (New Jersey) Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. The offending action? The school district is following a state law providing that students recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day. The thinking behind this and other suits is the same tired thinking that any such mention of God in a public body violates constitutional protections. Usually some alleged violation of the Establishment Clause is claimed.

Yet here, the AHA and its plaintiffs (who remain anonymous) have alleged that this recitation of the Pledge violates Equal Protection provisions contained in the New Jersey Constitution. No doubt this is an attempt to test a legal pathway for success in knocking the Pledge out of public life. This would be a win for the AHA, which likely cares very little for legal integrity but very much in achieving its goal. Yet the idea that the Pledge discriminates against some students is ridiculous. Students already have the right to refrain from reciting the Pledge. The AHA and its “plaintiffs” in this case want to force everyone else to stop saying it too.

While the AHA identifies itself, the offended student and parents remain unidentified. While reasons for anonymity in litigation vary from case to case, here it is likely they are afraid of the pushback they would receive should they be known as the plaintiffs in this suit. Yet pushback would be understandable, especially when one is the catalyst for a meddling organization to come in from out of state and tell local students and their parents how to live their lives day to day.

Yet the philosophy underlying this and similar claims begs a larger discussion. As courts have interpreted the Establishment Clause to eliminate even relatively minor indicia of religious expression from public life on the grounds that such mention is state “endorsement” of religion, public bodies are left to operate in a philosophical vacuum. Courts have permitted public schools to “endorse” secularism and humanist principles. The result is an “establishment” of a “state philosophy” and orthodoxy of secularism, with the full force of the government and power of law promoting these beliefs.

As a result, the courts have bought into a lie that scrubbing God from public life to “comply” with the Establishment Clause will lead to the ideal result – an even playing field in which no one view is promoted. Yet a philosophical vacuum cannot exist for long. And since indicia of religion are being eliminated from public schools, indicia of alternative belief systems (secularism and humanism) have rushed in to fill the void. The result is that we are indeed left with a state established religion – the “religion” of humanism.

Setting the World On Fire” — Ben and Grace’s Holy Matrimony

by Robert Morrison

April 23, 2014

I was struck by a line in Scripture this past week that I had never noticed before. It occurs in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prays and sweats blood: “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56). All? Yes, all. And that desertion happened among the men Jesus had personally selected as His followers. He who knows all about each one of us chose men who would desert Him when put to the test? We all know what happened after that mass desertion. Those fearful, fleeing men stopped, turned, and seeing their Risen Savior, one of them even said: “My Lord and My God!”

And then came Pentecost. Those men changed. From being fearful and cringing, they changed into bold and undaunted. They proclaimed the truth even when it cost them their lives.

We’ve seen too much hand-wringing during this past Lenten season in the U.S.; all the white flags are fluttering, and the idea that marriage is over in America and perhaps the world is taking hold among the chattering classes. It’s inevitable, they say. How can we “finesse” this issue so we can get about the business of politics — which is all about money, after all.

And this loss of confidence and nerve is spreading in little waves like a stone thrown in a pond — even to some timorous souls in the Church. There are some Christian writers and thinkers who are saying, in effect, we have to appeal to the winners to let us be Amish.

Well, they won’t let us be Amish. They are in this for all or nothing. No opposition to marriagending will be tolerated. If you ever opposed them overturning marriage, you will be hounded, harried, and harassed.

So nothing will suffice than for us to stop this headlong flight, turn and face eternal truths, and stand fast.

That’s why my wife and I drove twelve hundred miles over Easter weekend to celebrate a wedding, a true marriage of young Christian friends. We drove deep into the South to witness this great event.

My wife and I remembered the words of the Bishop of London at the Royal Wedding several years ago. He quoted St. Catherine of Siena, saying to the young couple: “Be who God intended you to be and you will set the world on fire.” We wanted to be there to see Ben and Grace set the world on fire.

Because Ben is a young officer in the military, the only time he could get leave was during Easter. And because of that, it was hard to find a church where their ceremony could be held. But if this young couple could not go to the church, the Church could come to them. Wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, Jesus is among us. So they chose a site in a tall building overlooking a lazy, winding river in a beautiful and historic Southern town.

The music provided was appropriate. We entered to the trumpet strains of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” That great Reformation hymn never fails to inspire. As we are seated, Martin Luther’s verse comes to mind:

Though devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us,

We tremble not, we fear no ill,

They shall not overpowr us.

The assembly hall is filled with family and friends, well-wishers all. A cloud of witnesses has descended on this scene. The members of the wedding party take their places. The young groom stands tall in his dress uniform. He has six groomsmen standing by. The bride is preceded by her six bridesmaids. The flower girl is the seven-year old sister of the bride. She has been adopted from China. The ring bearer is the four-year old nephew of the groom. “Taylor” has been named for a great Christian missionary to China.

I was honored to read from the Scriptures. From Genesis, I read:

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

I looked quickly to my right as I read these words. The lovely bride and her six bridesmaids were all arrayed there. To my left stood the towering young groom and his six groomsmen. Male and female, each had taken his place. The ceremony follows Nature. The ceremony affirms Nature. The ceremony celebrates Nature.

We have all been accused of lacking compassion, failing to love our neighbors as ourselves. They routinely picture us as holding tightly onto this red balloon called marriage that we do not want to share.

But we do want to share it. We want to offer true marriage as a powerful response to grievous social problems of poverty, educational deficit, and ill health. We who visit those in prison know we are there surrounded by fatherless young men. We have compassion for them. The divorced and abandoned women of today are Scripture’s needful widows. Marriage can be a blessing to those in the Church, to be sure, but it even blesses those outside the Church. Marriage bashes no one.

In order for us to share the blessing that is marriage, there must yet be marriage. Those who demand an end to marriage as we have known it do not want to share that red balloon. They want to burst it.

There is no rancor, no malice in our defending marriage. We have been given this priceless gift and we want only to pass it on unbroken and unadulterated to today’s young people. There is no thought of hatred in this. Instead, I have been given this Scripture to read from 1 John:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Ben and Grace exchange their vows. The groom’s father, a pastor, performs his duty with sureness. Both bride and groom speak clearly and strongly, yet even so their voices crack with the overpowering emotion of the moment. They deeply appreciate this poignant moment they have waited for all their lives. They know what it means to become one flesh in the Lord.

Ben and Grace exchange their rings. Each one knows these rings they will wear until death parts them. Each one knows that these rings are the sign and symbol of their love. They know that marriage has a certain ring to it.

John Paul Stevens and the Constitution

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 22, 2014

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a stalwart member of the Court’s liberal phalanx, has published a book calling for six amendments to the Constitution he believes would benefit the nation.

I have not reviewed his proposals carefully, although should I do so it is likely I would disagree with most, if not all, of them.  However, Justice Stevens should be applauded at least for this: He recognizes that the text of the Constitution is sufficiently clear that what he thinks should be changed demands amending, as the Founders envisioned, not reinterpretation to facilitate legislation from the bench.

We have a written Constitution precisely because the Founders did not want a national government with expansive, broadening, and undefined powers.  For this reason, they gave us the Tenth Amendment, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  They also gave us the process for amending the Constitution, which we have done 27 times since the document’s ratification.

In other words, the text of the Constitution has a fixed and understandable meaning sufficiently definitive and clear that torturing it into meanings (or “penumbras,” as one Justice infamously put it) its drafters never intended is intellectually dishonest.

Legislating from the bench” has become the Left’s tool of choice for advancing an agenda they cannot enact legislatively.  Neither ideology nor personal sentiment should drive judicial decisions; rather, a common sense reading of the plain text of the Constitution should be any court’s guide.  As Alliance Defending Freedom’s president Alan Sears has written:

If you are in court, and you are in the right, you don’t want to be fearful that the judge might let empathy for your opponent affect his or her decision instead of ruling impartially according to the law. That wouldn’t be true justice or true compassion … (As) Thomas Jefferson noted in 1804 … “the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and the Executive also in their spheres, would make the judiciary a despotic branch.”

Judges are tasked with evaluating arguments and evidence and making just decisions about the issues confronting them.  They are not unelected politicians who have a constitutional right to make law based on personal preference or subjective conviction.

Have they become, as Jefferson predicted, “despots?”  Not in the sense of sending shock troops into the streets or denying anyone the right to vote.  But in the sense too often they are finding in the Constitution pretexts for action that no reasonable person rationally can deduce from the Constitution’s language, a penchant toward law-making rather than law-interpreting seems increasingly entrenched in their minds. 

At the swearing-in of Justice Anthony Kennedy, Ronald Reagan described the role of judges and the danger imposed by “bench legislation:”

The role assigned to judges in our system was to interpret the Constitution and lesser laws, not to make them. It was to protect the integrity of the Constitution, not to add to it or subtract from it—certainly not to rewrite it. For as the framers knew, unless judges are bound by the text of the Constitution, we will, in fact, no longer have a government of laws, but of men and women who are judges. And if that happens, the words of the documents that we think govern us will be just masks for the personal and capricious rule of a small elite.

Arguably, Justice Kennedy has failed to live up to this standard in a number of his key decisions (e.g., rulings on abortion and same-sex “marriage”).  But the charge given him by President Reagan, one applicable to all federal judges in any jurisdiction, remains compelling.

Conservatives should thank John Paul Stevens for acknowledging, even if indirectly, that the Constitution means what it says and says what it means, which is why amending it rather than elasticizing it is needed if changes to the document are desired.  The amendment process can be slow and difficult, for good reason: Altering the charter text of man’s “last, best hope” should always be done with deliberate caution.

Review: God’s Not Dead

by Kathy Athearn

April 22, 2014

What would you do if your college philosophy professor told the class to write “God is dead” on a piece of paper, sign it, and hand it in, or else risk 30% of your grade? In the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” a freshman named Josh Wheaton is told just that. Josh looks around the room and watches everyone do just as the professor said. But as a Christian, he can’t bring himself to do it. As a result, the professor tells him that he must present his argument for why God is NOT dead to the entire class for the next several weeks. Then the class will vote on whether God is dead or alive.

Josh is now sacrificing grades in his other classes in order to devote time and energy to prove that God’s not dead. He also faces pressure from everyone —his parents, girlfriend, friends —to just let it go, and let the professor win his argument. But Josh just can’t do it. A local pastor helps him to stand up and defend the Truth, reminding him of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Josh does a masterful job of arguing for God’s existence, angering his professor and slowly impacting his classmates. Josh knows that his purpose in life is to glorify God in every area of life, and he’s not going to let anyone frustrate or distract him.

As we witness the erosion of religious freedom in our country (especially for orthodox Christians) and we hear about the horrific persecution and massacre of Christians in other parts of the world, it is easy to become discouraged or disheartened. But I hope you take the time to watch “God’s Not Dead.” It is a positive, hope-filled movie that will inspire you to stand up and speak the Truth in Love. As our Redeemer said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world! (John 16:33b)

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