We all scratch our heads and ponder . . . we even gripe and complain . . . about what we view as peculiar and questionable decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. It seems that over the past 30 to 40 years there have been a disturbing number of such rulings. The following are a few such decisions which I personally find troubling and perplexing:
1. A ruling upholding a State’s rights to impose surgery to prevent reproduction of citizens with developmental disabilities living in state facilities, without the consent of the individual or family. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the opinion in which he stated, “One idiot per family is sufficient.”;
2. The ruling on the legal challenge by Madelyn Murray O’Hare against prayer and Bible reading in the public school system;
3. The ruling upholding a citizen’s right to burn the American flag in protesting the government;
4. Roe vs Wade . . . ruling that permits the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies; and
5. Recent ruling on what is being called “Gay Rights.” The Court issued its decision on the issue of same-sex marriage and ruled that such marriage is, in its opinion, Constitutional. I fear that decision will be the very act that will push this once great nation over the edge and render us morally bankrupt.
Each of these decisions disturb me. I understand each one is a reflection of our culture and who we have become as a people and that is exactly the basis for these rulings. There is a Constitutional principle known as the The Madisonian Dilemma, and it is a tension which the framers of the Constitution placed into the Constitution, intending that each generation would need to reconcile that tension. Under our founding documents, we are afforded many individual rights and liberties; however, there is also the right of the majority to govern. Thus, there is always the need to reconcile the individual’s right to be free vs the majority’s right to govern. A couple of examples of this reconciliation:
1. As an individual, I have the right to go swimming, but the majority has the right to govern where I may and may not do my swimming (e. g. the law has rightly placed a prohibition within the law against my right to show up on your private property and do my swimming in your pool, uninvited). Thus, I have the right to swim, but the majority also has the right to govern where I may swim (or perhaps to establish the boundary of where I may not swim).
2. As an individual I clearly have, under the 2nd Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms; yet, the majority clearly has the right to govern and establish by law just where I may use my guns, how I may use my guns, and when I may use my guns.
In both of these simple examples, the individual clearly has “individual rights,” however, the majority also clearly has the right to govern how the individual right might be exercised. Thus, there will always be some tension between these oftentimes competing rights, and the Supreme Court is clearly the body in which the Constitution vests the authority to examine and resolve perceived conflicts and decide upon which right shall prevail. While many of us find those decisions bizarre and peculiar (primarily Christians), the simple truth is they are a reflection of our culture in this generation. The sad truth is that not even all Christians agree on various decisions (e. g. The community of faith is divided over the issue of abortion with one side calling it murder – the taking of an innocent life – while the other side calls it “a woman’s right to choose.”)
My dear friend, Dr. Lewellyn Cartwright (Buddy) Johnston, Jr. and I for several years enjoyed afternoon coffee. One afternoon as we sat down to visit and have our coffee, Buddy, a Methodist minister, had just returned from his denomination’s Annual Meeting. He beamed with enthusiasm and said, “We voted down the proposition of homosexual Pastors at the meeting.” I said, “You seem to be happy about that.” With an expression of some dismay he said, “I am delighted about it.” I said, “It seems to me that you would be broken-hearted that your folks even had to vote on the issue . . . that it was even an issue to be debated. I think that it being an issue that required debate and call for a vote says much about your denomination and where it is headed.” I recall the sad look that came upon his face as he pondered my comment, and quietly said, “I suppose you are correct, I just had not thought of it in that context.”
Likewise, some of the issues the Supreme Court is called upon to decide speaks volumes about us as a society. It seems to me . . . that sadly, the decisions by the Court are not so much a matter of what is morally right or wrong, as much as it is a reflection of our society (the majority’s right to govern). The simple truth is that it is citizens who set issues before the Court to decide, and it is our generation that has challenged and argues matters of morality that were set long ago in the USA, by a much more moral generation than is ours. Consequently, there is a constant and continual call from the Holy Bible for a nation to repent and turn from its wicked ways. The call is for folks to submit to the authority of the Lord, who long ago set the boundaries of how we are to live.
It Seems to me . . . that we err when we condemn the Court; when, in fact, we ought to be afraid about ourselves and what our culture has become . . . as Christians we have remained largely silent. The truth is that we are called to let our voices be heard, both individually and collectively.
Crazy court rulings . . . are not a reflection of those black-robed judges . . . It is a reflection of our black-hearted culture.