The U.S. Supreme Court: Presidential Decisions Impact National Morality

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The U.S. Supreme Court

Presidential Decisions Impact National Morality

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As President George W. Bush begins his second term in office, many important issues lie before him. Of course, the issue that immediately jumps to everyone's mind is national security—how to keep the country safe from terrorist attacks and what actions to take if any attacks succeed.

But another matter in which the president will likely have to make choices is actually of more preeminent concern. Indeed, it is an issue that may well help determine how safe the country will be in the long run. That pivotal matter is the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Choices that can transform society

Notice what noted economist and author Thomas Sowell stated in a Nov. 4, 2004, column about what was at stake in this past presidential election: "Can you imagine what it would be like to have a . . . liberal [president] filling federal courts across the country, including the Supreme Court, with liberal judges who would be turning more criminals loose for decades to come, as well as repeatedly over-ruling the voting public's right to govern themselves on such things as gay marriage?

"With so many elderly members on today's Supreme Court, the choices of their successors will be historic in their consequences. Those consequences could be tragic if they are replaced with more Justices who think their job is to impose their own pet notions or—worse yet—to be guided by what is in fashion in other countries, instead of what is set forth in the Constitution of the United States that they are sworn to uphold."

Indeed, this is not a mere political issue. It is a decidedly moral issue. The Supreme Court, as the ultimate arbiter of what acts are legal, plays a key role in setting the moral tone of the nation.

Consider the high court's ruling in the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion in 1973. This was not a popular decision. Abortion had been viewed as murder—a crime and a sin. But the legalizing of abortion through the supposed wisdom of our highest judges gave it increasing popular acceptance—to the point that today it is viewed by nearly half the populace as a woman's "right."

To many, the notion of rolling back Roe v. Wade, even by those who don't agree with it, is unthinkable—even as the lives of a million and a half unborn babies continue to be taken every year.

Yet the downturn had begun earlier than the 70s. The court decided to ban school prayer in 1963—against the wishes of the vast majority of the public. The effects of this ruling, and of further banishment of God and the Bible from public life since, have been devastating. Rates of crime and immorality soon skyrocketed. It only makes sense. Take away God and religion, the basis of morality, from children's education and the result is a generation that is less moral than before. Repeat with each generation and it only gets worse. Throw in a curriculum based around the theory of evolution, telling students they are really nothing more than intelligent animals, and the seeds are sown for societal disaster.

Of course, parents bear some responsibility for failing to combat the downturn at home. And yet parents are forced to compete with a public education system that paints them and other archaic forebears as out of touch with scientific reality.

Consider the Supreme Court's decision in the light of the fact that its own sessions open with this appeal: "God save the United States and this honorable court." In fact, the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment preventing a federal establishment of religion nevertheless elected to have congressional sessions opened with prayer.

John Jay, first U.S. chief justice and one of the three men most responsible for the writing of the U.S. Constitution, made his views clear when he said: "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers" (emphasis added throughout).

In 1891 the U.S. Supreme Court made this remarkable statement: "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind, and it's impossible that it should be otherwise: and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian" (Church of the Holy Trinity v. The United States).

So how have we arrived where we are today? Through presidential appointments of judges (given lifetime appointments) who judge based more on their own ideas than on the intent of the Constitution. These see the Constitution as a "living" document to be interpreted differently as society changes. Yet that's what constitutional amendments are for—which are to come only through Congress and state legislatures, not judicial rulings.

Thomas Jefferson, who gave us the now-misconstrued phrase "separation of church and state," explained well how the U.S. Constitution is supposed to be interpreted by judges, saying: "On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit of the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed."

Much hangs in the balance

This is the approach of conservative judges like Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, one of whom will likely be nominated for the position of chief justice when the current conservative chief justice, William Rehnquist, retires. And further retirements seem likely, which will bring additional Supreme Court appointments.

Since the Senate confirms federal judicial appointments, we may well see liberal senators fight vigorously to prevent the court from any possible swing to the right. If the national leadership holds the line against pressure to compromise, the moral slide of the nation may be slowed. But if they give way, we may well see America's moral decline start to snowball more than it already has.

The more a nation heeds and follows the moral values God has given in Scripture, the more blessed and secure that nation is. On the other hand, the more a nation rejects godly values, the more curses it brings on itself.

A nation that expels God from public life should not expect His protection when threats and attacks come, whether from without or within. Of course, God is merciful and often protects us in spite of ourselves. But for a nation to overtly reject God is certainly not the way to ensure His help.

Thus, the president's appointments to the Supreme Court may prove more important in the long run than trying to root out and find terrorists. Yet even more vital than that would be for the nation and its leaders to bow to God in repentance and humility and seek His forgiveness and direction.

Though the country does not seem at all poised to take such a step, that should not stop you from taking it. All of us have an individual responsibility toward God. Let's make sure we're fulfilling it. No matter which way the nation goes, it remains our job to stand for God and His truth.