J. Ross Justice
Of late, the federal courts have claimed the authority to turn the constitution into a pretzel. In the disguise and pretense of protecting the “rule of law” the constitution has come to mean whatever the Federal judges say that it means. The simplistic idea of appealing to the plain English and original intent of the constitution is now passé. Similarly the Founding Fathers’ idea of changing the constitution by the established lawful Congressional means via state ratification has also been bypassed by activist federal judges. To be blunt we are now living in the early stages of a national tyranny administered by a small group of unelected judges. The question must be asked. Have these federal judges committed treason against their oath of office?
A good illustration of their unlawful expansion of power is seen in how the Federal courts are now dictating the interior decorating of state judge courtrooms. I’m specifically referring to the situations of the posting the 10 commandments in the courts of Chief Justice Roy Moore in Alabama and in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese in Richland County, Ohio. But much more than courtroom décor is at stake in this debate. These cases are directly related to foundational liberties such as free speech and the limits of federal jurisdiction. Therefore these two cases are illustrative of a growing constitutional crisis in our nation.
These cases have helped make that crisis visible and understandable to the public at large. In these 10 Commandment cases the public is forced to one of two possible conclusions. We are either facing tyrannical lawlessness by Federal court judges or, on the other hand, we are experiencing an unconstitutional display of religious speech by state court judges.
Both sides of this debate lay claim to the high moral ground of being motivated by a desire to support the concept of “the rule of law.” Both sides argue that they are fighting against the arbitrary “rule of man”. All parties agree that the central point of contention in these 10 Commandment cases relates to an alleged violation of the First Amendment.
How could highly esteemed judges on both sides of this issue hold such radically different positions? Why is it that mere reason, logic and common sense cannot seem to resolve this matter? The answer of course is because the issue at root is a foundational religious and ideological battle of mutually exclusive first-principles. After all, the First Amendment is not a complicated statement. The Anti-Federalists who drafted it and the common people who debated it obviously thought that they understood what it meant. The meaning of law does not change merely with the passage of time. The plain and simple language of that amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Since no one is claiming that Congress has done any such thing as “establishing a (state) religion” as had been the common custom in England, what then could be the real issue?
Historically, these cases began because some ACLU-affiliated lawyers said that they were offended by seeing the words of the 10 commandments in a court of law. They argued that the 10 commandments are religious words; and religious words should not be allowed to be publicly displayed by elected officials. Supposedly, from their interpretation of the constitution, public officials are only allowed to speak “secular” words and act upon “secular” motives. They are not allowed to speak “religious” words nor act upon “religious” motives. In other words, all speech (even very offensive and controversial speech) is constitutionally protected unless it just happens to also be “religious” speech.
The logic of this position demands that Christians are only allowed to hold public office as long as they do not consciously act, think or make decisions that are in the least bit motivated by their Christian worldview. Of course that would be impossible for all but the most hypocritical of Christians. In any case, that certainly sounds like the ACLU wants the federal government to practice religious discrimination in favor of their “secular” worldview.
If we apply only the original intent of the U.S. constitution, the federal government has absolutely no say in regard to how the states run their courts… religiously or otherwise. One ACLU spokesman publicly told me that Ohio citizens do not have the right to elect a person who intends to act upon explicitly Christian principles. Now on the other hand, he inferred, if someone was elected upon the platform of intentionally implementing programs that are explicitly anti-Christian in their effect, then that situation would be religiously “neutral” and therefore “constitutional!” Such an elementary error in logic could be humorous if it were not that learned federal court judges espouse exactly that same viewpoint from the bench.
Consider for instance the case of Judge DeWeese in American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio v. Ashbrook, 219 F. Supp.2d 793 (N.D. Ohio 2002). The federal court opinion noted the fact that Judge DeWeese intentionally posted the 10 Commandments so that people would know that our legal history was based upon the view that there were moral absolutes that served as the ultimate authority. Such an absolute ultimate authority served as the justification of the existence of law itself. The 10 Commandments were the “supreme emblem” said Judge DeWeese of that historical concept as it relates to American history.
It should be noted that the use of historical facts in support of a philosophical view had previously been interpreted as a “secular” argument and therefore constitutional by the so-called Lemon Test. However in this case, the federal court judge ruled against the display of the10 Commandments in Judge DeWeese’s courtroom in spite of the amply documented role that it played in American history. Why? Well it seems that the federal judge had a suspicion that Judge DeWeese’s intention in the use of the 10 Commandments was also religious in nature. Get it? Even acceptable “secular” facts can be turned into unacceptable “religious” facts if the federal judge possesses a supernatural ability to read people’s mind. Such mind reading allows him to discern evil religious motives behind the promulgation of those historical facts.
Two things must be noted. First of all, these federal judges have taken on the role of being the “thought police” against anything in American history that could be agued as Christian and therefore religious. [Never mind the fact that these same judges steadfastly refuse to define what the term “religious” means! Hint: That is because every fact must be interpreted in light of some religious worldview even if it should be an atheistic worldview. Consequently all interpreted “facts” are religious facts by definition.
Let’s suppose that Judge DeWeese was a self-confessed atheist who was motivated to post the 10 Commandments in his courtroom in order to ridicule them as barbaric relics of our superstitious past. Then under that scenario the federal judge would be forced to rule that Judge DeWeese’s discourse on the theory of law, is simply an expression of free speech. In that case it would be a “secular” use of the 10 Commandments and therefore constitutionally permissible.
Now lets return back to reality. Since it was ruled that Judge DeWeese had the intention to honor and promote an historically accurate Christian understanding and use of the 10 Commandments in American jurisprudence, then that sort of presentation of our American heritage would be labeled “religious” and therefore unconstitutional. Such rulings prove that religious neutrality in our federal courts is a myth.
Secondly, it should be noted that the federal judge’s subjective (arbitrary) opinion regarding Judge DeWeese’s supposed motivation was itself very religiously biased. It was simply an anti-Christian religious bias. The self-evident bias was not neutral in respect to Christianity. The hypocrisy is transparent. Again, it seems that in the minds of these judges an anti-Christian bias is “secular” while a pro-Christian bias is “religious.”
Intellectual honesty requires that we call such bigotry by its proper name.
So then free speech is not the only freedom that is in jeopardy in the 10 commandment cases. An accurate account of American history itself is in jeopardy. It is no obscure fact that the Christian religion played a foundational role in the development of both our laws and our system of civil government. Obviously, Christians would like to preserve the facts of that historical legacy. To Christians, the law of God is the very bulwark of the people’s liberty against civil tyranny.
But recently the federal courts have self-consciously allied themselves with a strong minority of people who see the raw power of the secular state as the true god of society. It is only natural that all who are allied in the worship of statism would abhor everything associated with the Christian worldview and its “higher law” doctrine. Therefore I can fully understandable why the ACLU lawyers are offended by the 10 commandments. It reminds them of their personal sin and rebellion against the Law of God. It reminds us all of our nation’s sin in the legalization of abortion and sodomy. The 10 commandments serve to remind all men that there is a frightening eternal judgment coming upon all who remain unrepentant and rebellious to the law of “the King of all the earth.” (Ps. 47:7)