Three “Supreme” Supreme Court Decisions

First was the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court decision, reversing Colorado’s order against the baker who wouldn’t make a special cake for a same-sex wedding due to his Christian convictions.

Two days ago, the Court gave Barronnelle Stutzman, the florist in Washington state, a big boost by vacating the order imposed on her by her state, followed by remanding the case back to Washington courts. I’ll have someone explain why that’s a win in a couple of paragraphs from now.

Then yesterday, that same Court (which we often love to hate) told California that it cannot force pro-life organizations to promote abortion services.

Some on the conservative side have commented that the Masterpiece decision was too narrow; their concerns are valid, but so far it isn’t playing out that way.

The organization that took the lead in arguing all three of these cases is Alliance Defending Freedom. Michael Farris, the president, CEO, and lead counsel for ADF has some pertinent comments on these decisions. He notes on the Stutzman case,

“Granted” means that the Court agreed to hear her case. But it heard it summarily and issued an immediate order.

“Vacated” is that order. The prior decision is wiped off the books.

Remanded means that it was sent back to the Washington courts to reconsider in light of the Masterpiece decision.

This is very good news in at least two ways.

First, it protects Barronelle for the time being. And gives her a real chance for a full victory.

Second, it shows that the Masterpiece decision is not narrow as many claimed. It has precedential effect and was not limited to the Colorado facts.

In the other case, known as NIFLA, Farris commented,

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that California violated the First Amendment rights of prolife pregnancy centers by requiring them to advertise for abortions and make other unfavorable disclosures.

The case will be remanded but the directions given by the Supreme Court are extremely strong.

Here’s some of what the justices said, first from Clarence Thomas:

When the government polices the content of professional speech, it can fail to “preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.” If States could choose the protection that speech receives simply by requiring a license, they would have a powerful tool to impose “invidious discrimination of disfavored subjects.”

Then Anthony Kennedy, of all people, wrote this:

This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these.

In response to California’s claim that what it was promoting was “forward thinking,” Kennedy offered this succinct and powerful history lesson:

It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it; to confirm that history since then shows how relentless authoritarian regimes are in their attempts to stifle free speech; and to carry those lessons onward as we seek to preserve and teach the necessity of freedom of speech for the generations to come.

Powerful and poignant words.

ADF’s website, shortly after the announcement of the NIFLA decision, rejoiced over the decision:

Pro-life pregnancy centers in California will no longer be forced to be a mouthpiece for the abortion industry.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech, striking down a California law that would force pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion. . . .

What’s even worse is the fact that this law specifically singles out pro-life pregnancy centers. Drafted, proposed, and supported by abortion advocates, this law is a thinly-veiled attempt to target a viewpoint that the state of California doesn’t like and replace it with the government-approved viewpoint.

This is government-compelled speech at its worst. Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled that this requirement is unconstitutional.

This ruling makes it clear that no one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion.

Yet, as ADF acknowledges, the fight goes on:

And while this is a crucial victory, the work is not done. Unfortunately, California is not the only state that is trying to stamp out the pro-life message. ADF is also challenging similar laws in Illinois and Hawaii.

That’s why we must stay vigilant.

I’m thankful for organizations like ADF who maintain that vigilance. But keep in mind these are victories via law only; the culture remains to be redeemed from this ready acceptance of the abortion holocaust and the sexual agenda that is being pushed on everyone. The Christian message must continue to go forth in love and strength of purpose.

Exposing Planned Parenthood’s Evil Deeds

PP ProtestLast Saturday, people nationwide stood outside Planned Parenthood centers to protest this organization’s abominable practices. The protest was not only about defunding but about the seared conscience our country has developed about abortion itself. The bottom line is that abortion is murder, and it must be stopped.

The utter callousness of the abortion industry—and “industry” is the correct term—must be exposed for what it is. Most of the national news media is not going to help get out this message. An informal censorship on the issue has dominated; anyone not already informed and depending on the major networks to be informed will learn virtually nothing about what is happening.

Oh, but we’re very informed about trivial matters:

Sister Planet

Evil tries to disguise itself. Planned Parenthood has a history of deception. The only way to battle this deception is with an assault of truth.

Has a Heart

The pro-life message has been making inroads in our culture, despite the degenerate drift in our society. Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to shine even more light on the evil deeds of darkness.

Rejoicing Over What Has Gone Right

I’ve decided to devote today’s post to praise for a number of things that have gone right lately. It’s always easy to critique the development of current events, given the Obama administration’s penchant for upending the Constitution and Biblical morality, so it’s nice to point out the other side for a change.

All of these praises today come, surprisingly, as a result of Supreme Court decisions. After the agony of the Court’s rulings on Obamacare and the Defense of Marriage Act, it’s a relief to see the Court, once in a while, come out on the side of the Constitution, particularly religious liberty and free speech.

For instance, the Court overturned a Massachusetts law that created a so-called “buffer zone” that banned pro-lifers from entering. Outside abortion clinics, pro-life citizens were not allowed to speak to women entering the clinics in that state. They had to stay a “safe” distance away. The Court ruled that this was a direct violation of those citizens’ right to free speech. They were not protesters, said the Court, but concerned citizens who sought to engage other citizens in a discussion of issues. I’ve read where Massachusetts authorities are livid over this decision and are trying to figure a way around it, but for now, free speech and the sanctity of life prevail.

Colorado Christian University won a temporary injunction against the imposition of the Obamacare requirements for providing all types of birth control. This is similar to the Hobby Lobby case, which I’ll get to shortly.

Prior to ruling on Hobby Lobby, the Court exercised a restraining order, so to speak, on President Obama when it comes to making recess appointments. The problem was that Obama himself determined that the Senate wasn’t in session, so he went ahead and filled positions without the Senate’s approval. The Senate, however, still deemed itself in session. The president has no right under the Constitution to declare the Senate not in session. Interestingly, this was a 9-0 decision, with even the liberal/progressive justices in agreement.

In Session

Obama’s attempt to govern unilaterally was struck down, and it was only the precursor to what the Court had to say about Hobby Lobby:

Romeo & Juliet

Actually, two cases, very similar, were decided. Along with Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against being forced to offer its employees aborifacients, another company operating on its Christian faith, Conestoga Wood, had filed suit as well. Both were vindicated by the Court’s decisions. Justice Samuel Alito, in his majority opinion, made it clear that closely held corporations like these two have all the rights of individuals, including liberty of conscience in matters of religious belief. Both companies operate with Biblical foundations, and both were given exemptions from the mandate. The opinion rested on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law passed in the House by acclamation and in the Senate by a vote of 97-3 back in 1993. The president who signed it into law was Bill Clinton. It seems Democrats were for it back then; now they cry foul when it is actually put into practice.

The only sad part of this is that the decision revealed a split Court, ruling in those companies’ favor by only 5-4. This shows how we remain on a precipice as we look toward the future of religious liberty in America:

Land of Religious Liberty

Meanwhile, the silly argument that this is somehow a war on women and that women’s health is now endangered continues unabated. Never mind that no woman has been cut off from birth control; ignore that the cost is not prohibitive; and don’t let the general public know the truth about Hobby Lobby—that it does offer birth control in its health plan, just not the types that may cause abortions:

Setback

What the Supreme Court has done these last couple of weeks is rein in a president who has been acting like a king:

Three Branches

For now, at least, his pretensions have been challenged:

Gavel

On top of all this, Speaker John Boehner has announced that he is bringing a lawsuit against the president for his unlawful actions, taking upon himself the prerogatives of Congress. Obama is unbowed by this new threat to his quest for complete authority:

Executive Order

He will never allow the Constitution to get in his way. That’s why we must remain vigilant.

But, for today, I rejoice over the recent victories.

Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter almost didn’t make it into theaters. It was too high budget, well made, and powerful in its message for many Hollywood types. You may ask, “Why wouldn’t Hollywood want to release a movie of such high quality?” It all had to do with the theme: it has a strong pro-life message. The director, Ron Krauss, who has a solid reputation in Tinseltown, was stunned at the resistance to the film. In his words,

It’s a miracle that this film is even being released. I can’t tell you what I went through to get this film out. I spent literally almost a year pushing and pushing people to get this movie out. A lot of people in Hollywood actually went out of their way to make sure this movie would not come out. People tried to pay me off—and I just kept saying, No, no, no, no, no. And then I came across someone who was willing to help me.

The pushback is due entirely to the pro-abortion mentality that dominates the industry. It’s a story in itself. Maybe someone should make a movie about it.

Gimme Shelter-HudgensI went to see Gimme Shelter over the weekend and was deeply impressed by the portrayal of a young woman passed from one foster home to another, then caught in a hellish situation in her drug-addicted mother’s home, if you can stretch the word “home” to cover the disgusting environment into which she was dumped. The lead actress, Vanessa Hudgens, who, I discovered, is pretty well known [so much for my ability to stay abreast of pop culture] is a marvel in the role of “Apple,” the young girl who breaks away from her mother’s destructive influence. She flees to an affluent father she never knew, but neither he nor his wife can figure out what to do with her.

Upon finding out she’s pregnant, the absentee father and wife decide she should have an abortion. As she sits in the clinic, awaiting the “doctor,” she pulls out the sonogram of her unborn child and, struck by the idea of new life growing within her, races out of the clinic, away from everyone, and takes up life on the streets.

Gimme Shelter-JonesScared and threatened by everything and everyone around her on the streets, she hijacks a car, which leads to a terrible accident that puts her in the hospital. Here is where a gritty, heartbreaking film morphs into a slowly unfolding saga of redemption. James Earl Jones, playing a Catholic priest, comes to see her, eventually making a connection, and gently leads her to a Catholic shelter for pregnant, unwed mothers.

The shelter is run by a caring, yet no-nonsense, woman who has given her life to helping those in Apple’s situation. I liked the depiction of the founder of the shelter. Christian faith is everywhere to be seen in the environment, yet she is not some starry-eyed do-gooder. She knows the type of girls she deals with and is forthright with them, making sure they follow the rules, while simultaneously exhibiting love that they’ve never known before. This shelter, and others run by this woman, Kathy DiFiore, are real, not fabricated for the movie. Some of the young women at the shelter are in the movie, essentially playing themselves.

Gimmer Shelter-FraserApple doesn’t immediately take to the new environment. The film realistically shows that it may take quite a while for damaged people to warm up to those who are sincerely seeking their good. The father she never knew, played by Brendan Fraser, becomes a sympathetic figure in the end, earnestly wanting to make Apple part of his new family. Her response to that was somewhat surprising to me, but again, probably realistic.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes fact: both Fraser and Jones donated their salaries to the shelters run by Kathy DiFiore because they believe so strongly in her ministry.

I won’t try to divulge the entire story. That’s for you to find out when you go see it. And see it, you should.

God’s Remnant in a Time of Spiritual Darkness

I’m in a more reflective mood today; perhaps pondering is the right word since it fits with my blog’s title. I’ve been thinking about how the society has changed in my 60+ years. Most of those changes, in the moral realm, have not been beneficial.

I grew up in a small town in northern Indiana, probably not more than 3500-4000 people. I knew everyone in my high school graduating class, to one degree or another, because there were only 99 of us, the majority of whom were in the same school for all 12 or 13 years of their educational lives.

I’m trying to recall how many of them grew up in broken families. I can think of 2, at least, although there must have been a few more. That was the exception; we all pretty much expected a mom and dad were in the home in nearly every family. I’m not at all sure any of the girls in my class had to leave school due to pregnancy; I don’t remember anyone in that situation, although, again, there may have been one I have forgotten. Once more, that was the extreme exception. Marriage was to come first.

No one in the 1960s talked much about homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage. Out of sight, out of mind. Not on our radar. We had our share of sullen bully-types and those who reeked of rebellion and cigarette smoke, but if anyone ever was high on drugs, it wasn’t evident. That was for classes that graduated after mine.

Abortion was a word with which I had no acquaintance at all. I never knew anyone who had an abortion. Of course, it was illegal then; the floodgates had not yet been opened.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alien culture today, a sort of virtual world that is an anomaly—this is not the way things are supposed to be. Families are not supposed to be disintegrating at the alarming rate we now see; marriage is in the process of being destroyed completely by the radical homosexual agenda; the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade—a staggering 56 million—defies all rational expectations. It’s absolutely horrifying, yet we are practically numbed by the immensity of the figure. In many people’s minds, the aborted babies are more statistics than real persons who have had their lives snuffed out. They are the most innocent victims of all; they never did anything to deserve such treatment.

As I pointed out in a post two days ago, we’ve even come to the place where the governor of New York says pro-life people, those who believe in the self-defense of carrying arms, and those who refuse to accept the movement away from traditional marriage are to be considered extremists who have no place in his state. I can’t imagine, as a high school student back in the 1960s, even with all the drama of Vietnam and the beginnings of cultural shifts at the time, that any governor would ever feel comfortable making a statement like that.

Statue of Bigotry

It’s easy to sense a deepening spiritual darkness, yet we cannot allow that to lead us to despair. We are the rays of His light in this dark world. Although I am sometimes stunned when I consider the plunge our society has made into new avenues of depravity, I have hope when I view hundreds of thousands congregating on the Washington Mall to show support for the sanctity of human life. It tells me there are many others out there who share my worldview. All is not lost. If we can encourage each other enough and work toward unity of purpose, we will give God something to work with.

God has never required a majority on His side to move a mountain. He will always honor the dedicated remnant. We must determine to be that remnant.

Cuomo: No Welcome Mat for Conservatives

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Cuomo Gathers With Supporters On Election NightThe governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, made a rather startling statement in a radio interview recently. Speaking of the nature of the Republican party—of which he apparently claims to be an expert—he said a battle is raging within the party between moderates and extremists. He identified those “extremists” in the following words:

Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are, and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

I guess I should be glad I don’t live in New York. Apparently, believing in the sanctity of human life from the womb to old age, wanting to be able to defend oneself against domestic violence, and holding to a Biblical morality regarding marriage that has been the bedrock of Western Civilization for centuries is now “extreme.”

The blowback against the governor’s comments led him to issue a clarification, as politicians are wont to do when they insert foot into mouth too blatantly. He says his words were “distorted.” He didn’t mean everyone in New York, just those who run for office.  Oh, that makes it better. Live quietly and don’t express your “extreme” views on these issues and we’ll allow you to stay and pay our exorbitant taxes to fund our progressive policies. But don’t ever attempt to run for political office with those views; that’s unacceptable. How tolerant of him.

Governor Cuomo, you seem not to realize it’s those very people you sneer at who are upholding the basic morality that permits civilization to continue. Someday, you may be grateful for those extremist right-to-life people when the state determines you are too expensive and unproductive to contribute to society.

You also never know who may come to your aid with a weapon to stave off an attacker; police and bodyguards aren’t always at your beck and call as they are now in your high position. By the way, do your bodyguards carry so-called “assault” weapons? Perhaps they should be unarmed. Wouldn’t that be more in line with your principles?

And, down the road, when you finally see the consequences of the destruction of real marriage, you might someday be tempted to rethink your promotion of immorality.

You, Governor Cuomo, claim to be a practicing Catholic. Your church promotes the pro-life cause and holds steadfastly to traditional marriage as established by God. The way I see it, you have a choice before you: either recommit yourself to what you claim to believe or stop saying you are a Catholic.

Please understand, Governor Cuomo, that those “extremists” you so roundly condemn are the only ones holding your state together. They are the salt and light in this world; if you exclude them, you plunge us deeper into spiritual darkness.

Why Santorum & Not Romney?

I thought it might be time for a full-blown explanation for why I back Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney, realizing even as I write this that Romney has the inside track for the nomination. If anything I say can make someone reconsider his/her support for Romney or help someone understand better why Santorum should be considered seriously as the Republican nominee, I will have accomplished my purpose. If no one is convinced by what I say, at least I was faithful to write what is on my heart.

Some of what I say will not be politically correct, even in Republican circles, but I urge you to read all the way through before coming to a conclusion.

Why I Support Santorum

I didn’t start out as a Santorum backer. At first, I thought he was an afterthought as a candidate. Neither could I understand why anyone who lost his last Senate campaign believed he had a shot at the presidential nomination. I wrote him off.

Shortly before the Iowa caucus decision, however, I began paying attention to his approach: he was dedicated to meeting people one-on-one; he traveled to every county in Iowa, willing to speak to whatever size group; he ran the campaign on a shoestring, yet was making an impression. As I listened more to him, I realized I agreed with much of what he was saying. When he stunned the political world by winning Iowa [however belated the result], I decided to purchase his book It Takes a Family. Reading it solidified my support.

I don’t know how many who are currently reading this post have taken the time to read Santorum’s book, but I presume it is a minority, to say the least. I’ve reported on the contents of that book in this blog from time to time, offering excerpts and commentary. Here’s what I learned about Santorum by reading it:

  • He is a genuine Christian who grounds his politics in his Biblical worldview.
  • His worldview, as expressed in the book and in other speeches I’ve heard him give, is, on most points, similar to mine: religious/theological beliefs are the cornerstone of society; government has no right to excise religious faith from the public square; family is the bedrock of society, and policies must be family-friendly; government should only do those things that family, church, and other private organizations cannot do.
  • When he discusses history, such as when he contrasts the American and French revolutions, he and I are on the same page.
  • While he sometimes allows federal government aid when I would have constitutional scruples against doing so, his aim is never to grow the government but to strengthen the family and those private agencies that form the backbone of a prosperous nation.
  • He does not believe government is the solution to our problems, despite what his critics may say.
  • Even when I disagree with the specifics of a particular policy he has advocated, I understand the motives behind his advocacy, and they are always honest and focused on trying to do the right thing.
  • He has lived out his faith admirably through his devotion to family and principle.
  • He and his wife have homeschooled their children because they believe they can provide the type of Christian education the children will need to stand firm in a culture that is slipping away from its Biblical moorings.

For these reasons, I pray for Santorum’s success as a candidate.

What are his deficiencies? For one, he does have a tendency to speak off the cuff and get into trouble for using certain terms and phrases. Yet when I investigate the substance of his critiques—calling Obama a snob and feeling like “throwing up” when he listens to JFK’s speech—I find that I agree with the critiques he offers, wishing only that he had used more wisdom in expressing them.

I always prefer someone who speaks the truth, even inelegantly at times, to someone who is measured in speaking yet has nothing significant to say.

I don’t expect perfection from a candidate; if I did, I would never vote. Santorum’s worldview and heart, coupled with a good number of policies with which I agree, are sufficient for me.

Why I Don’t Support Romney

Since I started with worldview when speaking about Santorum, let me do the same with Romney. Here’s where I’m going to depart from Republican political correctness and may earn the disfavor of many because I’m going to introduce a theological concern. As an evangelical Christian, I want to know what a candidate believes about ultimate reality. For me, Mormonism is a skewed version of reality. Being theologically literate, I cannot simply look away from Romney’s Mormonism and say it doesn’t factor into my analysis of him. From my viewpoint, Mormonism is a cult that tries to disguise itself as Christian. Its basic tenets on the nature of Christ and salvation are not orthodox Christian. In fact, many of its beliefs border on bizarre. So I ask myself whether I can trust someone who has willingly accepted those beliefs.

I do realize, though, that political parties are not churches, and there must be coalitions to achieve goals. Most Mormons—Harry Reid is a notable exception—maintain an outward morality that is similar to Christian morality. In addition, most Mormons are conservative politically, and they believe in limited government and the free enterprise system. Therefore, I don’t automatically conclude that I won’t vote for a Mormon. However, given the option between someone who mirrors my worldview and someone who does not, I lean toward the one with whom I expect to be spending eternity, a Christian brother or sister.

Now we come to political philosophy and policy. Even if Romney were an evangelical Christian, I would still choose Santorum over him. Why? Let me count the ways. Just what is his overarching political philosophy? Is it the current conservatism he says he espouses, or is it instead the way he ran campaigns and governed Massachusetts? They are markedly different.

As I’ve noted before, and as Santorum has articulated in the debates, Romney has no ground whatsoever to attack Obamacare. Romneycare definitely was its forerunner and inspiration. An op-ed Romney wrote for USA Today back in 2009 has resurfaced this week in which he urged Obama to adopt the individual mandate that he [Romney] created in Massachusetts. Apparently, the president took his advice. This revelation also gives the lie to Romney’s defense that he saw his healthcare solution as only for the state, not for the nation. He can’t credibly say that anymore, not when he was pushing for Obama to copy what he did.

On pro-life and the homosexual agenda, his record is spotty. He’s even supported Planned Parenthood. When he first ran for office in Massachusetts, he concluded he had to set aside his pro-life position and run as a pro-choicer to win. That’s reprehensible. Now, all of a sudden, he’s a confirmed pro-lifer again. Why? Is it because he knows he can’t get the Republican nomination running on pro-choice? That was his calculation in the past; why should we believe he has changed now?

Will a President Romney really appoint federal judges who go by the original intent/wording of the Constitution? A survey of those he appointed in Massachusetts would indicate otherwise. Frankly, I don’t trust him, and that’s the bottom line for why he does not have my support.

What If Romney Wins the Nomination?

If Romney becomes the Republican nominee, I will vote for him. Not enthusiastically, but strategically. He may turn out to be a major disappointment as a president, and at that point I don’t promise not to tell my fellow evangelicals who promoted his candidacy “I told you so.” But if forced to vote between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, four more years of the latter would be inconceivable. The Obama worldview is even further from the truth than Romney’s. It is radical and dangerous. If Obama has to work with a Republican Congress, he will just do what he is starting to do now—rule by executive fiat and ignore the role of Congress. He will attempt to set up an imperial presidency. That must be avoided at all costs.

As I noted at the beginning of this unusually long post [I normally don’t tax you with this much verbiage], the odds are against Santorum. The states where he is strong divide delegates proportionally; the states where Romney is expected to win, such as California and New York, have more delegates and their primaries are winner-take-all. This is clearly an uphill fight for Rick Santorum, but it’s a fight worth making. He is the better candidate when it comes to worldview and principles. And those should be our guide.