A Man I Respect

Reposting from my very first month of Pondering Principles back in August 2008.

When people say that there are no principled men in government, I must disagree. There are men and women who are living their principles in public life.

One of the men I respect most is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. For the record, Justice Thomas does not know me personally and would not recognize me if introduced. I did meet him twice–once at the Supreme Court when the government school at Regent University took students there in 1995, and again a few years later when he came to the Regent campus to speak. As a faculty sponsor for the Federalist Society, I did once again greet him at a reception.

But I have read his recent book, an autobiography entitled My Grandfather’s Son. Once I began the book, I could hardly put it down. The story he tells–of his childhood in poverty, his anger over racism as a young man, his return to the Christian faith in his later years, and the trials of his Senate confirmation hearings–is riveting. It shows, to me, how God will use everything in a person’s life to shape and prepare that individual for a calling in this world.

Thomas has been attacked by many people because he espouses a view of the Constitution that says you don’t ignore the limitations that the document places on the authority of the federal government. But in taking the stance that he does, he is abiding by principle.

Yes, principled people are in the minority, but they do exist. Rather than promoting cynicism about government, we should be sharing the stories of those who try to apply Biblical principles such as the rule of law to society.

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.

Obamacare & the Court

With campaigns and the economic mess dominating the news, Obamacare has taken a back seat lately. It shouldn’t, because it is the harbinger of even greater economic calamity and government interference in the market. It did break through recently, though, with the announcement that the Supreme Court will hear the suit being brought by twenty-six states against the forced nature of the law. What kind of questions should the Court ask? One is obvious:

That kind of coercion is inherently inconsistent with constitutional liberty. How best to illustrate it? Cartoonist Michael Ramirez captures it perfectly:

Liberals are so upset over the possible overturning of this act that they are demanding Clarence Thomas recuse himself from the case. Why? His wife works with a group opposed to this takeover of the nation’s healthcare system. Now if Clarence Thomas himself were involved, I would understand the possibility of recusal, but it’s his wife, not him.

The real conflict of interest is with Elena Kagan, who served as solicitor general in the Obama administration and helped craft the law, or at least come up with ways to defend it. E-mails have surfaced showing her elation over the prospect of the law’s passage. If anyone should withdraw from this case, I think Kagan is the prime candidate, not Thomas. Her participation in the promotion of the law is undeniable, as is her enthusiasm for it:

Will she do the right thing and recuse herself? Don’t bet on it.

Hubris Personified

Let’s highlight three astounding examples of hubris today—people who believe they know everything and/or they try to remake themselves without anybody noticing. Well, it’s not working; people are noticing.

Our first example is Helen Thomas. If you haven’t heard about her fiasco, you’re probably not watching any news at all. The video of her telling Jews in Israel to “get the hell out” and go back to Poland or Germany has burned up the internet. The firestorm led to her resignation as a political commentator.

She is of Lebanese descent and has a hatred for the nation of Israel. She also once described President Bush as the worst president in American history. Well, you can have that opinion, but her manner of stating it was similar in nature to her hatred of Israel.

I’ve never understood why she was treated like royalty. Yes, I know the press has no problem with fellow liberals, but she was always beyond the pale. She had the prime seat in the White House press room and was always shown deference in all administrations. This, in spite of the fact she was, without fail, rude, argumentative, and sanctimonious. Her resignation was only about 50 years too late.

Of course, she will always have friends.

Then there’s Florida governor Charlie Crist, who renounced the Republican party and decided to run as an independent for the Florida Senate seat, thereby turning the race upside down and making it more difficult for Marco Rubio, the candidate who fairly and squarely beat Crist for the nomination [at least in the polls; Crist didn’t want to face that vote in August].

Yesterday, an alert Rubio campaign drew attention to a major change on Crist’s campaign site: his page featuring his pro-life stance had been silently removed. Now that Crist is an independent, he is trolling for Democratic votes. Consequently, he can’t be viewed as pro-life. He’s hoping to get the pro-choice Republicans and independents, plus a good number of Democrats. This is the man who says he’s running on principle. About the only principle I see here is the principle of wanting to win regardless of how many switches he has to make in what he claims to support. The man has no core.

President Obama is always good for a comment, almost on a daily basis. A couple of days ago, he was giving a speech at a high school graduation. What he said was quite fascinating.

I’ll give you the key sentences: “Don’t make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes, but for your failures as well. … It’s the easiest thing in the world to start looking around for someone to blame.”

Oh, like President Bush?

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”

Is more commentary really necessary?