By Nelson L. Price
Why is there such a furor about who sits as a Supreme Court Judge? Isn’t law law? What is the big deal about a potential judge being a constitutional interpreter of the law?
There are esteemed legal minds in our community which I revere that can explain this much better than I, but I want to share one facet. Around 1947, evolution became popularized and more highly promoted in America than ever before. In the Harvard School of Law, a revolutionary idea emerged. Basically, it was the concept that since man is ever evolving, the laws that govern him must evolve. We were not intended to be governed by a static interpretation of the Constitution, it was concluded. If the law was to change, who was to interpret the ever-changing law? According to their theory no one was more capable than the jurists of our land. Thus, the evolution of interpreting the law according to contemporary philosophy, rather than Constitutional intent, began.
To give an indication of how dramatic this swing is, we must go back to the era of the Constitution and to ideals advocated by persons of that era.
For example, the Northwest Ordinance that governed the admission of states to the union stated they must agree to teach “religion and morals” in their schools. In 1967, the Supreme Court, using the evolutionary approach to interpreting the law, banned prayer and Bible reading from the schools. Incidentally, 40% of the American schools still do one or both.
Thomas Jefferson is credited with the phrase, “wall of separation of church and state.” That statement is not in our Constitution or its amendments and has been taken out of the contexts in which it was delivered to the Banberry Baptist Association. As intended, Jefferson used it to mean no denomination could be given preferential treatment over another. The issue related to denominations, not Christianity per se. In reality, Christian faith was favored.
The First Amendment, it was said at the time, was a one-way street intended to keep government from infringing on the free exercise of religion. It was intended to give religion freedom by protecting the rights of all denominations by not favoring one. Recent jurists have tended to maintain that avenue as a one-way street, but it now moves in the opposite direction. It has recently been interpreted as protecting society from Christianity. That was never the intent.
To get a further idea of what Jefferson thought, it is worth noting that Congress, during his presidency, with his encouragement, appropriated money for missionaries to the Indians. Also at that time, Bibles were put in the public schools of Washington D.C. at Congregational expense.
The exploration of documents from the time of the emergence of our Constitution shed light on the intended interpretation of phrases included in it. A strict constitutionalist goes to these for his basis of interpretation of law. If new jurists do this, it will swing America back from the direction it has been guided since the first major current philosophy of interpretation became dominant.
If a lie is told often enough, it becomes accepted as the truth. The philosophical “lie” of how to interpret law is antithetical to Constitutional law, but an entire generation having been reared on it thinks it to be the only way. Many in that generation will resist Constitutional interpretation.
It will be interesting to watch the “turn”of events on the court.
© 1991, Nelson L. Price.
Constitution Anniversary Footnote
by Perry R. Sanders
George Whitfield, the famous evangelist, was a friend of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin wanted to know more about God and the Bible. On August 17, 1792, Whitfield wrote Franklin a letter about his need to experience the new birth. This is what he wrote: I find you grow more and more famous in the learned world as you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity. I would now humbly recommend to you diligent, unprejudiced pursuit and study of the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important, interesting study and when mastered will richly answer and repay you for all your plans. One, at whose bar we shortly to appear, hath solemnly declared that without the new birth we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You will excuse this freedom; I must have something of Christ in all my letters.
50 Things We Never Thought About Growing Up
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