Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 1

Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual—on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.

The Manhattan Declaration, released in 2009—

Key point: The Supreme Court ruling that changed the definition of marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples is based on numerous myths, including myths that have misinformed and misled people in the United States about the role of government, the nature of rights in relation to government, and government’s responsibility to respect the sacredness of marriage.

Now known as the “father of infection control,” Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) wasn’t always well-respected. A native of Hungary, he earned his medical degree in 1844, and in 1847, through an appointment, became an assistant professor at a highly regarded teaching hospital in Vienna. His area of expertise was obstetrics, and he soon became alarmed about the mortality rate at his hospital among the women whose babies were delivered by doctors and medical students. It was between 13 and 18 percent! By contrast, the mortality rate was just 2 percent among the women whose babies were delivered with assistance from midwives or those learning to become midwives.

Ignaz Semmelweis

Noticing that it wasn’t unusual for medical personnel to perform autopsies before delivering babies, Dr. Semmelweis began requiring all doctors and students to wash their hands before assisting the hospital’s patients. The mortality rate plummeted to 2 percent—as low as the rate for the women assisted by the midwives. As wonderful as this was, Dr. Semmelweis wasn’t through. Now, medical instruments would be washed as well. After this requirement took effect, the death rate dropped down to just 1 percent.

Louis Pasteur

The good doctor, though his policies, had saved a significant number of lives. With our modern understanding of infectious diseases, we readily can see this; but at the time, sadly, Semmelweis’s supervisor did not. A new ventilation system had been installed in the hospital, and he believed it was responsible for the improved statistics. Apparently, Semmelweis could not convince him otherwise.

Joseph Lister

Unfortunately, Semmelweis’s appointment to teach and work at the hospital was a 2-year appointment that wasn’t renewed. To his credit, the doctor continued to make his case for handwashing among medical personnel. In 1861, he even wrote a book about it. Dr. Semmelweis was right, but his book was not well written and was met with skepticism. Only a few years later as a patient in a public insane asylum, Dr. Semmelweis died. He was only 47 years old.

Florence Nightingale

We all can be glad the story doesn’t end there. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) entered the picture not many years later. While Semmelweis’s policies had produced positive results, the good doctor couldn’t articulate the reasons why. Pasteur was able to do this by explaining the germ theory of infectious diseases. Relying on Pasteur’s investigations, Joseph Lister, a British physician who lived from 1827-1912, was able to convince his medical colleagues to adopt effective sanitation procedures. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the medical pioneer credited with founding modern nursing, also promoted sanitation guidelines in the medical profession.1

Myths and the Dangers They Pose

It took some time, but Ignaz Semmelweis was vindicated. Many lessons arise from his story—not the least of which is that failure to believe and act upon the truth can be quite costly. While we’ve cited from his story just one false belief in a single situation, false ideas sometimes grip entire cultures. When they do, they can be extremely dangerous and hazardous. Moreover, the more ingrained an erroneous belief is in people’s minds, and the more widespread it is, the greater its potential to harm and destroy. We often call an erroneous belief that has widespread acceptance a myth.


The more ingrained an erroneous belief is in people’s minds, and the more widespread it is, the greater its potential to harm and destroy. Such beliefs often are called myths.


In this and subsequent posts, I’d like to examine at least 16 myths that paved the way for the Supreme Court to redefine marriage two and a half years ago in Obergefell v. Hodges. In the United States we did not arrive overnight, but over time, at a place where judicial decree could redefine marriage. Even so, this process has taken place at amazing speed. Only a scant few decades ago, the idea of same-sex marriage was totally unthinkable. Since then, the culture’s prevailing underlying assumptions about marriage were challenged, attacked and ridiculed, and then pushed aside—both forcibly in the courts and subtly in the culture.


Over time, the culture’s prevailing underlying assumptions about marriage were challenged, attacked and ridiculed, and then pushed aside—both forcibly in the courts and subtly in the culture.


In this article, we will examine 4 myths about government, law, and the US Constitution. In subsequent posts we’ll examine the remaining myths on our list, these having to do with the nature of marriage itself. We will see how these myths, both individually and especially through Obergefell, actually are a threat to the well-being of individuals, society, and individual liberties. Proponents of same-sex marriage are not exempt from these threats. Those who worked hard to promote the redefinition of marriage are not as free as they think they are. Falsehoods enslave, but the truth liberates!

Here goes.

Myth #1: Marriage is a government construct over which government and government alone has oversight.

Fact: Marriage—the lifelong union of one man and one woman—is not at all a government construct, but an institution that preceded government, and an institution that preceded the United States government by thousands of years. Moreover, marriage and the family is society’s most important and most basic institution. Despite any and all appearances and sentiments to the contrary, without healthy marriages and healthy families, societal stability cannot be maintained.

This is not to say that government ought to have nothing to say about marriage. It is to say that government should respect marriage for what it is rather than seeking to manipulate it to meet the demands of a select few.

Charles Colson, one of the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration

In the Manhattan Declaration (2009), the section on marriage first cites two Bible passages—Genesis 2:23-24 and Ephesians 5:32-33.  Then, the initial paragraph on marriage begins with these three sentences.

[1] In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. [2] In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. [3] Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.


Marriage…is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.
—The Manhattan Declaration—


Clearly from the context, the word first in the term “first institution” means both first in time and first in importance.

Similarly, the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage states,

On the matter of marriage, we stand in solidarity. We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation.

Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government.

In the spring of 2015, Dr. James Dobson wrote the following in a letter to supporters of his ministry, Family Talk.

The institution of the family is one of the Creator’s most marvelous and enduring gifts to humankind. It was revealed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and then described succinctly in Genesis 2:24, where we read, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” With those 20 [-plus] words, God announced the ordination of male-female marriage, long before He established the two other great human institutions, the church and 
the government.

At least 5,000 years have come and gone since that point of origin, yet every civilization in the history of the world has been built upon it. Despite today’s skeptics who claim that marriage is an outmoded and narrow-minded Christian concoction, the desire of men and women to “leave” and “cleave” has survived and thrived through times of prosperity, famine, wars, peace, epidemics, tyranny, and every other circumstance and human condition. It has been the bedrock of culture in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and even Antarctica. [Note that this has been true even in countries that aren’t predominantly Christian.]…

Admittedly, there have been various societies in history where homosexuality has flourished, including the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire. None of these civilizations survived. Furthermore, even where sexual perversion was tolerated or flourished, the institution of marriage continued to be honored in law and custom. Only in the last few years has what is called “gay marriage” been given equal status with biblical male-female unions.…God help us if we throw the divine plan for humankind on the ash heap of history.

In the months prior to the Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2015, that redefined marriage nationwide, the dominoes were falling in states where the people had amended their state constitutions to say unambiguously that marriage was between one man and one woman. Judges—especially members of the federal judiciary—were overruling the people almost en masse. Observing this judicial tyranny, Dennis Prager lamented,

Society is no longer being permitted to define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies have allowed polygamy, many have allowed child marriages, some have allowed marriage within families; but none in thousands of years has defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.

None of this matters to these judges or to all those who seek to redefine marriage and can’t convince a majority of their fellow citizens to agree.


Many societies have allowed polygamy, many have allowed child marriages, some have allowed marriage within families; but none in thousands of years has defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.
—Dennis Prager—


Given what marriage is, and what it has been for millennia, and the good that results when it is respected and honored, it is fitting that the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage would say forthrightly to the Supreme Court of the United States,

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

Myth #2: The federal government, especially through its court system, has absolute authority over marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Fact: This myth is completely unconstitutional. Courts do not have authority to make laws. Moreover, the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The Constitution is silent about the matter of marriage, and that alone places marriage out of the reach of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

In his dissenting opinion in Obergefell, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote,

[T]his Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465.

Justice Scalia, dissenting, wrote,

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia

Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact— and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Justice Alito, dissenting, wrote,

Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed. A lesson that some will take from today’s decision is that preaching about the proper method of interpreting the Constitution or the virtues of judicial self-restraint and humility cannot compete with the temptation to achieve what is viewed as a noble end by any practicable means.

Myth #3: The government bestows rights; therefore, the government can take them away.

Fact: The Declaration of Independence is correct when affirms the self-evident truths

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The government never will admit to taking away rights—only to granting them. Yet, in the very act of creating rights outside its authority, it tramples on the inherent, God-given rights of others.

This isn’t all. In state after state, unable to convince the people to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, advocates of same-sex marriage went to the courts to get the judiciary to reshape and change marriage. They demanded that the courts make of marriage something it is not, and in doing so, they relied on government to create rights it has no authority to create.

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas was especially articulate in highlighting this myth and warning of its dangers. Thomas, dissenting in Obergefell, wrote,

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it.

Thomas went on to demonstrate just how far out of bounds the Court went when it changed the definition of marriage to grant “rights” to same-sex couples. He also emphasized the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience the court’s overreach created. Please read more from Justice Thomas’s brilliant and articulate dissent here.

Go here to read about the differences between the Founders’ view on rights and the contemporary American view. Unfortunately, we have exchanged the Founders perspective on rights—a view of rights that fosters genuine liberty—for one that eventually will give way to tyranny. All the while, this has been done under the mantra of freedom and rights!


Unfortunately, we have exchanged the Founders perspective on rights—a view of rights that fosters genuine liberty—for one that eventually will give way to tyranny.


Myth #4: The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of disputes in the United States.

Fact: The Founders of our country never intended that the Supreme Court of the United States would acquire the power it now has. Often, we hear that the Framers established “equal” or “co-equal” branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial. Even if it were true the Founding Fathers intended for them to be equal, our government has departed from this principle. The courts have stepped way beyond their constitutional authority.

In the Federalist Papers—initially anonymous articles published by a New York newspaper that encouraged New York to ratify the proposed US Constitution—Alexander Hamilton wrote,

Alexander Hamilton

It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the Legislature and the Executive. [Federalist Paper #78].

James Madison said this: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates” [Federalist Paper #51].

Thomas Jefferson

Another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, became alarmed about the growth of judicial power he himself was witnessing, and he openly expressed his concerns. Each of the following is a quote from the third US President.

  • We already see the [judiciary] power, installed for life, responsible to no authority…advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions for the annihilation of constitutional State rights and the removal of every check, every counterpoise to the engulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part.
  • [T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.
  • To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.…[T]heir power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided…its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.…When the legislative or executive functionaries act unconstitutionally, they are responsible to the people in their elective capacity. The exemption of the judges from that is quite dangerous enough.
  • It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression…that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary – an irresponsible body…working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed.

In an extremely insightful Prager University video titled “Why We’re Losing Liberty,” Dr. Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, explains that the Founders never foresaw that the Supreme Court would become the entity it is today, exercising unrestrained power. He says that “now, most Americans think of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of almost every social and political dispute. The Founders never envisioned the court in this role.” Go here to watch this excellent presentation.


Now, most Americans think of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of almost every social and political dispute. The Founders never envisioned the court in this role.
—Professor Robert George—


These four myths not only led to the Obergefell ruling; they also are being reinforced by that ruling. It is time for the American people to understand the limitations the Constitution has placed, and places, on the federal government, particularly the judiciary. Furthermore, it is time for the people to demand that these restraints be honored and respected.

It is difficult to think of a matter that could be more out of bounds for the federal government to manipulate than marriage.

Next time, we’ll expose several myths that relate to the nature of marriage itself. Be sure to return for our critically important discussion.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Safe Exit: Balancing grace and truth on the complicated subject of same-sex attraction, (PFOX—Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, 2015), 56. Go here for more information.

 

 

 

After Obergefell, Can Courts Rewrite Laws?

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicia[l] in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
James Madison

madison_james-president_bep_engraved_portrait

An expanded version of this article is available here.

The Founders of the United States of America designed a balanced system of government that sets the stage for limiting the power of each of its three major divisions, or branches. We call this a system of checks and balances. It is a system that rests on the principle of the separation of powers.

washington_constitutional_convention_1787

Signing of the US Constitution by Junius Brutus Stearns

According to this model, courts cannot enact or rewrite laws; they can only interpret them or rule them unconstitutional. Only legislators—lawmakers—can write laws.

Recently, the highest court in Massachusetts reached beyond its designated authority. During the week of October 6, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in a case involving two unmarried women and a child one of them had conceived through artificial insemination. Could the woman who hadn’t given birth be recognized as one of the child’s legal parents? Her lawyer was Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of same-sex couples in the Obergefell case. In presenting her arguments, Bonauto pointed to two Massachusetts statutes. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee explains (emphases added),

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David Fowler

First, Ms. Bonauto argued that the “paternity” statutes justified the claim that her female client should be “deemed” the child’s other legal parent. Given that the word “paternity” means “the state or fact of being the father of a particular child” and comes from the Latin word paternus, meaning “of a father,” do you now see the problem? How can a woman be a “father” unless words in statutes no longer have their common meaning? And on what basis could a court “interpret” away the clear meaning of that word?

Well, Ms. Bonauto argued that the statutes do not define “mother” and “father,” which she asserted left the Court free to give those words new meaning to conform to the new meaning of marriage. Makes perfect sense to me—if a court can redefine marriage, why can’t it redefine “husband” and “paternity” (and, really, any word in the English language)? You have to wonder what legislators were thinking years ago when they didn’t bother to define the terms “father” and “mother”!

But Ms. Bonauto also argued that the statute on artificial insemination involving a “husband and wife” should be interpreted to apply to her as well. Makes sense, too—if a court can redefine “father” and “mother,” surely it can redefine “husband” and “wife.”

Before you say, “Thank God we live in Tennessee,” consider the fact Ms. Bonauto has commented on the artificial insemination lesbian divorce case in Tennessee in which I am involved on behalf of 53 state legislators. She said, “As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.”


As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.
Mary Bonauto, lawyer and advocate for same-sex marriage—


Yes, a similar case is being litigated in Knoxville—

a divorce proceeding… involving a marriage between two women. During the marriage, one of the women conceived a child by artificial insemination. The issue involves the custody rights of the woman who has no biological relationship to the child.

The controversy centers on a statute that deems a child born to a “married woman” by means of artificial insemination, with the consent of the “married woman’s husband,” to be the “legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

The two women have asserted that that statute, enacted in 1977, is unconstitutional if it is applied according to the plain meaning of the words used and is not interpreted by the courts to apply to same-sex marriages.

With all of this as a backdrop, I have some good news and some bad news.

  • First, the good news. Fortunately, David Fowler has filed a motion on behalf of 53 state legislators to intervene in this case. Remember, courts have no authority to rewrite laws; they only can interpret them or deem them to be unconstitutional. More than any other party, the legislators—the lawmakers themselves—surely have a great deal to say about what the laws meant when they passed them, and what they mean today. Legislators’ perspectives should be extremely valuable to the court in determining any law’s intent. Furthermore, if a marriage law or laws are ruled unconstitutional, it then would become the prerogative of the legislature—the lawmaking body of Tennessee—to respond.
  • Now, the bad news. The Tennessee’s attorney generalHerbert Slatery, also has addressed the question at issue in this case. The bad news is that unfortunately, he apparently agrees with Mary Bonauto!

According to David Fowler in an email,

The [relevant] statue says, “A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

In response, the AG literally cited the definitional section of the Code about how the Code is, generally speaking, to be interpreted. It says, “words importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Then the AG immediately wrote: “So both the word ‘husband’ and the word a ‘wife’ in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean ‘spouse.’”

So much for reading the words “except when the contrary intention is manifest!” The AG argues as if that phrase isn’t even in the statute it relies on!


So both the word “husband” and the word a “wife” in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean “spouse.”
—Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, completely ignoring the italicized portion of this guideline for interpreting state law: “[W]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.”—


If there ever were legal arguments desperately needing friend-of-the-court briefs, those being made by David Fowler are those arguments. Amicus briefs opposing him and the legislators surely will be filed by national organizations that favor LGBT causes, especially since Attorney General Slatery has sided against state sovereignty in this case.

The Massachusetts case already has been lost. According to Fowler, similar cases also have been lost in Indiana and Wisconsin. Another case is being litigated in New York. Additional legal conflicts are sure to surface. Will pro-marriage organizations anywhere else do as David Fowler has done and seek out legislators who might be willing to go to bat for man-woman marriage—or at least for marriage and family laws as they were originally written? Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight? Furthermore, if these words lose their inherent meaning, is there anything on progressives’ wish lists that won’t become reality as these pioneers of the new social frontier seek to reshape civilization? “Civilization” is yet another word that will be redefined, and everyone will pay a high price!


Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight?


Keep in mind this isn’t just about marriage, but also about divided government and the separation of powers. Do courts have the right to rewrite laws? In our constitutional republic, they do not.

As George Washington said in his Farewell Address,

portrait_of_george_washington-transparent

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism.

Constitution_We_the_People

We soon will see if the US and Tennessee constitutions will be honored or totally ignored. If they are ignored, then we’ll no longer live in a republic, but an oligarchy; and, as precious as man-woman marriage is, they’ll be a great deal more at risk than just the sanctity of man-woman marriage.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

The Scales of Justice Are Supposed to Be Balanced—But They Are no Longer

As a nation, we have arrived at a very sad and unfortunate place. On Friday, October 14, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals1 upheld a California law that requires—that’s right, requires—pro-life citizens operating pregnancy care centers that offer ultrasounds to disseminate information promoting abortion.

seal_of_the_united_states_court_of_appeals_9th_circuit-svg

Matt Bowman, Senior Council with Alliance Defending Freedom, had this to say about the ruling.

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It’s bad enough if the government tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is even more unjust and dangerous. In this case, political allies of abortionists are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real hope and help to women. Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. That’s why other courts around the country have halted these kinds of measures and why we will be discussing the possibility of appeal with our clients.


It’s bad enough if the government tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is even more unjust and dangerous.
Matt Bowman, Alliance Defending Freedom—


Without question, this law allows abortion advocates to target pro-life pregnancy centers and their staffs and to work to nail them as lawbreakers. Pro-abortion forces would need only to covertly dispatch their “troops” in undercover operations to pregnancy resource centers to “check them out” to learn which centers are complying with the law and which ones are not. One might say that many laws do this, but this is not your typical law, as it requires pro-life individuals to violate their consciences. The point is that the law gives one side of the abortion debate an unfair wedge to use against the other. Clearly, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is bearing down its thumb on one side of the scales of justice!

dr.-james-dobson

On Tuesday in response to the ruling, Dr. James Dobson called on Californians directly affected by the law to engage in civil disobedience (also go here). Here is a brief portion of what Dr. Dobson said in a statement.

This law – and laws like it – violate the U.S. Constitution, and they are a violation of our Christian conscience, and this ruling is yet another example of the power of activist judges. I encourage anyone with a voice to use it and to do so urgently. I have a simple word of advice to those pastors, priests and others who run California’s crisis pregnancy centers. If California attempts to enforce this law then do not comply. Make them put you in jail.

I believe that in the days ahead, believers will, with increasing frequency, be forced to choose between obeying the law of man or the law of God. We will have to develop a sound theology of civil disobedience and teach what the Bible says with clarity and conviction.

I have written about this before at Word Foundations and will continue to discuss this important issue. Articles on the site that discuss civil disobedience can be accessed from this page.


You can access articles at Word Foundations that discuss the important issue of civil disobedience here.


When God’s law and man’s law directly conflict, may the Lord give us strength and courage to obey Him rather than man.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.


Dr. Dobson released this video on October 20, 2016.


Note:

1As the map below indicates, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over California, eight other states, Guam (GU) and the Northern Mariana Islands (MP).

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Igniting Reform

Seven Sermons that Inform, Challenge, and Warn the Church and the Culture

There are many inappropriate and unloving ways to uphold the truth, but there never can be a loving way to distort it.
—“Clarity Needed,” www.wordfoundations.com

When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Pastors must be on the front lines of the effort to restore America to its founding principles.
—”Misinformed and Misled, Part 8,” www.wordfoundations.com

A condensed version of this article is available here.

When I was growing up in the 60s, one of my favorite television shows was Lost in Space.

Lost_In_Space

It must have been no surprise to my parents when I asked for a toy Lost in Space Robot for Christmas. Here is a video highlighting the features of this really cool toy.

That same Christmas, my younger sister was given a sweater that turned out to be a size or two larger than she needed. Piggy-backing on my excitement over receiving the robot, my sister wandered through the house with her arms flailing. “Warning! Warning! Too big! Too big!” she cried.

The Lost in Space Robot, of course, is known for issuing warnings.

What would Lost in Space have been like were it not for the Robot and his warnings? I’m glad we didn’t ever know!

While Lost in Space showcased warnings that had great entertainment value, some warnings are dead serious—as is the responsibility Christians have to convey certain warnings clearly and in a timely manner. Last week I affirmed that as believers, “we have been rightly concerned about the need to express love and compassion to those who disagree with us.” Then I lamented, “Yet I fear we have let this concern overshadow our responsibility to speak prophetically.”

It is this need for Christians to speak prophetically that I will endeavor to address today. The need is real at both the individual and corporate levels, but for reform to be ignited, pastors will need to provide the initial spark in their pulpits. As we said last week, “we now need a host of spokesmen who will uphold God-ordained marriage!” If you are a pastor, I want to encourage you to remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word. This includes encouraging your people to love others and meet needs in Jesus’ name, but it also includes equipping them to discern truth from error and training them to effectively make the case for marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. This will include warning the church and the culture about the ominous direction our nation currently is headed.

A God-Given Duty

The classic text highlighting the responsibility of God’s spokesperson to issue warnings is Ezekiel 33:1-9.

33:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

While this passage is specific to Ezekiel’s responsibility to warn those in the path of judgment, it also reflects the duty all believers have to sound the alarm and convey urgent messages from God. This calling has a rich history in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Consider these men whom God appointed to warn the people of their generation.

God’s Spokesmen Warned Their Contemporaries

Noah. Hebrews 11:7 tells us, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” We read this verse and we’re tempted to cringe, aren’t we? The culture has so drilled into our minds that we must not judge—and we most certainly must never condemn—that we feel a bit uncomfortable with this statement about Noah. While it’s true that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” He didn’t mean for His followers to make no judgments at all. Discernment is essential. Jesus actually was telling believers not to be hypocritically judgmental.

The word translated condemned means just that—to condemn, but it also means to make others’ sins evident and conspicuous by one’s own righteous example. In Hebrews 11:7, this latter definition applies. We must never think this means Noah was arrogant, or condescending, or prideful about his righteousness or about the wickedness prevalent among his contemporaries. On the contrary, I believe he grieved for them and encouraged them to repent. In 2 Peter 2:5, Peter referred to Noah as a “herald of righteousness.” Obviously Noah proclaimed righteousness through his pure life and by building the ark in obedience to God, but he surely also must have encouraged those around him to join him on the ark before God’s judgment fell. Sadly, however, only “a few, that is, eight persons [just Noah and his family], were brought safely through water” because they took refuge in the ark (1 Pet. 3:20).

Moses. God used Moses to warn Pharaoh repeatedly about divine judgment. He also used Moses to warn the Hebrews of the coming death angel and to encourage them to run to safety by placing blood on the sides and tops of the doorways of their homes according to God’s instructions. Hebrews 11:27-28 says of Moses, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”

Jonah. We learn from the Old Testament book that bear’s Jonah’s name, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah actually wanted God to condemn the Ninevites, but the Lord went out of His way to show Jonah that he needed to be an agent of divine mercy and grace (see vv. 3-17). How did God want Jonah to be such an agent? By warning the Ninevites of God’s coming judgment! After his experience inside the fish’s belly (see chapter 2), God instructed Jonah once more to preach to Nineveh (see 3:1-2). At last, he obeyed. Jonah 3:4-10 reads in part,

4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.…10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

You’d think Jonah would have been pleased with such an overwhelming response to his preaching, but he hadn’t yet learned just how deep and how wide God’s love and grace really were. God put Jonah back in the classroom. While the Lord earlier had used an animal to teach Jonah, this time He used a plant. The plant offered Jonah much needed shade at first, but then it withered and died, and Jonah was baking in the sun. When Jonah complained about the demise of the plant, God said to him, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11).

Despite Jonah’s imperfections, God used this reluctant prophet to urge the Ninevites to repent of their sins and thereby experience God’s mercy and grace.

John the Baptist. John prepared the way for the Messiah’s arrival by warning the people to repent and to change their way of living. He

went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:3-14).

Let us not forget that John also warned Herod, telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18). He paid for that action with his life, but he didn’t fail to declare the truth, even to a king.

Peter. At Pentecost, a mere seven weeks after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter preached the good news of salvation to the people in Jerusalem. His message included warnings. You can read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-36. After the people heard the fisherman-turned-evangelist preach,

37 they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (vv. 37-41).

Yes, Peter warned his hearers of God’s coming judgment and encouraged them to receive divine forgiveness for their sins. In fact, here’s how the translators of the New International Version rendered Acts 2:40: “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”

Paul. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote, Christ “we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28).

Warnings Are an Essential Part of Effective Evangelism

We must understand that the good news about Jesus Christ is as wonderful as it is because the bad news about sin is as terrible as it is. If people don’t understand how hopeless their situations are without Christ, they surely cannot comprehend how precious and priceless God’s gift of salvation really is. In fact, it’s so valuable it could only be secured by the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Accordingly, warnings aren’t just appropriate. They are necessary. They’re even more necessary in our day, because, looking over the landscape of sermons preached in recent decades, we see that these messages have been bereft of biblical warnings.

Please read last week’s post to learn even more about why divine warnings about marriage are so urgent today. We could summarize this by saying that if America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage (something it clearly is doing), then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.

If America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage, then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.

As a pastor, you can help the church regain its prophetic voice by making sure you do not neglect your duty to warn God’s people and the culture at large. But what should you preach?

For over a year, I’ve been writing articles and posting them at www.wordfoundations.com. Many of these have been Bible studies that a preacher can easily adapt and use for a morning or evening sermon. I’m highlighting seven such posts here. I encourage you to consider using them in your preaching ministry in the coming weeks and months. Along with the seven, I’m also highlighting four additional posts that provide important background information. While thoroughly consistent with biblical truth, these four posts aren’t Bible studies. Even so, you may find ways to convey the information to your people, as it will enhance their understanding of the times in which they live and how they need to conduct themselves in them.

Background information

Sermon and Bible Study Material

  • Discernment Needed—Christians cannot be effectively equipped to warn others if they don’t heed the divine warnings God gives in the Bible. This study showcases numerous warnings against falling prey to the lies of the world. Make sure you and the members of your church aren’t deceived.
  • Clarity Needed—If you read, study, or preach just one of these messages, this is the one I hope you will choose. God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.

If you read or preach just one of these messages, please choose “Clarity Needed.” God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.

  • Esse quam videriEsse quam videri is a Latin phrase that means “to be rather than to seem.” This article explores the ominous nature of a lie and the deadly destination to which it leads. How do we combat lies? We must counter them with the truth!
  • Compassion’s Mandate—Christians are told on nearly every front that refusing to accept and celebrate homosexuality and same-sex marriage is bigoted and hateful. Not so! Would a doctor who knows his patient has a deadly disease be compassionate to withhold that information? Of course not. Compassion’s mandate is to declare the truth in love.
  • The Supreme Court…Isn’t: Six Things the Bible Tells Us About the State—Christians need to know what the Bible teaches about government and governmental authority. This Bible study explores these teachings. Such authority is delegated by God and can be misused and abused. When government acts outside it’s God-given authority, believers have a duty to hold it accountable.
  • Reflections on Repentance—Repentance is seen everywhere as confining, restrictive, and burdensome. Of all people, we as believers know that on the other side of repentance is true freedom. As we present the truth to our family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, we need to pray that God would open their eyes to see how refusing to repent means staying in bondage, and how repenting opens up a fresh, new world of liberty.
  • Keep Cultivating and Don’t Lose Heart—Declaring the truth in this culture is risky. This Bible study encourages believers to remember the eternal value of the principles they stand for over against the temporal nature of those things they are tempted to hold with a tight grip. Presenting the truth may require sacrifice, but God will bless with things far more valuable. Never give up!

Keep in mind that all of these posts were written in 2015, and many were written before the Supreme Court issued its marriage ruling. Adaptations still can easily be made. Be aware too that some internet links no longer are valid, but the material in each article still is.

I pray that this post will find its way into many pastors’ studies and many Bible study leaders’ homes. Please use this material to warn God’s people and the culture at large about the perils of the direction in which America is headed.

The writer of Hebrews issued this command and this warning to his readers—including you and me: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4). If we would honor marriage, we will never withhold the truth about it from a culture that is confused and misinformed. Nor will we fail to warn people.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Hebrews 13:4

Realistically, the initial sparks that will ignite reform in our country will most likely be generated by pastors. Pastor, will you fulfill your duty?

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations in this article are from the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

One quotation is from the New International Version. THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Websites and videos in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.

 

Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective of Rights Is Leading America into Tyranny, Part 6

How the Government Is Bulldozing Over Conscience Rights to Secure All the “Rights” Associated with Same-Sex Marriage

Our Constitution—like the Declaration of Independence before it—was predicated on a simple truth: One’s liberty, not to mention one’s dignity, was something to be shielded from—not provided by—the State. Today’s decision casts that truth aside.
—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent on the Obergefell ruling—

Your rights end where mine begin.
Rachel Marsden

Part 5 is available here.

Last week we began to examine Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in Obergefell, the case in which five Supreme Court Justices—a razor-thin majority—struck down the all laws in the United States that limited the definition of marriage to one man and one woman. Thomas’s dissent rests on the solid foundation of the Founders’ perspective on liberty and rights. For your convenience and review, here is the first paragraph of his dissent.

The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787 [when the Constitution of the United States was drafted and sent to the states for ratification], liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it.

Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty.
—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

It is helpful here to recall our prior discussion about negative and positive rights. Negative rights are the rights we enjoy because government is restricted from forbidding or hindering personal activity. Positive rights are “rights” that are secured when government intervenes in citizens’ lives to give them resources or to otherwise enable them to do certain things. America’s Founders upheld the former and abhorred the latter, and they were right to do both. Accordingly, they drafted and ratified the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, which secured foundational rights of citizens through government limitations.

The Founders, you see, believed the number one purpose of government was to protect property. Really, they did—yet we need to understand all they meant when they used the word property. Historian David Barton, his son Tim Barton, and former Texas legislator Rick Green discuss this very issue on the May 17, 2016 broadcast of the radio program WallBuilders Live! The elder Barton first cites numerous examples in which individuals’ rights to speak and act according to their convictions are being trampled—and he points to the release of the 2016 edition of Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, which documents hundreds of examples in which people have been denied their Constitutional rights as Americans. The three-man broadcast team forcefully demonstrates that this is not the America our Founders established. (For your convenience, the entire program is available at the end of this post.)

tim-bartonTim Barton: [Founding Father] James Madison said government is instituted to protect property of every sort. So the reason government exists is to protect our property. And there are a whole slew of things that are identified as property. In fact, your money was something that was identified as that, as your own private property. So the government cannot come and take your money. That’s your private property.  Well, James Madison said conscience is the most sacred of all property. So the property that was the most sacred, that government is instituted to protect…is your right of conscience.

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort…. Conscience is the most sacred of all property.
Founding Father James Madison

DB_Twitter_400x400David Barton: Now, consider that. The most sacred of all property is conscience, so while we look at a store being robbed, a kid going into a store and shoplifting, we say, get the kid, nail him, he can’t take private property. It’s not his property. It belongs to somebody else. We watch a kid take a baseball bat and whack at somebody else’s car, we say he’s got to pay for the damages; he can’t destroy somebody else’s property. We watch a robber go into a house with a gun; we say he can’t do that; that’s not his property. We yell when the government takes private property. Eminent domain. They can’t do that; they’re not allowed [to do that].

More important than all of that is the government can’t take away from you your right to hear from God, to believe what God told you, and to act on what God said. That’s more important than stopping a robber that comes into your home; protecting that right is more important than stopping a shoplifter; protecting that right is more important than keeping a kid at school from stealing stuff out of your locker or taking your billfold—but we don’t look at it that way. But that’s the way the Founding Fathers looked at it.…The number one purpose for government is to protect property, and the number one property to protect is the rights of conscience. Which means there should be no religious hostility going on— 

rick-without-tie

Rick Green: But it’s happening!

David Barton: and yet we have it now [in abundance].

Conscience rights, therefore, are sacred; and they’re essentially rights to exercise your religious beliefs freely, without hindrance from the government. With the founding of America, especially through the First Amendment to the US Constitution, “government essentially said, Yes, be religious. We will not only tolerate it; we will respect it and we will encourage it. But we cannot take sides or put our thumbs on the scales. But the understanding of this has been lost to many in modern America.”1

Against this historical backdrop, we can better understand Justice Thomas’s dissent, and just how extreme and unconstitutional the Obergefell ruling really is. Thomas expounds eloquently and powerfully on his opening paragraph. He writes,

Petitioners cannot claim, under the most plausible definition of “liberty,” that they have been imprisoned or physically restrained by the States for participating in same-sex relationships. To the contrary, they have been able to cohabitate and raise their children in peace. They have been able to hold civil marriage ceremonies in States that recognize same-sex marriages and private religious ceremonies in all States. They have been able to travel freely around the country, making their homes where they please. Far from being incarcerated or physically re- strained, petitioners have been left alone to order their lives as they see fit.

Nor, under the broader definition, can they claim that the States have restricted their ability to go about their daily lives as they would be able to absent governmental restrictions. Petitioners do not ask this Court to order the States to stop restricting their ability to enter same-sex relationships, to engage in intimate behavior, to make vows to their partners in public ceremonies, to engage in religious wedding ceremonies, to hold themselves out as married, or to raise children. The States have imposed no such restrictions. Nor have the States prevented petitioners from approximating a number of incidents of marriage through private legal means, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.

Instead, the States have refused to grant them governmental entitlements. Petitioners claim that as a matter of “liberty,” they are entitled to access privileges and benefits that exist solely because of the government. They want, for example, to receive the State’s imprimatur on their marriages—on state issued marriage licenses, death certificates, or other official forms. And they want to receive various monetary benefits, including reduced inheritance taxes upon the death of a spouse, compensation if a spouse dies as a result of a work-related injury, or loss of consortium damages in tort suits. But receiving governmental recognition and benefits has nothing to do with any understanding of “liberty” that the Framers would have recognized.

Thus, same-sex marriage by itself violates the Framers’ concept of liberty and rights. This reality is bad enough, but as we have seen in the year since the Obergefell ruling was issued, enshrining this positive right into the practice of American culture has, more than any other governmental action, strengthened the movement for a whole host of additional counterfeit rights—positive rights that trample on the negative—and authentic—rights of ordinary citizens.

This truth was not lost on Justice Thomas (citations have been omitted to enhance readability).

Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.…

Numerous amici [legal briefs advising this Court]—even some not supporting the States—have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.” In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.

The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph. And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition.

Writing for the majority of justices in Obergefell, Justice Anthony Kennedy had said,

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.

What?! Advocate with utmost, sincere conviction?! Teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths?! The “proper protection” afforded in the First Amendment clearly allows citizens to do things far more substantive than these! Justice Thomas continued in his dissent, poking holes in Kennedy’s weak view of conscience rights and religious liberty.

Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons…as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.

On a side note, we need to be aware that it isn’t just the Supreme Court that is refusing to wholeheartedly affirm freedom of religion. Last year in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Hillary Clinton was talking about abortion when she declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the idea she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”

Unfortunately, we do not have to look far to find a growing number of examples of what Justice Thomas called “civil restraints…upon religious practice.” Let’s start with this video prepared by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen highlight a great many more examples in their book, You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe. In the first chapter alone, they tell the stories of

The authors also cite two examples with encouraging outcomes, situations involving

Although the above list is long, it isn’t exhaustive. Moreover, defenders of religious liberty continue to join the front lines, even since the recent publication of You Will Be Made to Care on February 22 of this year. Read here and here about Brush and Nib Studio and its owners, Joanna Duka and Breanna Kossi. Thankfully, Alliance Defending Freedom works with clients in proactive strategies as well as defensive ones. In this particular case, ADF is standing in opposition to an unjust Phoenix, Arizona law before it is used against these talented business owners.

Truly, these are men, women, and ministries of whom the world is not worthy (see Heb. 11:37-38). We can thank God for their stands!

Nearly all of these cases are about sex. Erickson and Blankschaen are forthright in their assessment:

Progressives are rabidly committed to expanding the freedom to express oneself sexually without consequences and without criticism. In fact, their right to feel good about their sexual expression trumps your right to express your beliefs about it. You are required to approve and even help them celebrate—or you can lose your job, your business, your chosen career, your home, and even your dog. The sexual revolution ideology of the 1960s means that personal feelings outweigh the transhistorical truths that have fostered the flourishing of all humanity.…4

But where are the actual examples of attacks on the rights of gays—to earn a living, to own a business, to finish a college degree, to create and maintain organizations defined by their beliefs, or to work as a pharmacist, baker, or photographer? No sexual identity, no amount or degree of even the most “transgressive” sexual expression makes you unfit for those rights in America today. No right-wing Christian zealot is trying to take them away. The Left cries “discrimination: against homosexuals and makes wild comparisons to Jim Crow Laws—a logically incoherent comparison that insults the great civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. But no one can point to any real incident in which a person has been denied service because of his or her sexual orientation. Refusing to help celebrate a gay wedding or to provide a bed in one’s own home for lesbian sex is simply not the same things as discrimination against persons. It’s simply a refusal to be drafted onto the opposing side. An objection to being made to care.5

All of this is, of course, un-American. It’s even anti-American. Next week, we’ll elaborate on this point. We’ll list several specific ways same-sex marriage and the “rights” that are flowing from it are effectively working against genuine liberty and other American ideals—how they are pushing our nation toward tyranny. In one sense our discussion will be a review, but in another, it will help us put a “handle” on where we are as a nation.

If we understand and heed the warning signs, perhaps we can change course.

Part 7 is available here.

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Websites and videos in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.

top image: Freedom of Worship by Norman Rockwell, 1943

WallBuilders Live! broadcast, May 17, 2016

Notes: 

1Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, (New York, Viking, 2016), 73.

2Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen, (2016-02-22). You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe (Kindle Locations 136-314). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

3Ibid., (Kindle Locations 323-330).

4Ibid., (Kindle Locations 317-320).

5Ibid., (Kindle Locations 332-339).

Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective of Rights Is Leading America into Tyranny, Part 5

How True Rights and Genuine Liberty Are Becoming Casualties of the Supreme Court’s Redefinition of Marriage

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by faith, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason. It is part of the natural created order. The Natural Law is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as a higher law or a just law in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.…The institutions of civil government should defend marriage and not seek to undermine it. Government has long regulated marriage for the true common good. Examples, such as the age of consent, demonstrate such a proper regulation to ensure the free and voluntary basis of the marriage bond. Redefining the very institution of marriage is improper and outside the authority of the State. No civil institution, including the United States Supreme Court or any court, has authority to redefine marriage.
Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage

Though expected, today’s decision is completely illegitimate. We reject it and so will the American people. It represents nothing but judicial activism, legislating from the bench, with a bare majority of the Justices on the Supreme Court exercising raw political power to impose their own preferences on marriage when they have no constitutional authority to do so. It is a lawless ruling that contravenes the decisions of over 50 million voters and their elected representatives. It is a decision that is reminiscent of other illegitimate Court rulings such as Dred Scott and Roe v Wade and will further plunge the Supreme Court into public disrepute.
Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, on June 26, 2015, responding to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling that redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples—

Properly understood, rights are not guarantees that something will be provided for us but guarantees that what is ours will not be unjustly taken from us. That is, properly speaking, rights are not positive but negative.
Calvin Beisner

Part 4, which is available here, provides important background information for this post.

Depending on the circumstances and on what listeners want to hear, the truth can be very difficult to accept. So difficult, in fact, that some individuals reject it altogether. Consider Marc, who was very much alive but was convinced he was dead. When his psychiatrist asked him if dead men bleed, Marc said no. The doctor promptly stuck Marc’s finger with a needle, causing blood to come forth. “Wow!” exclaimed Marc. “Dead men really do bleed, after all!”

With very few exceptions, it isn’t desirable for people to live in a world of fantasy and illusion. Mature people must grapple with reality. People need to eat! The bills have to be paid! The real world is messy, but it is the one we live in—yet it’s also the one in which we can find fulfillment and satisfaction, if we adjust to life’s demands and cooperate with its realities.

The law of gravity provides a great example. No one can step out of a 10th story window and expect to go anywhere but down, and fast! Gravity prevents us from safely doing a great number of things. Yet when we cooperate with it, we benefit immensely. Why? In a great many ways, gravity, which is part of “the natural order of things,” makes ordered life on earth possible.

Marriage, as humanity has understood it for centuries, is very much like gravity in this regard. When a society respects marriage as an institution uniting one man and one woman in a committed, lifelong relationship, it’s clear that it limits that society in certain ways. Perhaps it’s not as clear that it liberates it in many more! Clear or not, this is the truth! When a nation rejects man-woman marriage, devastating consequences follow, a number of which we have discussed in previous posts.

This week in our series on rights, we move to consider how the Supreme Court of the United States, through its ruling on marriage, has violated the concept of rights our Founders embraced and enshrined in our Constitution, particularly in the Bill of Rights. Ironically, it has done this in the name of granting rights to a few! Five Supreme Court justices—a bare majority—also have violated the natural order to make life worse for everyone. Not everyone will accept the truth we will explore, but those who do accept it will benefit. Moreover, the more who accept it, the more the country will benefit. It is time for us as a nation to stop living in a world of fantasy.

At the outset, I’d like to stake out four principles that describe my perspective.

  1. Everything I write today, I write, as Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, “with malice toward none, and charity for all.”
  2. While I bear absolutely no ill-will toward those who disagree with me, I cannot remain silent as this country continues to decline and as its foundational principles are abandoned and rejected. Liberty and authentic freedom are fragile and must be guarded. Once liberty is understood to mean license, once freedom is seen as absolute individual autonomy, and once the government endorses these definitions with policy, people begin to live according to their base desires en masse, without giving a single accurate thought to the public good. Eventually this will lead to societal chaos, which inevitably will lead to tyranny. We’ve been traveling down this very road for some time.
  3. In previous posts, I have repeatedly called the evidence for man-woman marriage “obvious.” From the Word Foundations menu, do a search for the word obvious, and you will see what I mean. Here is one of my bedrock convictions: The fact that marriage can’t be anything other than what it has been for centuries is self-evident, revealed in nature and other realities in the world in which we live. Why, then, isn’t the obvious, obvious? Because the popular culture has touted lies about the world, life, and marriage so frequently and for so long, millions have come to believe them. They have been blinded!
  4. I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative revelation to humanity and that it is absolutely true in all that it says. Even so, I don’t believe we need the Bible to understand what marriage really is. We will consider a few Bible passages at the end of this post, but otherwise we will rely on the truth that nature itself speaks loudly and clearly. The case for this is strong.

I am honored to be in very good company! Although I cannot verify that he would agree fervently with everything I’ve stated thus far, he apparently agrees with much of it, because I agree with him about the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling. In his dissent on this ruling, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas brilliantly describes the situation at hand.

Clarence_Thomas_official_SCOTUS_portrait

In this post we will examine only the first paragraph of Justice Thomas’s dissent. That paragraph’s seven sentences alone are insightful and substantive, and they’re alarming enough to raise red flags nationwide about same-sex marriage. Next week we will look at additional statements in Thomas’s dissent and discuss even more implications of the Obergefell ruling as it relates to rights. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here is the first paragraph.

The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it.

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Let’s consider each of these statements individually.

Statement 1: “The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built.”

To learn just a few of the ways the Obergefell decision “is at odds…with the Constitution,” read this brief summary from Alliance Defending Freedom. Also read Bradley C. S. Watson’s National Review article “Reclaiming the rule of Law after Obergefell.” You can read some of our nation’s foundational principles here.

Statement 2: “Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits.”

From May 25 to September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and its delegates drafted the US Constitution. As we discussed in a previous post, resistance to ratification was strong because the proposed Constitution did not have a Bill of Rights—a list of limitations on the government that would keep it out of the way so people could live their lives freely. Even though the Constitution was drafted and proposed in 1787 without a Bill of Rights and subsequently was ratified, it was accepted only when the Bill of Rights was added. Thus, “there was, in the minds of this first generation of US citizens (not just the Founders), a direct relationship between the thriving of personal liberties (rights) and restrictions that kept the federal government out of people’s lives.” The battle to add the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution never would have been won if the principles of limited government had not been accepted and embraced in the populace in years prior.

Oh, that we could recapture their love of limitations on government! Today the prevailing perspective on rights calls, not for government limitations, but government intrusion! For a few moments, reflect on the degree to which government has had to invade marriage in order to remake it into an institution that affords same-sex couples the “right” to “marry.” While in US history, the Supreme Court has issued numerous egregious decisions to grant positive rights, only a handful have sent the Court even close to the level of meddling we’ve seen with Obergefell. More on this in a moment.

Statement 3: “The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty.”

The Bill of Rights, with its government-limiting provisions to ensure individual liberties, provides undeniable evidence of this truth.

Statement 4: “Yet the majority [of Supreme Court justices] invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect.”

These are allusions to a positive right and to negative rights. The positive right, the “‘liberty’ that the Framers would not have recognized” is, of course, same-sex marriage. Does anyone really believe the Founders had same-sex marriage in mind when they wrote the Constitution? Does anyone think for a New York minute they wouldn’t have acted to protect man-woman marriage if they knew same-sex marriage ever would be seriously proposed, much less practiced, in the United States? The point here is that we can be certain redefining marriage never even entered the the minds of the Founders, so they did not sanction it. We can say the same thing for those who drafted and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified after the US Civil War), which is cited as a basis for the Obergefell ruling. How then, can same-sex marriage be constitutional?

Many other strong arguments against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage exist as well, but Justice Thomas, rightly, was saying the Framers never would have recognized the practice as legitimate. The truth is that the men who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights did act to prevent the implementation of same-sex marriage, even though they didn’t know it ever would be considered. They did so by enshrining the principle of limited government in the founding documents. The Supreme Court has rejected this principle outright.

Further into his dissent, Justice Thomas discusses Obergefell’s threat to religious liberty, which we will consider next week. The freedoms associated with the principle of religious liberty are included in the term “liberty” in Thomas’s powerful clause, “to the detriment of the liberty they [the Framers] sought to protect” through provisions that limit government action. Those provisions were established to guarantee negative rights.

Statement 5: “Along the way, it [the Court] rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government.”

The Declaration of Independence declares,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Rights are God-given! Put another way, human dignity is innate because it comes from God! This was the conviction of our Founders. It is a principle on which they severed ties with Great Britain and on which they founded the United States of America. The Obergefell ruling, according to Thomas, “rejects this idea.” Justice Thomas is right.

Moreover, through its ruling the Supreme Court “suggests instead that it [human dignity] comes from the Government.” We must not miss the implications of Justice Thomas’s strong statement. Marriage, a God-given and God-ordained institution, could be redefined by government only through the most intrusive of bureaucratic actions. In redefining marriage, therefore, our government defied God! Yet, as frightening as this is, there’s even more here to alarm us. If human dignity comes from the government rather than God, is it really dignity at all?

Human dignity definitely does not come from government. It was the reality of human dignity—innate and God-given—that compelled our country’s Founders to limit government in ways that preserved personal freedom and rights in the first place!

Statement 6: “This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic.”

The implications here are especially alarming. Hang in there with me, and you’ll see what I mean. In the US Constitution we see reflected a host of principles stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence. This one comes to mind: In order “to secure these rights [the unalienable rights given by God], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (emphasis added). Accordingly, the Constitution itself doesn’t begin with “The Government of the United States of America,” but with the phrase “We the People.”

Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1

The people are to be the government’s boss in America, but the US government has inverted this relationship by usurping the people’s authority. Not only that, but the Supreme Court, through its Obergefell ruling, has defied nature and defied God. In fact, it has set itself up as God! If the Supreme Court will be so bold as to change the millennia-old definition of marriage, what will it not attempt?

Statement 7: “I cannot agree with it.”

Justice Thomas understands. He “gets it”! Because he does, he disagrees with the marriage ruling, and so must everyone else who is truly familiar with the importance of the founding principles of the United States of America.

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Let’s return briefly to statement 6. In reflecting on it, we said that government, through Obergefell, had set itself up as God. Then we asked, If the Supreme Court will be so bold as to change the millennia-old definition of marriage, what will it not attempt?  

We are told in Genesis that God thwarted the completion of the Tower of Babel. We’re also informed as to why. Genesis 11:1-9 declares,

1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

As with the worldwide flood just a few chapters earlier (see Gen. 6-9), God stepped in when humanity had stepped over a clear boundary. How long will it be before He intervenes to stop America from going any further?

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when deliberations almost had reached an impasse, Benjamin Franklin appealed to the delegates to establish regular prayers over their sessions. Here is a portion of what he said (emphasis added).

BenFranklinDuplessis

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.

Franklin pled with the delegates to acknowledge God in the infancy of our nation. Today, almost 230 years later, the US Supreme Court doesn’t just ignore God and the natural laws He established; instead, a majority of justices effectively shake their collective fist in His face! Even if a person doesn’t believe in God, he or she still could find it difficult to imagine how any person or group could more thoroughly or foolishly spurn nature’s clear teaching.

The Bible informs us that God is patient (see 2 Pet. 3:9), but His patience is not limitless. Marriage is sacred (see Gen. 1:26-28; 2:21-25), for it is God-ordained and a picture of Christ and His bride, the church (see Eph. 5:25-33). Make no mistake. The scriptural principle is clear: God will judge those who violate the institution of marriage (see Heb. 13:4).

In light of all this, we must resist the Obergefell ruling. Our long-term goal needs to be to restore the definition of marriage so that public policy aligns with what marriage really is.

We must require all branches of our government to stop meddling in marriage. Government entities must stop securing positive rights inconsistent with marriage’s age-old definition. In addition, we must, in both our personal and public lives, uphold marriage as being what God and nature declare it to be.

We’ve seen this week that if we don’t resist, the consequences for our country will be dire. And you know what? There’s even more to say about how dire.

Stay tuned!

Part 6 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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