We call marriage a sacrament because it is a sign of God and His creation. It’s the definition of the word creation. We’ve got to restore this and teach it in the churches. We’ve got to take this simple little nugget of truth and build on it so that eventually we permeate public consciousness with the realization that this isn’t just about equality. This isn’t just about rights for gays versus straights. This isn’t about civil rights. This is about the plan of creation. And if we destroy that, we’re going to bring the wrath of God upon us. We’re actually going to destroy the very nature of the world we live in, the very purpose of the world and the very purpose of life.
Key point: The Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples didn’t just redefine marriage but also what it means to be human.
For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.
The final Supreme Court decision my friend Steve cited in his 338-word description of America’s moral unraveling was Obergefell v. Hodges—the 5-4 decision, issued June 26, 2015, that expanded the government’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. We’ve discussed the implications and effects of this decision extensively in many articles at Word Foundations; here I’d like to dig into the archives and quote from one of them. In a post I wrote and published within a month of the decision, I cited “Eight Reasons Why the Supreme Court Has Crossed an Ominous Line.” I picked up five of the eight items from the July 6, 2015 edition of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s radio program Renewing Your Mind. The remaining three arose from my own burden on this issue and my own observations. Here I’ll cite two of the five, and one of the three.
During the radio program, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., Chris Larson, and Lee Webb made these two points among others. Some statements in these summaries come closer to quotes than others, but all accurately reflect the concerns raised.
The church doesn’t expect the state to do the work of the church, but it does expect the state to do the work of the state. The state, remember, also is ordained by God. Protecting life and protecting marriage aren’t just religious values but humanitarian values. When we say we object to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, our concern isn’t that the state has separated itself from the church, but that it has separated itself from God! Since the state is a God-ordained institution, it is doing this to its own peril and to the detriment of its people.
What we’re talking about here is not just a rejection of God as Redeemer or as potential Redeemer. We’re talking about a rejection of God as Maker. This is what Paul warns about in Romans 1 when he talks about homosexuality—but the Court went even further than this. This ruling shakes a fist at God and says, “You made all of us, redeemed or not, to be this way (meaning that a man and a woman fit together naturally in marriage), and we’re going to turn this on its head; we’re going to pervert this as heinously as we can. We’re going to celebrate it, too!” This isn’t just telling God, “We know better than You; You’re mistaken and we’re wiser than you.” It’s “This will really tick You off because we hate You!”
A third reason Obergefell moves America and Americans in an especially dangerous direction is multi-faceted.
The Court didn’t bring marriage to same-sex couples; instead, it brought same-sex couples to marriage. In other words, the Court didn’t just bestow marriage on same-sex couples that desire it; it brought the characteristics of a same-sex relationship into the institution of marriage, thereby negating those things about natural marriage that make it special.
The Court severed gender and gender differences from the meaning of marriage. In a practical sense, the institution of marriage no longer is about the dynamics inherent in opposite sex relationships; it isn’t about male and female differences anymore.
The Court separated procreation from marriage. Marriage no longer is about a relationship that can produce children. This portends ominously for the future of civilization and its youngest and most innocent citizens.
The Court severed gender from parenting, negating the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers from the family. Marriage and the family are no longer about the special skills and contributions a man can make as a father or that a woman can make as a mother.
The Court, rather than validating children, has trampled on their emotional needs by depriving many of them of either a mom or a dad [in every same-sex parent family]. Put another way, the Court ignored the needs children have for the protective influence of a father and the unique, nurturing touch of a mother.
When a society favors adults’ rights over children’s needs, it has become barbaric in the worst possible way.
Tracing the Nation’s Steps
Summarizing or nation’s moral decline, we can say the following. To some extent we are oversimplifying, but not much!
Engel v. Vitale was an initial step in the process that effectively cut off a generation, and future generations, from voluntarily acknowledging God in a public environment.
Having been cut off from God, America had no reference point for recognizing the intrinsic value of human life. Therefore, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton effectively legitimized in people’s minds, and in the eyes of the law, the practice of turning against the youngest, most innocent, and most vulnerable members of the human family and killing them. To the Court’s majority, they weren’t persons!
Obergefell went even further, denying what it actually is to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage, you see, affirms what being a human being is all about. This is not to say that single people or homosexual individuals aren’t human; of course they are! It is to say that natural marriage affirms what being human means. Same-sex “marriage” doesn’t just distort that affirmation; it eliminates it—because if two men or two women can marry each other and have exactly what one man and one woman married to each other have (this notion obviously is a lie), marriage has nothing to do with gender, procreation, children, fatherhood, motherhood, male-female dynamics in a relationship, or anything else that truly makes marriage what it is, and that makes being a human being what he or she is. Marriage, after all, is is unique among human beings. It is unknown in the animal kingdom!
Natural man-woman marriage affirms everything about what it means to be a human being. After all, marriage is unknown in the animal kingdom. Only people marry!
What about love? someone will ask. Isn’t marriage about love? Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively. It isn’t about sex exclusively, either. Authentic marital love cannot be divorced from everything else that we’ve named in item #3. As we indicated, the traits that make natural marriage what it is also empower it to affirm what being human is all about.
Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively.
Is it any wonder, then, that Steve citedRomans 1:18-32 and said it describes “the current state of the culture of the United States”? Can we really deny that our culture is behaving unnaturally? (See 2 Tim. 3:1-3, KJV.) The Obergefell marriage ruling goes against everything nature teaches us about human relationships—but so do the 1973 rulings that legalized abortion nationwide. It is unnatural, not only for two men or two women to be sexually intimate with each other, but also for a mother to abort her own child, and for a father to approve of eliminating his own flesh and blood!
Witnessing all of these things, can we deny the distinct probability that God has given this country over to its own desires? When we speak of God’s releasing a nation to it’s base appetites, we do not mean that He has done something like releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space and letting it float gently away. No! Instead, He has done something akin to letting go of the pitcher on earth, where gravity pulls it to the ground and the impact causes it to shatter irreparably.
Everyone is free to sin if he or she chooses to do so. Collectively, a nation may choose to give itself over to sin; and again, it is free to make that choice. However, both individually and corporately, the choice to engage in habitual sin inevitably will bring dire consequences.
Love Thy Neighbor
Let us have compassion and love for women who’ve had abortions and men who have encouraged them. When a woman faces an unwanted pregnancy she very likely may know no one to whom she can turn for help. Every voice she hears, including the father’s, may be encouraging her to abort her baby. These women need understanding, help, and encouragement to choose life for unborn children.
Let us also care deeply about and help homosexuals and everyone experiencing confusion about his or her gender identity. Let us reach out to them with understanding and friendship—but let us also not fail to present the truth. True compassion, after all, is honest as well as loving.
And of course, we need to be lovingly honest both with individuals and with society at large. We are on a dangerous path as a nation!
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isa. 5:20).
If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14).
But seek first the kingdom of god and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
Next time, we’ll look at where the church is in the midst of this cultural moral morass.
At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. In a country that enjoys authentic liberty, laws do not stand alone. That nation’s laws are not arbitrary but consistent with the other virtues and ideals depicted at the Monument, and therefore consistent with “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.
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.
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.
Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
 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.  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.  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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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].
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.
Last time we examined the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1857 Dred Scott case and established that the court ignored the Constitution and overstepped its authority. We remembered the words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who pointed to a higher law and exposed the court for exercising arbitrary judgment and imposing its will in a tyrannical manner.
We further recognized how several of Douglass’s statements about Dred Scott also address Obergefell v. Hodges, the recent Supreme Court decision that redefines marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples; and we implicitly affirmed that we must act to resist Obergefell for many of the same reasons Douglass and others in his day were compelled to resist Dred Scott. A coalition of more than 60 scholars has released a statement through the American Principles Project showing us the way. You can read their manifesto here.
Let’s review some of the statement’s major points.
The Mess We Are In
The scholars establish early on that the court’s decision in Obergefell ignored the text of the Constitution, the Founder’s original intent, and the court’s own principles of constitutional interpretation to redefine marriage. Moreover, the Supreme Court “supplied no compelling reasoning to show why it is unjustified for the laws of the states to sustain marriage as it has been understood for millennia as the union of husband and wife.”
The scholars cite the strong and unsparing statements of the four dissenting justices; then they go on to note four costly consequences Obergefell surely will bring upon America. We summarize these as follows.
First, the ruling not only ignores the unique procreative element in natural marriage, it also falsely legitimizes the dismissal of those who seek to uphold it for the good of society in general and children in particular. As we have discussed previously, the procreative element of a man-woman relationship is central to what marriage is all about: “Only a heterosexual union can produce a baby. Infertile couples certainly do exist, but they do not negate the general rule that when one man and one woman come together and share themselves with each other intimately and sexually, the way is paved for conception, pregnancy, and the eventual arrival of a child.”2 We also observed, “The future of the human race depends on reproducing it so those dying out can be replaced. This can occur only with heterosexual couples.”3 To tilt the debate against those making these arguments, especially without any rational grounds for doing so, is to act in a truly tyrannical manner. This leads us to the second point.
Second, the court’s decision won’t just increase the probability of dismissing adherents of natural marriage; it seeks to shut them down totally by using the legal system to intimidate dissenters and force compliance, even when consciences are violated. We have seen this played out repeatedly in recent years, even before the Supreme Court issued its ruling.
Third, by removing the element of gender from the legal definition of marriage, the court destroyed the legal foundation for keeping any relationship or network of relationships from being legally considered a marriage.
Fourth, usurping the will of the people, the Constitution, cultural tradition, and historical precedent, five justices of the court issued an arbitrary ruling and acted as an absolute authority with no accountability whatsoever.
Continuing, the scholars at the American Principles Project state,
Any decision that brings about such evils would be questionable. One lacking anything remotely resembling a warrant in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the Constitution must be judged anti-constitutional and illegitimate. Obergefell should be declared to be such, and treated as such, by the other branches of government and by the citizens of the United States.
We must not miss significance of this paragraph. A bare majority of the nine justices of the Supreme Court have violated the Constitution of the United States in redefining marriage. Their ruling is therefore illegal and should not be recognized as legitimate or binding.
Quoting presidents James Madison, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution,”4 and Abraham Lincoln, the scholars demonstrate that national statesmen of the past have understood the constitutional limits placed upon the Supreme Court. These same limits apply today but unfortunately are not widely recognized.
These terms are not used, but this essentially completes the “whereas” portion of the document. The remaining text can be considered the “be it resolved” section. Here is a summary of that section.
The Challenge Before Us
The scholars emphasize that just as Madison and Lincoln understood “that the Constitution is not whatever a majority of Supreme Court justices say it is,” they also recognize this reality and remind all public officials that they are sworn to uphold the Constitution, not a Supreme Court ruling. Thus,
Obergefell is binding only to the plaintiffs in the case, and federal and state officials should not see it as binding on any other party.
Federal and state authorities should affirm the right of the states to define marriage and should encourage state officials uphold those definitions as they perform their duties.
Authorities should legally and practically assist those who resist the Obergefell ruling for reasons the Constitution authorizes and protects.
Authorities should openly discuss how and why Obergefell must be resisted and should work to reverse this unconstitutional ruling.
In the concluding paragraph, the scholars at the American Principles Project affirm that ordered liberty in the United States of America is threatened when a Supreme Court ruling without legal foundation is treated as settled law. Thus, to truly obey the law of the land and to preserve liberty, public officials and ordinary citizens alike must resist the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage. The scholars’ statement declares simply, yet profoundly, “We emphasize that the course of action we are here advocating is neither extreme nor disrespectful of the rule of law.”
We emphasize that the course of action we are here advocating is neither extreme nor disrespectful of the rule of law.
The scholars did not quote Dr. Martin Luther King, but they certainly could have. As you read this quote, keep in mind that many mistakenly believe that in the Obergefell ruling, the Supreme Court settled the marriage debate in this country by establishing same-sex marriage as the law of the land. Not so. According to the Constitution, while the court can interpret law, it cannot create it. Also, a Law exists that is higher than even the Constitution, and that Law remains in force. King said,
There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all…One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly…I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.5
In the finest tradition of respect for the law, it is our noble call to resist tyranny and to uphold the true law of the land. May God give us the grace, strength, and courage to so act.
A Lesson From History The Supreme Court Has Been Wrong Before
If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott opinion had been meekly accepted, America would truly have ended her experiment in ordered liberty.
—William J. Bennett1—
On Friday, March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case. One of several questions before the court had been whether or not slavery would be permitted in the western territories. The Missouri Compromise, which became law in 1820, directed that all the territories north of latitude 36°30′ and west of Missouri would be free.2 Later, the Compromise of 1850 established that the people residing in the territories could decide the question of slavery by voting. Understandably, however, people on both sides of the issue remained passionate; and in Kansas in 1854, the process turned violent. Would the Supreme Court at last be able to settle the issue that countless deliberations in Congress had failed to resolve?3
Dred Scott was a principal individual in the case. A slave, he was owned by doctor in the United States Army. The doctor had lived in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin and had taken Scott with him to those places. Scott sued for his freedom. While a lower federal court ruled him to be a citizen, the Supreme Court overturned that decision.4 Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the majority opinion for the court, which ruled 7-2 against Scott.5 It was a breathtaking and far-reaching decision we will not be able to explore in depth here, but we’ll “hit the high spots” and cover enough information to make obvious the outrageous nature of the ruling.
Roger B. Taney
According to the court, blacks could never become citizens of the United States.6 Scott had remained a slave in both Illinois and Wisconsin, the court said, because the United States Constitution did not consider him to be a person, but rather property.7 This notion stood in sharp contrast to history, because in 1787, free blacks were indeed part of the U.S. population.8 The ruling also struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional, thereby establishing slavery in all U.S. Territories.9 It is clear that “Taney and the other justices were attempting to halt further debate on the issue of slavery in the territories. The decision inflamed regional tensions, which burned for another four years before exploding into the Civil War.”10
Southerners generally applauded the decision, but the court had engaged in a blatant overreach, and Northern opposition was intense. Taney actually had written that the Constitution’s framers held that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”11 William J. Bennett writes, “Far from settling the slavery question, Taney’s Dred Scott ruling inflamed opposition to the extension of slavery. It served as the greatest recruitment tool for the new Republican Party.”12 Three years later, Abraham Lincoln would become the first Republican to win the presidency.
Here’s another description of the opinion from both historical and practical points of view: It “was a major political miscalculation. In its ruling, the court sought to solve the slavery controversy once and for all. Instead, the court intensified sectional strife, undercut possible compromise solutions to the issue of slavery’s expansion, and weakened the moral authority of the judiciary.”13
In May of 1857, just weeks after the Supreme Court issued its ruling, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech about the decision. Douglass was an African-American abolitionist and a speaker, writer, and articulate defender of the U.S. Constitution. Said Douglass,
You will readily ask me how I am affected by this devilish decision—this judicial incarnation of wolfishness? My answer is, and no thanks to the slaveholding wing of the Supreme Court, my hopes were never brighter than now.
I have no fear that the National Conscience will be put to sleep by such an open, glaring, and scandalous tissue of lies as that decision is, and has been, over and over, shown to be.
The Supreme Court of the United States is not the only power in this world. It is very great, but the Supreme Court of the Almighty is greater. Judge Taney can do many things, but he cannot perform impossibilities. He cannot bale out the ocean, annihilate the firm old earth, or pluck the silvery star of liberty from our Northern sky. He may decide, and decide again; but he cannot reverse the decision of the Most High. He cannot change the essential nature of things—making evil good, and good evil.
Happily for the whole human family, their rights have been defined, declared, and decided in a court higher than the Supreme Court. “There is a law,” says [Lord Chancellor Henry Peter] Brougham, “above all the enactments of human codes, and by that law, unchangeable and eternal, man cannot hold property in man.”14
The Supreme Court of the United States is…very great, but the Supreme Court of the Almighty is greater. Judge Taney can do many things, but he cannot perform impossibilities.…He cannot change the essential nature of things—making evil good, and good evil.
The words of Frederick Douglass ring true yet today, and it is utterly amazing just how many of his statements apply directly, not only to Dred Scott, but also to another illegal and illegitimate decision made by the Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges. In his day, Douglass stood in the prophetic tradition of boldly asserting the ultimate standard of right and wrong to expose the folly of tyranny—judicial and otherwise. This is exactly what we must do now, in 2015, with regard to the court’s recent redefinition of marriage nationwide.
Accordingly, on October 8, 2015, over 60 legal scholars released a statement urging public officials and citizens to resist the tyranny and judicial activism imposed by the five Supreme Court Justices who arbitrarily redefined marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples.15 Next time, we will explore some of the key points of that important statement.