The Supreme Court Abuses Power Yet Again

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English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...

English: The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2009. Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia, and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I can understand why the Supreme Court would invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (marriage has been traditionally a state, rather than a federal, matter), I do not understand its voiding of California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. That act was passed by the majority of the people of the state of California–yet the majority of the Supreme Court (with Justice Kennedy getting up on the left side of bed this time) once again imposed its radical view of morality onto the American people.This ruling is a clear violation of state’s rights (if the term has any meaning left after being gutted by the federal courts). With the 14th Amendment imposing de facto slavery on the states to federal decrees, any other state that tries to ban same sex marriage will probably not be able to do so without its law being overturned by dictatorial decree. Any attempt to defy federal law via nullification will result in a stiff monetary–or worse–penalty by the overarching federal government onto the states. The United States is, in effect, a dictatorship in which the majority of people have been overwhelmed by elitist academics, Hollywood radicals, and their supporters in government. The federal government has the long arm of power enforced by tax policy, by federal law enforcement agencies, and by perhaps one of the greatest threats to American freedom, a large standing army.

The Supreme Court ruling affirmed a lower court ruling that described moral views on marriage as private matters not to be imposed on all people. To call marriage, a fundamental institution of all human societies, a private matter and not a matter of public policy is absurd. The radical individualism ensconced in the Enlightenment has finally come home to roost.

Traditionalists of all religions and ideologies who oppose this ruling may find themselves subject to persecution in the future. In academia, such persecution is already in place in some colleges, universities, and in the public school system. The radicals who, since 1969, have been pushing a homosexual lifestyle down the American people’s throats (pun intended), have won politically. They should focus on changing the culture, and if persecuted, pray and live virtuous lives, as the ancient Christians in the Roman Empire attempted to do. At least Christians know that evil–whether it be the evil of federal abuse of power or of radicals finishing off the destruction of traditional marriage that had already begun with easing divorce laws in the nineteenth century–will not finally triumph over good.

In a fallen world, even the best of intentions for good government go wrong over time. The United States has outspent its time as a republic, and with the virtue of people falling and the family failing, the end of the nation as those of my age has known it is only a matter of time (and a short time, I believe). May God strengthen those who have not bowed their knees to Baal.

University Student Behavior

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A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsb...

A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsburgh University Commencement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As late as the early 1960s, the professor had a near absolute authority to discipline a class in whatever way the professor saw fit. Some professors would even slap students who made foolish comments. Very few people would want to return to those days–a university student should not be afraid of a professor. However, student behavior since the early 1960s has worsened in the college and university setting.

The problem began in 1964 with the student revolutions. Beginning with the “Free Speech Movement” at the University of California at Berkeley, which originally allowed anyone, no matter what the person’s ideology, to speak, the student movement degenerated into an orgy of radical leftism. Students took over administration buildings, and in the case of the University of California, the entire campus. It took then Governor Ronald Reagan calling out the California National Guard to restore order. Such protests continued, though with less radical effects, from the 1970s until the present. Today, however, at the classroom level the problem is with students who talk in class out of turn, walk out early if they feel bored with class, use cellphones and other electronic equipment in class, or smart off at the professor in class or in an e-mail. I suppose in some colleges and universities there has been much more serious disrespect than what I have experienced, but even the relatively “minor” problems in my classes point to some fundamental problems in American society.

“Respect” can mean the respect due any human being for being human, respect for a person’s position (for example, respect for the president of the U.S.), or the respect that is earned when someone lives a good moral life or does a job well. All three forms of respect play a role in the classroom.

Students should respect the professor’s position. The professor worked hard to gain degrees in his field and is in a position of authority over students–not arbitrary or overbearing authority, but authority as someone who teaches, guides, and helps maintain decorum in the classroom. Too many students think they know more than the professor, even in the professor’s own field of study. This is highly unlikely to be the case and is most often evidence of a student’s immaturity. Pampered, spoiled students whose parents have protected them from the harsh realities of life tend to remain at the developmental level befitting someone younger than they. They still hold on to the attitude that they know everything and that older people are ignorant fogies who accept only outmoded ideas. Some students will mature out of this immaturity (especially women), but many do not. I can have a sense of humor about that form of disrespect in class, but if students do not grow out of such arrogance, it will harm them in the future. Other students rebel against any authority figure, no matter how benign. Their misbehavior is not as much personal as it is about a hatred of authority in general.

Students lack respect for human beings qua human beings when they talk in class about non-class related subjects when the teacher is giving a lecture. They are also disrespecting other class members and exhibiting a “me, me, me” attitude that damages the American social framework more than any other attitude. It has become practically difficult to discipline students for such behavior, especially for large classes. Except for test days, I do not fight over phones–if students do not listen in class, they will not do well on exams, and that will be their punishment.  It is the “I don’t care; I’ll do what I want” attitude that so exacerbates me and other professors. Of course if students talk out loud in class about last night’s ball game or about other topics having nothing to do with the lesson for the day they reveal their disrespect for not only the professor, but also for their fellow students. One of the worst behaviors I have seen is when a student walks out of school due to being bored or due to disagreement with the professor. This behavior shows disrespect for both the professor and for the educational process in general.

Then there is the respect that a professor earns for doing a conscientious and thorough job in teaching, who carefully integrates research and teaching, and who helps students to excel. Despite the fact that a conscientious professor does a good job, bad apples in the class who disrespect the professor’s work (usually out of sheer spite) can make trouble for the class and encourage otherwise good teachers to receive poor evaluations by stirring up trouble in the class. Such agitators are dangerous, and if the professor detects their handiwork, the professor can take steps to confront and discipline them.

Being a college or university professor is a tougher job than in the past–the behavior of high school students in the 1970s has become mainstream behavior on college and university campuses). I fear what the future holds for college and university professors without a restoration of the traditional family, parental discipline, and a commitment from college and university staff to affirm the importance of classroom discipline.

Judge Walker’s Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

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Wedding cake of a same-sex marriage, photo tak...

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U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage, approved by California voters in a referendum, violates federal equal protections and due process laws. This is not the first time a federal judge has tried to override the will of the people in order to push his own moral and legal agenda, and it will not be the last. For many years the federal courts have trumped the authority of the states, violating the tenth amendment to the U. S. Constitution with impunity. This usurpation of power by the courts, as Thomas Jefferson noted, results in a judicial dictatorship that violates the fundamental principles of the republic. It is for this reason that Jefferson disagreed with Chief Justice John Marshall on the issue of judicial review. Even if there are situations in which judicial review has been used for a good moral end, the power judicial review grants to judges allows them to also use that power for bad moral ends. The rights of the people of each state to legislate is thereby cut off by raw judicial power that is backed up by the machinery of the federal government—and sometimes, by means of the military.

Besides the constitutional issues involved in this case, a ban on same-sex marriage is in line with the natural law. Of course most people today, especially among the scholarly elite, do not believe in natural law. Most American philosophers are utilitarians, and most judges accept a legal positivism that separates law from nature. But natural law argues that moral principles are derived from the kind of beings human persons are—rational animals. To separate law from human nature ultimately makes law subject to the arbitrary whims of the judiciary. In the case of same-sex marriage, a ban is in line with natural law due to the goal or function marriage serves in human life. Contrary to some naïve critics of natural law, the problem with same-sex marriage, and with homosexuality in general, is not merely a matter, to put it crudely, of a bodily organ going into a place on another person where it does not belong. The issue is teleological—what is the proper function of sex and marriage in human life? Even into the modern era, sex and marriage were understood primarily (though not exclusively) in the context of procreation, of bringing children into the world, with marriage providing a stable household for the moral development of such children. This does not imply that this is the only function of sex and marriage—love, companionship, and in the case of sex, physical closeness and great pleasure are obviously goods that result from sex and marriage. But all these goods are subsumed under the fundamental human need to pro-create, to bring new life into the world, and to nurture that life to fulfillment by moral training. Practices that oppose such ends result in social chaos, as is empirically shown by the social disorder in communities with high rates of illegitimacy. Encouraging homosexual practices also thwarts the natural human goods of reproduction and family. Adoption of children by homosexual couples, or, God forbid, in the future, cloning, will not change this fact—children need exposure to both a man and woman to receive the unique insights of both.

This point is not original to me, and I do not remember who brought it up, but our society began by separating marriage from procreation with the invention of the birth control pill. Now I do not have a problem with a couple using the pill as long as (if the couple is married) they are open at some point in their marriage to having children. But as a matter of empirical fact, both marriage and sex were separated from procreation. With the sexual revolution, marriage was no longer considered a moral requirement to have sex. With both sex and procreation separated from marriage, it was a small step for contemporary liberal culture to say that marriage is a private contract between two individuals, and it does not matter what sex they are. But encouraging this societal down slope by legalizing same-sex marriage will only accelerate the breakdown of the traditional family structure that is essential for human flourishing. The voters of California were wise in approving a ban on same-sex marriage, and Judge Walker’s decision, sadly, was wrongheaded and foolish.

This is not to say that there should be a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage—the decision should be in the hands of the people or their representatives in each individual state. It is almost certain that Judge Walker’s decision will eventually reach the Supreme Court after its journey through the Ninth Circuit, and hopefully the Supreme Court will recognize the rights of the people of California to make their own decisions in this matter.

Susan Atkins, Justice, and Mercy

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Mugshot taken of Susan Atkins, taken 16 Februa...

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The debate over whether to release the dying former Manson family member Susan Atkins from prison is filled with confusion. Partly this may be due to the strong emotions involved; after all, Ms. Atkins did not show mercy to Sharon Tate. But some of the comments I’ve read on various news agencies’ web sites are either emotional rants or reveal a failure to understand the concept of mercy.

Since I cannot influence emotional rants, I will focus on the topic of mercy. Some people will say something like this: “Susan Atkins does not deserve mercy! She participated in the brutal murder of a pregnant woman and shouldn’t receive mercy herself.” Now the right response to such a claim is to state the obvious: “Of course she doesn’t deserve mercy.” Who does? Mercy is, by definition, something undeserved. If mercy were deserved it would no longer be mercy. Now it is true that when someone hurts us, we usually show mercy when that person repents of the wrong and apologizes, as well as takes steps to heal the broken relationship. Even then, justice may ask that we continue to punish the person–and yet most of us don’t continue to punish. We show mercy–not because we don’t believe in justice, but because we do.

In his argument against the “humanitarian theory of punishment,” a view that calls crime a disease and claims that the cure for crime is treatment, C. S. Lewis points out that this theory is not as “humanitarian” as we might believe. If crime is a disease, we can literally do anything to cure that disease–mercy has no place in such a system. But if crime is due to people’s evil moral choices, then they deserve punishment. And if they deserve punishment, there is room for clemency and mercy. It is only because Susan Atkins deserves punishment for her terrible crimes that anyone would bring up the issue of whether to show her mercy by releasing her from prison.

Should she receive mercy? That is a difficult question given the horror of what she did. However, all the evidence supports the view that she has been a changed person, at least since 1977 when she converted to Christianity. Although I cannot see into her mind, it seems to have been a genuine conversion leading to a real change in her life. Whether she is released or remains in prison until she dies will not change the facts of what she did, and I doubt that a desert theory of punishment can even coherently say what she really deserves for her crime. But she doesn’t deserve mercy–that would have to come as a gift from California authorities. And although she doesn’t deserve mercy, there are factors, such as her repentance and changed life, that can and should influence the decision for or against mercy. Although emotions are high in this case, I am surprised by the reaction of many Christians, especially of the conservative variety (among which I count myself, although I am not a Fundamentalist on the Bible)–I have read comments very close to hatred, comments such as “I hope she dies in prison and rots in hell.” I wonder if the founder of Christianity who said that those who show no mercy will receive none would agree with such comments. Although I am not in the position to vote on Ms. Atkins’ fate and although I realize there are many good people who will disagree with me, if I were voting I would take the route of mercy and support Ms. Atkins’ release.

Postscript: Susan Atkins was not released and died peacefully in the prison infirmary. She did some terrible things, no doubt. But I do not doubt that she was sincerely penitent. Requiescat in pace.