by Rod D. Martin
October 27, 2016
A few weeks ago, in an article entitled “Banning Preaching”, I told you about the unelected Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which in July decided that no pastor may preach any sermon, in any service “open to the public”, which might cause any transgendered person to feel “unwelcome”.
As I said then, this is the equivalent of the Federal Election Commission ruling that no Republican convention may allow speakers who might cause any Democrat to feel “unwelcome.”
Since my essay, the drumbeat of anti-religious intolerance has intensified dramatically.
On October 1, a Massachusetts law took effect threatening pastors with jail time if they do not open all changing rooms, shower facilities, restrooms and other intimate areas to transgendered persons based on their chosen gender identity, and if they do not conform their religious teaching to the government’s views.
Yes, this is the same Massachusetts founded by the Pilgrims.
This fall, Iowa State University announced that its harassment policy prohibits student speech opposing same-sex marriage or any other expression which might “annoy or alarm another.” Needless to say, “another” doesn’t mean “a Christian”. But it wouldn’t matter if it did. The policy is a gross violation of the First Amendment, as is the Massachusetts statute. Which unfortunately no longer means it won’t be enforced.
Eight months ago, New York enacted a city ordinance imposing a $250,000 fine for each use of any pronoun a transgendered person finds offensive. A biological male wants to be called “she” (or “zhe” or “hir”; and yes, those are among the scores of new pronouns you better get right)? That’s $250,000 per “mistake” (or refusal to say what you’re told, which we quaintly used to call “freedom”). You could easily run up a multi-million dollar tab in a single conversation.
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a new California law requiring pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion to those they serve. Never mind that the law is transparently unconstitutional on both free exercise and free speech grounds; never mind that similar laws have been struck down as unconstitutional previously in Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Maryland, and even New York City.
If the eight-justice Supreme Court, desperately missing Antonin Scalia, should be divided in its response, the 9th Circuit ruling will be a matter of Constitutional law in nine states. If Justice Kennedy rules with the Democrats on the Court, a 5-3 ruling will make this the law of the land, gutting the First Amendment.
That’s before the election.
Why now? Why so much? Part of it is about last year’s Obergefell decision, which the left correctly understood as pitting sexual behavior against unalienable rights.
But more than that, the left understands that a victory in November means Hillary Clinton will appoint Scalia’s successor – and possibly as many as four other justices – shaping the Court, and with it the government’s interpretation of the Constitution and the shape of all of society, for two generations at least.
It should not be true, but it is true, that five votes on the United States Supreme Court are for all practical purposes the Constitution we live under. A few examples illustrate.
Judicial review – the idea that Supreme Court justices get to decide whether or not a law is constitutional – appears nowhere in the Constitution: it is a doctrine established in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, sixteen years after the document’s drafting and never once suggested by a single person at the Constitutional Convention.
The power to segregate society is expressly contradicted by the plain text of the 14th Amendment (1868). Yet in Plessy v. Ferguson (1895), a racist Supreme Court established Jim Crow as the law of the land for most of a century.
Free African Americans had been full citizens in every state since before the American Revolution (some were even slave owners in the South). Yet in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) the Supreme Court revoked that citizenship for anyone whose ancestors had ever been enslaved. It also radically expanded federal power through an invented legal doctrine called “substantive due process” which haunts and oppresses all of us down to this day.
Where would we stop? The Slaughter-House Cases (1873) effectively stripped the Privileges and Immunities clause out of the 14th Amendment. Wickard v. Filburn (1941) held that the strict limitation on federal regulation to commerce transacted across state lines was void, and that rather than merely regulating interstate commerce, Congress could regulate matters as trivial as a garden, entirely inside one state and not even within the definition of “commerce”.
Roe v. Wade (1973) invented a new right to murder babies, not mentioned nor even imagined by the Constitution’s writers.
Only the President may appoint Supreme Court Justices. The next President will appoint at least one, maybe five. The one he or she will certainly appoint has been held faithfully by a friend of the Constitution and of religious liberty for 30 long years.
If Hillary Clinton appoints his successor, it will be someone who hates the Constitution and hates you. And that person will likely serve for 30 or 40 long years as well.
But it’s more than that really. Because it’s not about one judge. As I said, not only do Supreme Courts routinely (and wrongfully) re-write the Constitution: it doesn’t take all of them to do it. Five votes is enough. And with Justice Loretta Lynch, or Justice Barack Obama, the total for the other side in every case will be a minimum of five, often six.
This is irrevocable. There’s no going back from it. And Hillary’s intended outcome is perfectly clear from the Massachusetts, California, Iowa and New York cases. She will ban any preaching that disagrees with the government’s diktat, which increasingly means any preaching that is vaguely faithful to Scripture. She will fine her opponents into bankruptcy, revoke their tax statuses, jail them if it suits her.
And don’t think you’re special. Pastors are just the warmup act. Because once free exercise is gutted, the same precedents will be used to outlaw any speech by anyone – media, candidates, you name it – the government deems objectionable.
We’ve seen this play before.
This would all sound extreme, I know, if it weren’t already happening. It’s here, now. Give Hillary the keys and we know where this car is going. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.
I personally find Donald Trump objectionable. I was for the other guy. But I’m smart enough to know the difference between objectionable and oppressive, tasteless vs. tyrannical. Trump has surrounded himself with the best possible advisors on judicial appointments, and released lists of judges from which he promises to select his choices. They are the best choices imaginable. Hers are the very worst.
Some will say they can’t trust Trump. I’m not sure they’re wrong. But I’m sure I can trust her to hate us.
We’ve never really faced tyranny in America, not since the Revolution (well, unless you count slavery and Jim Crow, brought to you by the same party). But we are genuinely facing it now.
That’s the reality. November 8 is not a matter of our taste, our preference or ourselves. It is a matter of whether our children and grandchildren will hear a false gospel, or even hear any Gospel at all.
— This article was originally published as part of my “Beyond the Church Door” series in the Florida Baptist Witness.