The Reactionary Utopian
                     October 13, 2005

by Joe Sobran

     Sometimes you hear a phrase for the thousandth time 
and it suddenly sounds so odd you wonder what it can 
really mean. I often have this sensation when the speaker 
is someone whose command of language is rather shaky to 
begin with; someone who is apt to repeat cliches without 
examining them; someone, in short, like President Bush.

     Bush assures us that, as a justice of the U.S. 
Supreme Court, Harriet Miers will keep her "personal 
beliefs" out of her legal rulings.

     I've heard this expression once too often, I guess. 
What on earth is a "personal" belief? All beliefs are 

     I get the impression that a "personal" belief is one 
you don't really believe. Or at least one you don't 
expect other people to believe. In practice, it always 
seems to mean Christianity. Atheists, for some reason, 
are never expected to keep their beliefs separate from 
their opinions about constitutional law. Aren't their 
beliefs, usually materialistic ones, about the nature of 
the universe also "personal"?

     The same assumption also shows up in the evolution 
debate. We are told that state-supported schools are 
supposed to be "neutral" about religion, so those schools 
must teach Darwinian evolution but no alternative theory 
about life's origins. But evolutionists from Thomas 
Huxley in the nineteenth century to Richard Dawkins in 
our time have held their own triumphalist view that 
evolution is not only scientific truth, but one that 
discredits revealed religion. We have to choose between 
Darwin and Genesis, they insist, so the schools must 
teach Darwin. The schools can't even teach ideas -- such 
as "intelligent design" -- that reject Darwin without 
recourse to a literal acceptance of the Genesis story!

     Call this what you will, but it's hardly "neutral." 
C.S. Lewis exposes this bogus neutrality in his books 

     Why, for that matter, must government be neutral 
about religion? Because, we are told, the First Amendment 
demands it by forbidding any "establishment of religion." 
But this is nonsense. The First Amendment says nothing of 
the sort, and I wish atheists would read it as literally 
as they think most Christians read the Bible.

     "Congress shall make no law respecting an 
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free 
exercise thereof" means something very different from 
"Government must be neutral about religion." It bars the 
Congress of the United States from legislation that 
either establishes a religion or prohibits its free 
exercise. This left the states free to do both, and for a 
long time they did. Several states had official religions 
as late as the 1830s. You may deplore this, but don't say 
the Constitution bans it, because it plainly doesn't.

     Now we are told that the Constitution forbids 
everything from a moment of silence in the classroom to 
the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance! I 
myself would love to see the Pledge disappear, but I 
don't pretend that the Constitution outlaws it. I guess I 
read the First Amendment -- and the Tenth -- literally. 
Both of them restrict the powers of the Federal 
Government, specifically Congress, and reserve countless 
powers to the states and the people.

     By and large, liberals are hostile to the states, 
the people, and Christianity, and the Federal courts have 
read their "personal beliefs," if you will, into the 
Constitution. Penumbras and emanations, you know.

     The atheistic reading of the Constitution is now so 
entrenched that liberals regard Christianity as a 
disqualification for a Supreme Court justice. They have 
made an issue of both John Roberts's Catholicism and 
Harriet Miers's Protestantism. Hence Bush's awkward, 
defensive attempt to appease them on the score of Miers's 
"personal beliefs."

     No wonder so many Americans don't trust the Federal 
courts. Liberals are now afraid that if conservatives get 
control of the judiciary, conservative judges will maul 
the Constitution as badly as liberal judges have been 
doing for generations. That would be a pity, but it would 
serve the liberals right. They've brought it on 

     Anyone who believes what the average American 
believed half a century ago -- about the role of the 
courts, abortion, sexual morality, and of course Jesus 
Christ -- is now damned as a "bigot" or "extremist" by 
liberal opinion. That's progress for you. How enlightened 
we've become!


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