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 clichés 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.
Ive heard this expression once too often, I guess. What on earth is a personal belief? All beliefs are personal.
I get the impression that a personal belief is one you dont really believe. Or at least one you dont 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. Arent 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 lifes 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 cant 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 its hardly neutral. C.S. Lewis exposes this bogus neutrality in his books Miracles and The Abolition of Man.
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 dont say the Constitution bans it, because it plainly doesnt.
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 dont 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 Robertss Catholicism and Harriet Mierss Protestantism. Hence Bushs awkward, defensive attempt to appease them on the score of Mierss personal beliefs.
No wonder so many Americans dont 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. Theyve brought it on themselves.
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. Thats progress for you. How enlightened weve become!
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