It’s been over a week since I sat in the august chamber of the United States Supreme Court, listening to Chief Justice John Roberts deliver the most watched-for opinion in as long as 40 years. It was a real roller-coaster ride for me–just about as terrifyingly brief as the theme park version. As the Chief began, it seemed clear a majority of the justices had shot down the president’s signature legislation. A moment later, it became clear they had not. I went outside the court, addressed clergy and lay activists, did a few media interviews, then laid prostrate on the pavement in repentant prayer for a government that had egregiously violated it’s God-given boundaries.
Having said that, I must tell you two more things: I found myself in deep conflict. I know many people who will benefit greatly from this law–my own family members among them. I was deeply concerned for those who thought if the law had been struck down, they would have been bereft of the health care they so desperately need. I’m sorry for those anxious months of waiting. Of course, only time will tell whether government can deliver on its many promises. After all, it has let us down more than once. My greater concern, though, is for the unwilling patients–that is the pre-born and “being-born” for whom the government is sure to deliver its promised maiming and death. The health care law will be a huge boost to the abortion industry and to its merchants of death and suffering.
Now for the second thing I wanted to say, which may be harder for me to explain. I don’t blame John Roberts for any of this. John Roberts did not make the law on which he ruled. That was the Congress at the instigation of the President. I blame them. John Roberts did what I would expect him to: he held to his convictions. He doesn’t want the Court to be an activist one for the right or for the left. The way I know John Roberts, I believe he was quite sincere in believing this was the way to accomplish that objective.
I know plenty of my colleagues and friends–especially the Supreme Court lawyers among them–strongly disagree with me. They believe John Roberts abandoned his conservative, constitutionally-based beliefs. Well, I’ll leave the legal analysis up to the legal experts. They’ll determine how sound Robert’s constitutional reasoning was. My concern is only the judgment of the man I know; a man of sincere Christian faith, deep devotion to his family, and love of his country. He also has a brilliant mind, yet he remains remarkably humble and very approachable.
From my pastoral perspective, John Roberts is a good man, even if, in the estimation of many, he made a bad decision in this case. I’m enough of a Calvinist in my theology to believe none of this escapes the knowledge, nor will, of an Almighty God. If it reminds us of anything, it’s that we can never place our ultimate hope for anything in the hands of human beings. God is our source. We must always turn to Him–and not to government–to help us. The liberals cannot save society–as they have hoped to do for more than a century now–and, now we know, neither can the conservatives!
Please continue to pray for Chief Justice John Roberts and his family. I’d be overjoyed to tell him you are doing so.
PS Perhaps the worse news for many: It’s back in our hands as the electorate. Pray for your members of Congress, then contact them. Tell them how you feel and what you want them to do. Write the President. Write Mitt Romney. (Or, Ron Paul, for that matter!) Get registered–and vote. Then, perhaps you won’t need anything from John Roberts or anyone else. You will have been used by God in answer to your own prayers!
Sitting in the chamber of the United States Supreme Court is always a signal act of American citizenship. Today it was that and more.
As you know, I do a lot at the Supreme Court, and I’m there frequently for a variety of reasons, but yesterday and today were extraordinary in every way. First, the Court’s usual shield of obscurity was lifted by the media limelight. There were also crowds outside where normally just a few clusters of tourists can be seen and where passers-by hurry to lunch or to their offices. And inside, the pew-like benches were filled with top Washington figures, including members of Congress, representatives of the Obama Administration, and famous lawyers and activists from all sides.
These were unusual days for me for another reason. For the first time in years I couldn’t secure a reserved seat. The last time that happened was for the two Bush v. Gore cases over the 2000 presidential election. Like then, though, I found there’s always another way, and, thanks be to God, it worked. Not only did I get in, but I was able to take with me attorney Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, (son to my good friend Jay Sekulow , who was busy doing media all day) and a constitutional expert in his own right. Jordan helped me sort out the nuances of the arcane arguments.
Of course, my role at the Court is not as a lawyer; I am a minister. My observation of the justices and their interaction with the government and civilian lawyers before them was more “pastoral.” I like to prayerfully study their body language and facial expressions, the tone of their voices and what makes them furl their brows. Pastors do a lot of that and I have always found it very revealing. This time was no disappointment.
With Jordan’s helpful guidance, the prayers of our team outside, and the visuals in the courtroom, I came away with a strong sense that four members are resolutely opposed to the idea of the government mandating that every American purchase insurance products that they may not want, for some, because they find them to be morally repugnant. Once again, the fulcrum appears to be Justice Anthony Kennedy. He asked incisive questions of both sides, but definitely furled his brow on the question of fundamentally changing the relation of the citizen with government.
My deepest concern, of course, remains with what some are calling the “power grab” by government. Ordering citizens to purchase a certain form of insurance, even if that purchase is in conflict with their own conscience, religious, moral, and ethical beliefs, is an egregious violation of church and state. The church helps shape and form the conscience through its proclamation of the Gospel. The state simply guarantees the individual the right to act on that conscience with minimal intrusion. I believe the new law (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PAACA) not only fails in this paramount responsibility to protect individual liberty, but it actually militates against it. For that reason, it violates the First Amendment, and should be struck down. Because the particular question of compelling religious organizations wasn’t before the Court, if the law is struck down, it will likely be for another reason, but the effect will be the same.
I’m not able to be in the courtroom tomorrow for the third and final day of argument, but I will have two people inside with front row seats. I’ll debrief with them afterward and listen to the recording of the arguments. That will surely give me more to write here. In the mean time, watch for our daily videos at www.faithandaction.org.
Yours in continuous prayer,