JACKSON –— The American interest in U.S. Supreme Court appointments is well-founded. The court holds enormous power.
There has been much talk about election fraud and what would happen if the presidential voting results are in dispute. Some people believe President Trump would refuse to recognize the results if defeated.
I consider such speculation political wackiness. Our country is far too stable. But if something like that happened, two things would result: The U.S. Supreme Court would make a ruling to resolve the dispute. The U.S. military would back the Supreme Court. End of story.
Ultimately, in any country, the group with the weapons has the final say. This has never been tested in the United States, but I believe our military leaders would be traditional and conservative. The military is an old, structured, conservative institution in this country, and they would protect the republic.
Back to guns. The largest standing army in the world is non-military American gun owners. Our liberal gun ownership laws may cause more violence, but one huge benefit of an armed citizenry is protection against evil totalitarian forces.
So rest easy. The election results will be followed. You can count on that.
As the ultimate arbiter of controversial disputes, the Supreme Court has enormous power and its makeup can determine the future course of our country.
With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, the court was supposed to be firmly conservative. But things didn’t turn out as planned by the Republican Party. Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by George W. Bush, has been siding with the four more liberal members in the court on big decisions, thwarting the conservatives on the court.
This is a big surprise. Roberts was an associate counsel to Ronald Reagan and clerked for conservative judges. Two things are motivating these surprising decisions: First, as chief justice, Roberts is seeking to avoid any dramatic reversals of major precedents, which could invoke a backlash such as court-packing. Second, Roberts’ judicial philosophy is such that he rarely seeks to overrule the will of the people as expressed through the legislative process.
The four conservative judges have a different legal philosophy. They see their role as protecting the Constitution from legislative abuse. They are more intent in overruling Congress and the president on constitutional grounds. It’s simply a difference in judicial philosophy rather than a political slant.
This divide greatly affected Mississippi this spring when two Supreme Court 5-4 decisions refused to support churches when governors restricted church attendance because of COVID emergency mandates.
A fundamental tenet of Christianity is obedience to governmental authority. Christians believe public officials are put in place by the will of God, even if we can’t understand God’s bigger plan. Christians are good citizens.
There is only one exception: Government cannot interfere with Christians’ relationship to God and church. Government cannot force Christians to worship another God, and they will die for this value.
So how should a Christian react to a government mandate forbidding churches to congregate? It’s a gray area.
Almost all churches in Mississippi and the nation have been understanding and cooperative with COVID emergency mandates. But as COVID drags on and becomes less of an emergency and more of an accepted part of our lives, who gets to decide when churches are free to congregate without restrictions?
This is where Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett could have a big impact on Mississippi churches. She has strong Christian roots. Her one vote could turn the tide and give churches freedom to congregate again without restriction.
Not that most churches would embrace policies that were dangerous to their congregations. Church leadership could well keep following COVID restrictions voluntarily when it protects the health of the congregation. The question is who gets to decide. The church leadership or a public official? It’s a big deal for Mississippians, most of whom go to church regularly and for whom the church is a huge part of their lives.
It isn’t just that churches are faced with the same restrictions as private businesses. It’s that churches are subject to more restrictive mandates than casinos, movie theaters and the like.
In Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley versus Steve Sisolak, Governor of Nevada, the church argued Nevada limits church to a total of 50 congregants, but casinos are allowed to have 50% of capacity, which is hundreds of people.
The church lost. Justice Roberts ruled with the four liberal members of the court. Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Thomas dissented.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote:
“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. Under the governor’s edict, a 10-screen multiplex may host 500 moviegoers at any time.”
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote. “A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there.
“But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshipers — no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all.”
Only a governor who has little faith could subject churches to greater restrictions than movie theaters casinos and restaurants. Our Constitution specifically protects freedom of religion. It’s a shame that despite this protection, churches have been subjected to more restrictions than private businessess.
In all probability this issue will fade away eventually as COVID fades, but these cases are an ominous sign of the threats to religion in our modern secular society. It underscores the importance of good appointments to the Supreme Court.