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Summer 2000
David Barton - 06/2000

The Supreme Court: Creating a Nation at Risk

Decisions will be rendered by the Supreme Court this term on four separate areas related to religion and morality: homosexuality, school prayer, public decency, and abortion.

In the case on homosexuality, the Court will decide whether the Boy Scouts can be forced to hire homosexuals. The potential effects from this decision are far-reaching. If the Court decides that private organizations that reach out to the public cannot set their own standards for morality, then churches likely will fall within the scope of the Court's decision and thus may be prevented from applying their Biblical moral standards either to hirings or to their use of volunteers.

In the prayer case, the Court will decide whether students may participate in student-initiated, student-led prayers at athletic events. This is the first prayer case the Court has faced since eight years ago when it narrolwly decided against adult-led graduation prayers. Even though two very liberal Clinton Justices who are likely to oppose these prayers have been added since that last case, it still appears possible that this year's decision may favor the students.

A third case of interest was whether cities could ban nude dancing. Six years ago, the Court upheld a State ban of nude dancing, but by agreeing to hear this year's case, many wondered if the Supreme Court now intended to overturn the ban. Fortunately, it did not; and its decision in this case was actually stronger than six years ago. In fact, Justices Scalia and Thomas wrote, "The traditional power of government to foster good morals, and the acceptability of the traditional judgment that nude public dancing itself is immoral, have not been repealed by the First Amendment."

The fourth case of importance to traditional morality is whether a State may ban partial-birth abortions. Over thirty States have enacted this ban in the last four years, but nearly two thirds of those bans have been struck down by federal judges. This case will determine whether States may indeed ban this barbaric procedure.

There are at least two significant sidelights to the partial-birth abortion case. The first involves the Clinton administration's request to appear before the Court in this case. While it is not unusual for presidential administrations to request time to offer their views in abortion cases, this is the first time that an administration has sought to argue for abortions. (Under the Reagan and Bush administrations, the governemnt always argued against abortions.) Significantly, the Supreme Court refused to allow the Clinton administration to intervene--the first time the Court has turned down any administration's request to speak to the abortion issue.

The second significant sidelight to this case is a recent national poll which found an overwhelming sixty-eight percent of Americans supporting a ban on partial-birth abortions, with only twenty percent opposing a ban. Surprisingly, women opposed partial birth abortions by a greater percentage than men, and younger Americans opposed it by a great percentage than their elders. There are not many things on which two-thirds of Americans agree, but banning partial-birth abortions is one.

President Clinton and a Four-Century American Tradition

Last November, America celebrated 377 years of publicly thanking God at Thanksgiving. The tradition dates to 1621, when the Pilgrims set aside a time to celebrate "the goodness of God." The Pilgrims, as serious students of the Bible, were simply obeying the frequently recurring command, "Give thanks unto the Lord." Subsequent generations and leaders also obeyed those Scriptural admonitions and issued Thanksgiving proclamations with strong Biblical language.

In fact, when President George Washington declared the nation's first Thanksgiving under the Constitution in 1789, it was specifically to follow the precedent of the Scriptures to give thanks to God (see the Congressional Record for September 25, 1789). For nearly two centuries following, the practice and the purpose of Thanksgiving remained a time of giving thanks to God. Yet, in recent years there has been a concerted effort to secularize completely this holiday.

For example, Department of Education researcher Dr. Paul C. Vitz reports that in history textbooks used in our public schools, up to thirty pages are dedicated to the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving--without a single mention of the Pilgrims' devout faith in God! In fact, Thanksgiving is even described as a time "when the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians."

Unfortunately, this year's Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Clinton contributes to the secularization of this holiday. While the President did barely--and only barely--succeed in mentioning the word "God," the predominant emphasis of his proclamation was for Americans to say "thank you" to everyone except God.

President Clinton inaccurately characterized the original Thanksgiving as a time "when the Pilgrims of the Old World mingled in fellowship and celebration with the American Indians of the New World" in order to "live together in peace with respect and appreciation for our differences and to draw on one another's strengths in the work of building a great and unified Nation."

President Clinton then explained that the purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday was for us "to be thankful for the many contributions each generation of Americans has made to preserve our blessings. We are thankful for the brave patriots. . . . for the men and women who have worked this land. . . . for the leaders and visionaries who have challenged us. . . . for the countless quiet heroes and heroines who work hard each day." President Clinton concluded, "Each of us has reason to be proud of our part in building America, and each of us has reason to be grateful to our fellow Americans for the success of these efforts."

A comparison of this proclamation with those of President Clinton's predecessors--whether Democrats or Republicans--shows an obvious absence of any reliance on Almighty God.

For example, in contrast, in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson declared: "[I]t is our desire to observe, in the custom and tradition of our forebears, a special day dedicated to giving thanks to God--a day on which to lay aside our daily tasks and cares and pay joyous homage to Him. We are impelled to raise our voices in His praise and to proclaim our heartfelt gratitude." And in 1985 President Ronald Reagan declared: "[T]here is no question but that this treasured custom [Thanksgiving] derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. 'Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,' the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the 'wondrous works' of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers."

Happily for us, President Clinton is not the American's only voice to God. Let us, therefore--even though it is well beyond the Thanksgiving Holiday--make a special emphasis to be thankful to God for His many blessings on us as a nation.

A Change in Store

Even though the current Court is not considered conservative, it nevertheless is far too conservative for presidential nominee Al Gore. The Court recently, through a series of very narrow 5-4 decisions, has been expanding the States' authority to make their own moral, religious, and internal policies. Following one such decision, Gore strongly criticized the Court, but then consoled this supporters by noting that the next President likely would appoint three Justices, thus indicating his intent to move the Court further left. Gore next criticized nominee Bush because Bush has identified conservative Justice Scalia as one of his "favorites" on the Court. (The conservative wing of the Court is composed of Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and Chief-Justice Rehnquist; there are also three moderates and three liberals on the Court.)

So difficult has it become for the three conservatives on the Court, however, that a frustrated Justice Scalia recently suggested that he may retire from the Court if Bush does not win the presidental election. He forsees that if Gore wins and places additional liberals on the Court, there will be no immediate opportunity either to preserve or to restore our constitutional, moral, and religious foundations.

The comments both of nominee Gore and Justice Scalia serve to remind us that more is at stake this November than simply the election of our next President. Voters must also choose which judicial philosophy and which morality will guide the nation for decades to come when they vote for a President this fall.

Good News from Across the Country

Many Christians are discouraged by frequent news reports of victories for beliefs and forms of behavior that most God-fearing, moral Americans oppose. With such a steady diet of apparent defeats of traditional values, one might think that all is lost. It is not. In fact, in the words of the prophet Elisha, "Fear not! Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Samuel 6:16). Indeed, we are winning more than we are losing, but it is just that we rarely hear the good news. So, here's some!

Oklahoma just passed a bill requiring biology books in that State to "include acknowledgment that human life was created by one God of the universe." While news sources continue to belittle such efforts (including that made by the Kansas State Board of Education a few month ago), the public seems to be solidly behind this approach. In fact, People for the American Way--a liberal group opposed to the teaching of creation in schools--must have been greatly distressed when it learned from a poll it had commissioned that seventy-four percent of the nation believed that the theory of evolution "has not yet been proven scientifically" and that seventy-nine percent supported the inclusion of creation explanations in public schools. An earlier poll by Fox News found that only 15 percent of the nation believed that evolution provides the best explanation for our origins!

The U. S. Supreme Court has let stand a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals permitting an Arizona county jail system to ban the possession of pornography by inmates--and the Ninth Circuit has long been considered the most liberal, reactionary Court of Appeals in the nation!

In Florida, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that student-led, student-intitiated speech does not have to be censored for religious content. While this seems like a no-brainer, amazingly, courts such as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that student prayers may be censored to remove offensive words such as "Jesus." Fortunately, not all courts are as wacky as the Fifth Circuit has become in the last few years following an influx of appointees from President Clinton.

In Ohio, a judge sentencing a defendant for the rape of a five year-old girl consulted Matthew 18:5-6 in her decision. The defendant therefore appealed his sentence, expecting a favorable result. After all, in 1998 in Nebraska, the sentence of a man convicted of sodomizing a young boy was overturned because a Bible verse was mentioned in the courtroom, and in 1991 in Pennsylvania, the sentence of a man convicted of the murder of an elderly woman was overturned because the prosecutor had cited a verse from Ezekial in the courtroom. However, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with the judge rather than the defendant, declaring, "The State views the judge's reference to the particular Biblical verse at issue as the functional equivalent of the judge's consideration of . . . sentencing guidelines which concerns the age of the victim. We agree with the State that the sentencing court's reference to the Book of Matthew acknowledged her consideration of the societal interst in protecting children." The State of Ohio belives that the Bible contributes something useful to a civilized society and the criminal justice system!

Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating recently issued a proclamation declaring a "Sanctity of Marriage Day" to promote the Oklahoma Marriage Covenant which asks individuals to affirm: "I believe that marriage is a covenant intended by God to be a lifelong relationship between a man and woman. I promise to God, to my family, and my community to encourage couples to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation, and sexual purity." The program asks couples seeking marriage to participate in premarital counseling that emphasizes the spiritual foundation of their relationship. This is reminiscent of how marriage was viewed in America for decades, as, for example, when a 1913 court declared:

Marriage was not originated by human law. When God created Eve, she was a wife to Adam; they then and there occupied the status of husband to wife and wife to husband. . . . [Marriage] will produce a home and family that will contribute to good society, to free and just government, and to the support of Christianity. . . . It would be sacrilegious to apply the designation "a civil contract" to such a marriage. It is that and more; a status ordained by God." Grigsby v. Reib

Although we often see scenes of those who disdain traditional marriage (such as the recent rallly in Washington, DC, in which 1,000 homosexuals were "married"), rarely do we hear of the numerous praiseworthy efforts of States like Oklahoma, Louisiana, Michigan, etc., or of the nearly three dozen States that have recently reaffirmed their support for traditional marriage, family, and home, by banning same-sex "marriages"!

Teachers & Lawyers: Better Representation

For teachers who want to distance themselves from the radical National Education Association (NEA), the new booklet Disassociation from the NEA outlines ways that educators may separate themselves individually (or as a local group) from the NEA or any other teachers' union. To order a copy of this work, contact the Education Policy Institute at (202) 244-7535, or access the booklet through their website at www.educationpolicy.org.

Similarly, many attorneys are no longer comfortable being affiliated with their largest legal group, the American Bar Association. Although that organization began as a praiseworthy body, like so many legal entites in recent years, it has moved dramatically to the left. It no longer remains neutral on positions of law but now supports socailly liberal positions, including abortion on demand, homosexual rights, restriction of public religious expression, etc.

However, attorneys may now affiliate themsevles with the National Lawyers Association, a legal organization that supports the traditional moral and religious values foundational to our governing documents. The mission statement of the National Association, in its own words is to:

"1. Preserve and protect the structure of the government of the United States of America as establisyhed by its Founding Fathers.

"2. Promote the principles and transcendent truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence including but not limited to the Sanctity of Life, the Rule of Law, Equality, Justice.

"3. Improve the image of the legal profession by promoting and encouraging members to adopt and maintain the highest of ethical and moral standards.

"4. Provide services, benefits, technology, education, guidance, and professional assistance to its members.

"5. Encourage members and the legal community as a whole to earn the respect and trust of the American people by conducting themselves with professionalism and integrity at all times."

What a refreshing set of principles! (By the way, their "Member's Pledge" is equally uplifting and may be read on their website.) If you want to become a member of the NLA, they may be contacted at 1-800-471-2994, or through their website at www.nla.org.

Judge Upholds Right to Pray at the Capitol

The book of Nehemiah is special to WallBuilders. Not only is our name is taken from that book but we also believe that it provides excellent guidance on how citizens may work together to rebuild a country's infrastructure and thus restore it to a place of public honor. In America, our infrastructure had long been built on our adherence to God's principles, and the rapid public retreat from His standards over recent decades causes the challenge issued by Nehemiah centuries ago to be relevant today: "Look at the distress we are in. Come, let us rebuild . . . so that we may no longer be a reproach" (Nehemiah 2:17)

In seeking to restore our constitutional, religious, and moral foundations, WallBuilders tries to apply principles from the book of Nehemiah, including that of the cooperative efforts of Nehemiah and Ezra. Nehemiah was an activist in the civil arena (as governor, he focused on enacting good policy, strengthening marriage, reforming lending laws, etc.) while Ezra was an activist in the spiritual arena (as a priest and teacher, he led the people in prayer, worship, the study of God's word, etc.).

Too often in the Christian community today, political activists and spiritual activists seem to oppose each other. The political activists want to see the spiritual activists (the intercessors, evangelists, pastors, etc.) become more directly involved in the civil arena while the spiritual activists often wish that their counterparts would become more "spiritual-minded." However, the book of Nehemiah teaches that it takes both cooperating with each other to restore a nation, for we find Nehemiah and Ezra working side by side to rebuild their city and rededicate it to God.

Because we believe that activists in the policy arena should work with activists in the spiritual arena, WallBuilders has individuals from both spheres working together on our staff. While we have activists who labor to see education, law, the courts, etc., return to our foundational principles, we also have prayer leaders who know how to take the battle to the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12).

One of our prayer coordinators is Sandy Grady; and just as I often lead Congressmen, Capitol Hill staff, and elected officials on spiritual heritage tours of the U. S. Capitol building, Sandy Grady often leads teams of intercessors and pastors from across the nation on prayer tours of the city, including the U. S. Capitol building.

When one group arrived in Washington seeking a prayer tour of the Capitol, Sandy was unavailable to lead that group and therefore asked a pastor friend, Pierre Bynum, to take her place. At one location in the Capitol, the group stopped, and individuals bowed their heads, folded their hands, and offered a prayer for our leaders and the nation. Amazingly, police officers approached the group and told them that they could not pray in the Capitol building and that if they continued to do so, they would be arrested. Pastor Bynum took the issue to court.

On March 31, 2000, federal judge Paul L. Friedman issued his ruling prohibiting the Capitol Hill Police from restricting the "act of bowing one's head, closing one's eyes, and clasping one's hands," declaring that the police were "enjoined and restrained from enforcing, threatening to enforce, or attempting to enforce the ban on prayer."

The controversy--and especially its outcome--demonstrates why God-fearing people need to be involved in the policy arena as well as in the prayer arena. Recall that in the book of Ezra, the priests Ezra and Zerubbabel sought nothing more than to have the people worship God in the manner God had prescribed, including public prayer. However, their opponents successfully used legal challenges to halt their activities (Ezra 4:5). That legal ban continued until a new administration took over, with Nehemiah named as their new governor. With a new king, and especially a new God-fearing governor, the former legal restrictions against public prayer and worship were lifted. Very simply, good political leadership provides a political protection which permits the church to do more easily what God has called it to do, at least without government interference or persecution.

"Gun" Control!

In New Jersey, four kindergarten students were suspended. The reason? While playing "cops and robbers" during recess, the students committed the unpardonable sin--at least in terms of political correctness: they pretended that their fingers were guns and pointed them at each other! They thus violated the zero-tolerance policy for guns at school and were disciplined. Perhaps Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) on the classic Andy Griffith Show was more accurate than he knew when, years ago, he declared that he could not put his hands in his pockets, for he would then be guilty of carrying concealed weapons!



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