If there were some divided opinion on the role of the Supreme Court and its activism, the June 26 twofer that put aside the Defense of Marriage Act and upheld a lower court determination that Prop 8 was unconstitutional has probably seared the two into irreconcilable ideologies. It is an unfortunate dynamic because, I do not think the court has been as activist or as conservative as people imagine.
Firstly, keep in mind that both Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor we were given a bare 5-4 majority which hardly argues for a radical shift, even if a binding legal opinion.
Secondly, remember the heady days of the George Bush-Religious Right Nexus when the goal was a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Supporters seemed to think that it was necessary to save society from itself—a clear lack of trust and willingness to impose by law what public morality had failed to provide. Ditto for Prop 8.
I do wish there were some reasonable way to get a true national plebiscite on such an issue as gay marriage. Some argue that national elections provide that, but I think them too non-specific and the campaigns too shrill to provide anything like an informed group opinion. As it is, the whole gay agenda has grown out of conditioning by the media and entertainment industry, with doses of indoctrination from an educational school system torn from a coherent value system. We have been left with a “civil rights” agenda that invokes the movement of that name but in reality had an a priori intention to set a new societal norm in apposition to age-old human conventions and almost universal religious understandings. While the conditioning process was decades long, after the first hurdle of legalizing the behavior, the argument became unstoppable; because it was not really about morality anymore, but about fairness and equality!!
As editor of a religious liberty magazine dedicated to civil fairness and a separation of church and state, I am relieved that the court narrowly avoided confirming legislative initiatives that had an almost entirely religious identity and were designed to use the law to project a morality that non-believers might otherwise flout. That is a civil hazard that invites comparison to the dark ages in Europe and the Sharia movement in the Middle East.
As a Christian and a reader of the Bible, complete with some of its predictions about a “latter day” decline of Godliness and morality, I am troubled at where our society is heading. I could wish there were some quick remedy. I could wish both Christians and non-Christians better regarded marriage. There is much evangelization needed. It has always been contingent upon Christians and people of faith to persuade their peers of the power of belief. Now we see definitively that we must speak kindly and clearly. We must not presume that our society automatically responds to faith imperatives or the morality that flows from them. Indeed as priestly scandal and evangelical leadership assignations have shown we need to look to ourselves and our witness first. It took an upper room experience to set some rather dysfunctional apostles about changing the world. They didn’t need an upper court to pull it off for them.
Author: Lincoln E. Steed
Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."