As of June 21st, summer is finally here, complete with long days, camping, symphonies in the park, fireworks and Supreme Court decisions.
As Dr. James Dobson once said, “America is in a Civil War of values, and the prize to the victor is the next generation, our children and our grandchildren.” And nowhere is that Civil War more evident than on the battlefield of the Supreme Court. It’s become all too apparent: we are a nation divided right down the middle with very little middle ground remaining. We’ve become a nation that’s very black and white with very little gray. We see it in our razor-thin elections; we see it on our college campuses; and we see it in a myriad of 5-4 decisions at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fortunately, there appears to be some light at the end of this very dark tunnel. Last week we talked about a unanimous decision upholding the right to speak freely. This week the Supreme Court gave us several more surprises. The first was a 7-2 victory in a case out of Missouri where a Christian school was denied a state grant to resurface its playground just because the school had a religious affiliation. We’ve argued for years that this is blatant viewpoint discrimination, and yesterday the Court agreed. This strikes at the heart of so-called Blaine Amendments. Montana has this language in our Constitution, and it’s used to deny religious schools the same rights available to schools that are non-religious. As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement, “This decision marks a great day for the Constitution and sends a clear message that religious discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated.”
The second victory came when the Court agreed to hear a case out of Colorado where a Christian-owned bakery refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. As we discussed last week, this case falls under the heading of compelled speech: forcing someone under penalty of law to promote a message or philosophy with which they disagree. This case is no different than forcing a Jewish baker to decorate a cake with a pro-Nazi message or to force a homosexual baker to decorate a cake with a gay slur. The baker in Colorado was ordered to decorate cakes for same-sex weddings and was also forced to send his entire staff to sensitivity training, which is a topic for another day.
The bottom line is that the Court agreed to hear the case, and by the time they do, we could have a new Justice on the Bench. There’s been talk recently that Justice Kennedy might retire, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been in poor health for years. Replacing either one with a Trump appointee would probably swing the Court to the right. Replacing both would swing the Court to the right for decades.
As Dr. Dobson (Children at Risk, 1990) said, We’re in a “Civil War of values” (p. 19). Will we eventually come together under a united vision with a common sense of purpose, or will we remain fractured and complacent? The choice is ours, and for our sake, I hope we choose wisely.