Home » Posts tagged 'Supreme Court'

Tag Archives: Supreme Court

What are Ethics? Part 13: The Perils of Partisanship

Taking Pride in Prejudice

principled_adversity_ganged_up_on_coverPrejudice [prejuh-dis]. Noun. 1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. 2. any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable. 3. unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.


According to these definitions from Dictionary.com, it’s clear that there are two essential components to prejudice: first, it is a form of opinion, not fact; second, it must be unreasonable or preconceived.

Please follow closely here: this implies that, for any opinion to avoid being prejudicial, the one holding that opinion must be able to articulate three things: 1) why he believes his opinion is correct; 2) why those who believe otherwise think they are correct; and 3) why those with whom he argues are wrong.

This is a matter of simple logic. First, if I can’t explain what I believe, then my beliefs are — by definition — prejudicial. Second, if I can’t explain someone else’s opinion, then rejecting that opinion is — also by definition — prejudicial. And third, if I can’t explain why I disagree with someone else’s opinion, that is — again, by definition — prejudicial.

But who am I kidding? We live in a world of sound bites and slogans, a world in which image trumps substance, in which feelings trump logic, in which the loudest voice drowns out all opponents and the most inflammatory rhetoric attracts the largest audiences. The new morality that rages against prejudice is mostly smoke-and-mirrors; indeed, the people who cry out against prejudice the loudest are the most prejudicial people of all.

Click here to read the whole article.

When Prejudices Become Principles

gay-wedding-cake-topperTwo cheers for Freedom to Marry, the gay-rights advocacy group that is taking the unorthodox step of closing its doors for no other reason than because it got what it wants — namely, the redefinition of marriage (according to Anthony Kennedy’s unilateral revision of the constitution).  So I’m adding my small voice to that of the New York Post to praise the group’s president, Evan Wolfson — irrespective of how much I disagree with his position — for having the integrity to take his victory and go home rather than persisting in advocacy for the sake of advocacy.

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that all his allies will do the same.  It took almost no time at all before ABC’s Nightline ran a segment on polyamory, clearly the next step in the dismantling of the nuclear family.  “We’re just trying to be the pioneers like in the civil rights movement,” gushed one member of the “trailblazing triad” trumpeted by network.

Finally, in an inevitable but long-delayed surrender to the tide of history, the Boy Scouts of America have released their hold on traditional values by ending their ban on openly gay troop leaders.  One feeble cheer to the organization for holding out as long as it did.

With the abyss of moral anarchy looming before us, I’m revisiting my thoughts on the subject from six years ago.  At the very least, when archaeologists dig up the remains of Western Civilization some time in the distant future, let them see that Civilization didn’t go down without a fight.


“We must be ever on our guard, lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles.”

This concise jewel of wisdom, from former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, may eventually take its place as either the standard or the epitaph of Western Civilization. While the evolution of social sensitivity can claim an impressive record of civil rights legislation, we have now to question whether our collective obsession with personal privilege threatens the very foundations of the legal system that protects us.

For his inauguration this Tuesday, soon-to-be President Barak Obama has chosen evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation. Instantaneously, the politically correct Left launched its blitzkrieg, excoriating Reverend Warren for the unpardonable sin of supporting Proposition 8, California’s recent gay-marriage ban. Because he used his First Amendment rights to speak his conscience, and because he recognizes his obligation as a representative of religious conviction to defend religious doctrine, Reverend Warren finds himself where almost all defenders of moral integrity now find themselves: under attack by the zealots of moral anarchy.

The offensive against Reverend Warren may not rank among the most disturbing examples in the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 referendum. In Riverside, California, 40 to 50 signs supporting Proposition 8 were found arranged in the form of a swastika on the front lawn of a Roman Catholic church. Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, along with a Catholic Knights of Columbus printing press in Connecticut, received packages containing white powder presumably intended to imitate the 2001 anthrax scare. Reports from around the country include harassment, vandalism, and disruption of church services.

ldbinrobesWhat would Justice Brandeis say?

He probably would not agree with Justice John Paul Stevens, who quoted him in his dissent against the June 28th, 2000, Supreme Court decision allowing the Boy Scouts of America to dismiss an open homosexual from his position as scoutmaster. Invoking Justice Brandeis as a beacon of light to dispel the darkness of prejudice, Justice Stevens (together with the three justices who voted with him) cast his dissenting vote in an effort to canonize his own prejudices within the body of constitutional law.

But if Justice Stevens argued with the reasoning of colleagues in the majority, presumably he accepted the authority of their decision. Not so the moral and legal vigilantes who have deputized themselves as protectors of the American People against both due process of law and the erroneous decisions of the United States Supreme Court.

Back then, government officials and corporate officers across the country began cutting off financial support to the Boy Scouts and restricting their access to public and private resources. Sounding the charge, predictably, was the New York Times, which asserted that “by allowing a group that bans gays to use public facilities and supporting it, they violate their anti-discrimination statutes.” This, of course, was patently false for two reasons. First, BSA never issued any ban against gays, but only refused to allow leaders in its organization who openly advocated behaviors antithetical to BSA’s core values. Second, and most important, is that BSA was not violating any anti-discrimination statues, since that was precisely the point on which the highest court in the land has just ruled.

Lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles.” Wasn’t this kind of self-righteous legalistic coercion precisely what Justice Brandeis warned against? Nothing about the policies of the Boy Scouts, who then faced accusations of prejudice, could be reasonably considered prejudicial. Quite the contrary: through their choice of leaders they have always endeavored to inculcate traditional morals and values among a generation of young people bombarded by the relentless media messages of self-indulgence and self-absorption. That they were vilified for adhering to a moral code should have raised a cry of outrage from every parent, every teacher, every community leader, and every responsible citizen in the nation. But all we heard instead, from the highest elected offices on down, was mealy-mouthed equivocation about diversity and open-mindedness.

Sometimes, however, we can be so open minded that our brains fall out. Indeed, the larger issue now, as then, is whether our personal-rights mentality has given birth to an amoral culture that is systematically becoming mandated by law. Even now, those activists who have announced their intention to turn their backs on Reverend Warren when he delivers his invocation are within their rights to do so and should not be legislated against. But what they consistently fail to realize is that respect for differing opinions that are reached through reason and integrity is essential to the survival of a free and democratic society.

Do we really want to live in the kind of lobotomized society where there is no greater sin than judgmentalism? By definition, where there is no judgment there is no justice. By intuition, where there is no civil discourse there is no civilization. To bash each other over the head with legalistic bludgeons is to act like cavemen, and it leads down the road to social chaos far more directly than it does toward social utopia. It doesn’t allow much room for personal freedom, either.

If there is any change that we should truly hope for, it is that this new administration will lead us into a new era in which we stop demanding that the law protects our every right and start acknowledging our responsibility to uphold the system that makes it possible for us to have any rights at all.

Originally published on Jewish World Review

Can we Stay Honest in a Dishonest World?

DENVER, CO. - MARCH 07: Colorado's high court hears school funding lawsuit arguments, March, 07, 2013. The case, Lobato vs. State of Colorado, was filed in 2005 by a group of parents from around the state and school districts from the San Luis Valley.   LEFT TO RIGHT:  Nathan Coates, Gregory Hobbs, Michael Bender, Nancy Rice, Allison Eyd and Brian Boatright.  , (Photo By RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

The biggest tragedy of the Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage was not the decisions themselves. It was the perception, by both winners and losers, that these decisions were not reached based on legal principle but upon political ideology and personal bias.

Which means that, regardless of which side won, the country as a whole lost.

Honesty has seen its market value tumble over the years with countless reports of plagiarism, factual carelessness, and blatant fabrication. It’s bad enough when such prevarication comes from the media. But what’s really cause for alarm when it becomes the norm among our political leaders.

The sad truth is that truth from our politicians has become far more the exception than the rule. But the brazenness with which they conjure up easily verifiable falsehoods grows ever more astonishing.

Once integrity disappears, the only motive not to lie is fear of not getting away with it — and get away with they have, in a society that has grown indifferent to lying.

We may not be able to stop the lying in politics. But here are ten ways we can prevent the erosion of our own integrity.

Expanded and updated from an article published earlier this year.  Click here to read the whole article.

Elbowing God Out

the-pledge-of-allegiance-and-an-american-flagBack when I possessed the charming innocence of a twelve-year-old, I took offense at the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. Why, I wondered, was I expected to pledge my allegiance to a flag? Proclaiming loyalty to my country I could understand, but to a piece of fabric?

Moreover, as I had concluded with unshakable, preadolescent self-confidence that human existence was nothing more than a cosmic accident, I found the phrase “under God” equally offensive.

So while my classmates were loudly reciting the full text of the Pledge of Allegiance, I was quietly editing my own recitation: I pledge allegiance… to the United States of America… one nation… indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

By my final year in high school, however, having acquired a sufficient measure of sophistication to appreciate the importance of symbolism, I no longer resented being asked to swear loyalty to a flag. But we weren’t reciting the Pledge of Allegiance any more, so I had no chance to mend my ways.

I was also less certain concerning the existence of a Creator. Six years of secondary education had opened my eyes to a universe so enormously complex that to embrace any world view as extreme as atheism seemed the height of arrogance. The phrase “under God,” therefore, struck me as a comforting expression of humility, that we as a nation recognized the grandeur of our universe and conceded its unfathomability.

Perhaps the circuit court judges who ruled the phrase “under God” unconstitutional might have interpreted the law with more humility if they had familiarized themselves not only with the letter, but with the spirit of the Constitution. Perhaps they might have better understood the intent of the Framers if they had read, or remembered, the words of Alexander Hamilton: “The sacred rights of mankind… are written, as with a sun beam in the whole of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

ScreenShot2014-08-01at3.09.15PMConsidering the many references to the Almighty among the writings of the Framers of the Constitution, it’s astonishing how often we hear the Constitution invoked as the basis for expurgating every reference to God from the public arena. If the founding fathers weren’t afraid of mentioning God in the Declaration of Independence, why should we fear the utterance of His name in our courthouses or schools? But many among us are afraid, afraid with a fear born of insecurity.

Indeed, what is more terrifying than the unknown, and what is less known than what awaits us when we depart this mortal coil? As Prince Hamlet pondered: “To sleep? Perchance to dream! Ay, there’s the rub.” For the devout atheist, there is no greater dread than the haunting suspicion that he might be wrong, that there might truly be a Creator and an accounting before Him upon arrival in the hereafter. To the atheist, every reference to God is an unwelcome reminder that the rest of the world is not so certain that our existence is random and without purpose.

The great Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik summed it up like this: “All extremism, fanaticism and obscurantism come from a lack of security. A person who is secure cannot be an extremist.” And, indeed, extremism in the form of radical religion or radical nihilism is one and the same. The 19th century anarchist used techniques not unlike the suicide bomber of today to advance his own variety of jihad. The modern anarchist uses manipulation of the law to advance his cause, supremely confidant that he understands the Constitution better than its authors.

The Talmud describes how, during the last days of the second Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people observed the law of the Torah meticulously according to its letter. But they failed to look beyond the letter of the law, to strive for understanding and fulfilling of the spirit of the law, to labor in applying the essence of the law toward the transformation of their character. This failure, together with a senseless hatred born of mutual suspicion, mutual contempt and, ultimately, the uncompromising assertion of their own egos, resulted in the destruction of the Temple, the deaths of millions of Jews, and the beginning of our long, dark exile scattered among the nations of the earth.

It has been observed that the word ego is in fact an acronym for Elbow God Out. A daily reminder that we should receive our national freedoms with humility is among the surest means of preserving those freedoms for our children. Close to two thousand years ago, instead of subduing their egos before the Highest Authority, instead of subjugating their ideological differences to the pursuit of shalom, peace, the Jews distorted Divine law to serve their own agendas, thereby sealing their fate and the fate of the Temple.

The sages teach that any generation that does not rebuild the Temple is considered to have destroyed it. But if we return to the law with humility and reverence, then we can truly hope to rebuild that which for so long has been lost.

Adapted from an article previously published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Baltimore Sun, and Aish.com.

Why Marriage Matters

Just married couple, holding hands and walking in nature

From the United States Constitution to the French Revolution, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the 19th Amendment, from the Civil Rights Act to last week’s Supreme Court decision affirming the right to gay marriage, the world has taken (by a vote of 5 to 4) another great step forward on the road to universal equality and justice.

That’s what the pundits would like us to think.  Except that it wasn’t a step forward.

And, more important, it was never about the right to marry…

As an institution, marriage created a moral structure upon which all other moral structures found purchase:  Partnership, self-sacrifice and, perhaps most critically, respect for the natural boundaries and limits imposed by the design of the universe in which we live.  Human beings took for granted the imperative to conform to nature’s laws and nature’s plan.  Individual desire and ambition learned to submit to a higher reality and universal truths.  Personal gratification was not the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong in a society that required cooperative spirit and collective commitment to ideals that extended beyond oneself.

Click here to read the whole article.

Proverbial Beauty: Read now at Amazon.com