Monday, February 13, 2006

BreakPoint | Is the Supreme Court Really Supreme?

BreakPoint Is the Supreme Court Really Supreme?

At the above link is Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint essay about how Lincoln resisted the decision of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott. Lincoln continued to treat black Americans as full citizens despite the implications of the Dred Scott ruling to the contrary. Behind this resistance is not merely the fact that in Lincoln’s time the executive had a stronger will with respect to the Supreme Court, but also a difference in judicial philosophy.

Today the predominant legal philosophy is positivism. Positivism is the idea that the law is whatever legislatures and judges say it is. In the past, men such as Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. took the view that human law had to comport with the boundaries set for it by God’s law in order to be valid or legitimate. As a result, there are times when an act of a legislature or a judicial decision, though handed down with proper respect for appropriate procedures, can still “not be the law” because it is contrary to the clearly expressed law of God. At Trinity we still follow Lincoln and King. We train our students to understand the dominant positive worldview and to work within in, but we also want them to understand the natural law view and that it is the best and most appropriate view.

If the American legal system is going to be reformed from its current crisis, it will be necessary to defeat both the view that law is whatever judges and legislatures say and the view that moral principles evolve and change over time. Law can only be repaired if true timeless moral principles rooted in the nature of God Himself are brought to bear as mooring points to keep the law within its proper bounds.

If a president resists the Supreme Court in reliance upon the divine law revealed in scripture and in general revelation, then he is doing it based upon a higher authority. The same thing is true if the courts strike down an act of the legislature as violative of the right to life or the right to free exercise of religion. The law of God as well as the Constitution are higher laws than the statutes passed by the legislature. If the court or another branch of government seeks to assert authority purely on its own power, this leads to problems. But if the exercise of power is grounded in a genuine higher law, then it is proper.

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