Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Replacing Justice Antonin Scalia?

He will certainly go down in history as one of the greatest and most influential Supreme Court judges of all time. His name was Antonin Gregory Scalia and he became the first Italian-American to serve on  the nation’s high court back in 1986. The Reagan appointee was born in 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey. He attended Georgetown University and later received his law degree from Harvard.

Scalia served on the U.S. Supreme Court for nearly thirty years while establishing a consistently conservative voting record. He was described as the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court's conservative wing. He was perhaps the leading voice of uncompromising conservatism on America’s highest court.

On the issue of separation of church and state, Scalia was a consistent voice for accommodation between the two. When the Court struck down a Louisiana law that mandated the teaching of creationism, Scalia was dismissive of evolution calling it merely a "guess and a very bad guess at that." And when the Court struck down a spoken prayer at a public school graduation, Scalia angrily dissented and wrote, "To deprive our society of that important unifying mechanism in order to spare the nonbeliever what seems to me the minimal inconvenience of standing or even sitting in respectful non-participation is as senseless in policy as it is unsupported in law,"

Scalia died on either the night of February 12 or the morning of February 13, 2016, at Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in west Texas. Media sources have described the cause of death as coming from apparent natural causes, later confirmed to be a heart attack.

Antonin Gregory Scalia was a great judge and a great man. He will be missed far and wide even by those he never met but who were impacted by his presence on the Supreme Court. And, of course, he will be missed by friends and family the most. Fortunately, this man seemed to have a serious spiritual ingredient as well. And many solid Christians who knew him felt him to be in heaven today as evidenced by what he wrote, said and believed.

But Scalia’s death did come at a most unfortunate time being just nine months before the presidential election. As is normal practice, it is the current president who nominates new candidates to become part of the Supreme Court. And, as is typical, the nation’s leader will select those who share his beliefs and views on cultural issues and how the Constitution is interpreted. Yes, judges are supposed to be unbiased, neutral and fair. But everyone knows that is not fully possible since everyone has core beliefs that determine their views and actions. Simply stated, the high court of the land decides the general direction of the nation itself whenever they make their far reaching decisions.

This reality brought intense and instantaneous reaction over the next member of the Court who will fill this critical vacancy. Selecting another conservative judge like Scalia would leave the Court about where it is now. But if a Democratic president selects the next candidate, then the entire court becomes instantly more liberal. This would mean that many life-altering decisions would reflect that philosophy very quickly.

The fight is already intense. Many are stating that current lame duck President Obama should not fill the gap left by Scalia. They claim this task should be done by his replacement in order to best represent the majority of the nation’s voters come November. But it is hard to believe at this point that will ever happen. Why would a very liberal president skip this opportunity to further stamp his image on the future of the culture while he is able to do so in this manner?

So, in the midst of the battle for who becomes the next President of the United States, that there is going to be a second and simultaneous battle. This other struggle will also have the potential to influence the lives of all Americans for decades to come. The stakes could not be much higher. Both the election of a president and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice will impact every one of us in just about every imaginable sphere of life.

In light of it all, perhaps the most crucial thing we can start with is to consider doing what we are commanded to do in the first letter of Paul to Timothy. Paul puts it as follows:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority,  that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:1-5)

God’s will is that His people pray for all who devise and enforce the laws that govern their nation. But it would also seem, from this particular passage, that there should be an equal effort to select leadership that will make it possible and easier to live in a way that reflects both godliness and reverence. Yes, our prayers should be for all placed in authority. But our preference should be to select those who best reflect Biblical views and Godly standards. The reason is simple and simply stated in Psalm 127:1.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.”

Bill Breckenridge