The surprise death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 19 has renewed conversations about the significance of the Supreme Court in our country. Originally designed to be the least partisan and least powerful branch of government, today the Supreme Court serves as the ultimate political battleground. Justices are deeply divided between liberal judicial activism and conservative judicial restraint, loose versus strict constructionism, and whether to view the Constitution as a living document that must grow and adapt to new circumstances or to interpret the Constitution according the apparent original intent of the framers. While relatively balanced between these two philosophies, the Court has demonstrated a growing proclivity towards “discovering” previously unseen constitutional rights and enforcing transformational change apart from our country’s legislature.
What really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch [“Putsch” is defined as “a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government]. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.
In a moment, the Supreme Court rejected a definition of marriage that was universally accepted by all civilizations and at all points in history until the 21 Century, and it immediately overturned every state effort to ban same-sex marriage. Rarely have we witnessed in this country so much power for transformation. The opinion of five unelected Justices was sufficient to upend years of legislative effort and millennia of social order.
It is because of such power that appointments of Supreme Court Justices to the bench have assumed an existential flare which justifies nearly any tactic necessary to “protect” the Court. Concerned that the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018 could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, his opponents went so far as to accuse him of sexual assault. Hours before the Senate’s scheduled vote to nominate Kavanaugh, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) released a statement saying that she had referred to the FBI allegations of misconduct by Kavanaugh 36 years ago when he was in high school. Despite being denied access to the letter; discrepancies in the testimony; the lack of corroborating evidence; the absence of the most serious details, including the time and location; and the denial under oath of the event by every alleged witness, senators ideologically opposed to Kavanaugh quickly rallied around Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the alleged victim.
Over the next several days, additional accusers came forward. Senators relayed anonymous claims of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Deborah Ramirez suddenly remembered, after six days of “carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney,” that Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a college party 35 years earlier. And Julie Swetnick claimed to have witnessed Brett Kavanaugh in the 1980s spike a punch bowl with drugs at well over ten house parties in order to target particular girls so they could be gang raped by a train of numerous boys.
Perhaps Kavanaugh’s most aggressive accuser was the news media who breathlessly reported an avalanche of unsubstantiated rumors while actively looking for additional witnesses who could testify against Kavanaugh. For weeks, NBC News even sat on evidence that exonerated Kavanaugh of Julie Swetnick’s accusations. Perhaps Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) best summarized this entire process when he called the situation an “intergalactic freak show.”
Ultimately, Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony collapsed under its own weight with special victims prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who questioned Dr. Ford during the Congressional hearing, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to satisfy the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, noting that Blasey’s case was “even weaker” than a “he said, she said” case. Many of Kavanaugh’s other accusers have been referred to the Justice Department for knowingly providing false statements and obstructing a Congressional investigation. And the Senate Judiciary Committee released a 414-page report exonerating Judge Brett Kavanaugh of all wrongdoing.
Such overreaction and total war tactics are a direct consequence of placing too much hope in a handful of Justices. Liberals and conservatives alike have entrusted their moral aspirations for our nation to the nine Justices who serve on the Supreme Court. On one side of the political aisle, the Supreme Court is our country’s greatest hope for realizing gender equality, racial justice, environmental protections, and any number of additional issues assigned a moral value by the political left. On the other side of the aisle, conservatives view the Supreme Court as our country’s greatest hope for protecting the lives of the unborn, bodily autonomy, preserving religious liberty, and any number of additional issues assigned a moral value by the political right. For far too many, the Supreme Court has become the final bastion of hope for any with moral concerns in our country. It is the ultimate means of forcibly converting others to our moral cause.
Until now, both parties have been on relatively equal footing regarding their efforts to use the Supreme Court to further their agendas. Even with the death of Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy the ideology of the Court has remained relatively stable. Both Justices leaned politically right in their judicial philosophy, and they were replaced with Justices who likewise lean politically right. But with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, everything could change. For decades, she has been the face of liberalism on the Supreme Court. Ignoring traditional decorum, she openly sided with the political left. However, President Trump has nominated a religious conservative and a strict constitutionalist as her replacement—someone who holds a near polar opposite judicial philosophy to that of Justice Ginsburg. As such, both sides are gearing up for the battle of the century to be waged over whether or not Judge Amy Coney Barrett should be appointed to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg.
This will be an important battle that absolutely must be fought. The balance of the Supreme Court will certainly impact the ability of American citizens to live out their moral beliefs, but it cannot deliver what we as Christians should most desire. No matter the balance of the Supreme Court, it cannot draw people to God. The Court could consistently rule in alignment with biblical principles for the next generation, and it would still fail to change a single heart. Contrary to popular opinion, it cannot be a means of converting anyone to our moral cause.
We learned this lesson in the 1980s and 90s with the Moral Majority. Although there were good things that came from this movement, we ultimately learned that changing a person’s behavior without changing their heart is self-defeating. There is a temptation to view legal victories as a substitution for our responsibility to change the hearts and minds of individuals, but legal victories only help to preserve an environment that is conducive to sharing the gospel and upholding God’s moral standard. True victory rests in the ministry of God’s people who boldly proclaim God’s Word with the power of the Holy Spirit. True hope does not rest in the balance of the Supreme Court.
If we are not actively seeking to bring godly understanding and transformation to the hearts and minds of those around us, then it matters very little who is appointed to the Supreme Court. What difference does it make if the Court protects an environment that is conducive to sharing the gospel if God’s people refuse to share that gospel?
Before we jump into a blood-battle over who should fill Justice Ginsburg’s vacancy, let us check our motivations. If we are truly honest with ourselves, are we hoping to outsource our Christian task to the Supreme Court, or are we hoping that a conservative Justice will provide us with even greater opportunities to share the gospel? Are we placing our ultimate hope in the hands of nine Justices to change people’s hearts, or are we trusting in Christ’s promise to empower us with all authority necessary to successfully bring the hearts and minds of those around us to faith in Christ and to conformity with His will and ways?
1. Biskupic, Joan and Ariane de Vogue. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead at 87.” Politics. CNN, September 19, 2020. Last updated September 19, 2020, 9:19 a.m., ET. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/politics/ruth-bader-ginsburg-dead/index.html.
2. “Judicial Philosophy, Politics, and Policy.” SparkNotes, n.d. Accessed September 28, 2020. https://www.sparknotes.com/us-government-and-politics/american-government/the-judiciary/section4/.
3. Merriam-Webster s.v. “putsch.” Accessed September 28, 2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putsch.
4. Wax, Trevin. “Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage.” Gospel Coalition, June 26, 2015. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2015/06/26/top-10-quotes-from-the-dissenting-justices-on-same-sex-marriage/.
5. De Vogue, Ariane and Phil Mattingly. “Democrats Send ‘Information’ Concerning Kavanaugh Nomination to FBI.” CNN, n.d. Last Updated September 13, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/13/politics/kavanaugh-feinstein-letter-fbi/index.html.
6. De Vogue.
7. Brown, Emma. “California Professor, Writer of Confidential Brett Kavanaugh Letter, Speaks out about Her Allegation of Sexual Assault.” Washington Post, September 16, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/2018/09/16/46982194-b846-11e8-94eb-3bd52dfe917b_story.html?utm_term=.b826219a22a6.
8. Nance, Penny. “Kavanaugh, Too? Christine Blasey Ford’s Account Is Missing Key Details of Assault.” USA Today, September 19, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/09/19/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-dr-christine-blasey-ford-sexual-assault-column/1346536002/.
9. Space Force News. “Mitch McConnell DESTROYS Democrats’ ‘Choreographed Smear Campaign’ against Kavanaugh.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjRGGVSYtyA (accessed September 24, 2018).
10. Hayes, Christal. “Kavanaugh Questioned about, Denies 2 Additional Accusations of Assault.” USA Today, September 26, 2018. Last Updated 27, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/09/26/brett-kavanaugh-questioned-alleged-physical-sexual-assault/1437715002/.
11. Hasson, Peter. “Man Apologizes for Claiming Kavanaugh Sexually Assaulted His Friend, Says He ‘Made a Mistake.’” Daily Caller, September 26, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2018. https://dailycaller.com/2018/09/26/rhode-island-kavanaugh-made-a-mistake/.
12. “Hunt, Kasie, Leigh Caldwell, Heidi Przybyla and Frank Thorp V. “Senate Probe New Allegation of Misconduct against Kavanaugh.” NBC News, September 26, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. Last Updated September 26, 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/senate-probing-new-allegation-misconduct-against-kavanaugh-n913581.
13. Farrow, Ronan and Jane Mayer. “Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years.” New Yorker, September 23, 2018. Last Updated n.d. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/senate-democrats-investigate-a-new-allegation-of-sexual-misconduct-from-the-supreme-court-nominee-brett-kavanaughs-college-years-deborah-ramirez.
14. “Declaration of Julie Swetnick.” CNBC, September 26, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://sc.cnbcfm.com/applications/cnbc.com/resources/editorialfiles/2018/09/26/swetnickstatement.pdf.
15. Breuninger, Kevin. “Read the Full Sworn Statement from Julie Swetnick, the Third Woman to Accuse Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh of Sexual Misconduct.” CNBC, September 26, 2018. Last Updated September 26, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/26/read-full-sworn-statement-from-brett-kavanaugh-accuser-julie-swetnick.html.
16. Adams, Becket. “NBC Sat on Evidence Exonerating Justice Kavanaugh, Discrediting Michael Avenatti and His Clients’ Accusations.” Washington Examiner, October 26, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/nbc-sat-on-evidence-exonerating-justice-kavanaugh-discrediting-michael-avenatti-and-his-clients-accusations.
17. Adams, Becket. “NBC Reporter Tries, Fails to Explain Why She Sat on Exculpatory Kavanaugh Evidence.” Washington Examiner, October 30, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/nbc-reporter-tries-fails-to-explain-why-she-sat-on-exculpatory-kavanaugh-evidence.
18. Snow, Kate and Anna Schecter. “New Questions Raised about Avenatti Claims Regarding Kavanaugh.” NBC News, October 25, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/new-questions-raised-about-avenatti-claims-regarding-kavanaugh-n924596.
19. O’Reilly, Andrew. “Kavanaugh Confirmation Process Has Been ‘An Intergalactic Freak Show,’ Sen. Kennedy Says.” Fox News, September 16, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/kavanaugh-confirmation-process-has-been-an-intergalactic-freak-show-sen-kennedy-says.
20. “Read Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s Memo about the Kavanaugh-Ford Hearing.” Axios, October 1, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.axios.com/brett-kavanaugh-rachel-mitchell-prosecutor-memo-2c3233cc-1d42-416b-af04-02700aa9a711.html.
21. Hasson, “Man Apologizes for Claiming Kavanaugh Sexually Assaulted His Friend, Says He ‘Made a Mistake.’”
22. Wong, Kristina. “Senate Report Reveals Christine Blasey Ford Had an Encounter Similar to Her Kavanaugh Claim.” Breitbart, November 4, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/04/senate-kavanaugh-ford-encounter-similar-claim/.
23. Segers, Grace. “Grassley Refers Avenatti to Justice Department for Second Criminal Investigation.” CBS News, October 26, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/michael-avenatti-chuck-grassley-justice-department-criminal-investigation-julie-swetnick-today-2018-10-26/.
24. “Second Avenatti Referral with Enclosures, Redacted.” Senate Judiciary Committee, October 26, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2018-10-26%20CEG%20to%20DOJ%20FBI%20(Second%20Avenatti%20Referral)%20-%20with%20enclosures_Redacted.pdf.
25. “Senate Democratic Agenda.” C-Span video, September 18, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.c-span.org/video/?451642-101/senator-murray-warns-gop-smearing-kavanaugh-accuser&start=509.
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