Last month Roy Moore took what’s becoming an all-too-rare stand against judicial activism in America.
“As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,” Moore wrote in a letter to the governor. He was responding to a federal judge’s ruling saying that Alabamians don’t have the right to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
Good for him. After watching lawmakers loudly complain about federal judges, but then meekly abide by their rulings without any serious action, it’s refreshing to see someone finally push-back in a real way.
Whatever side of the aisle you’re on, it should be troubling that our democratic society so easily — and perhaps too eagerly — bends the knee to the bench on practically every issue. Is there anything that isn’t under their purview? Is there anything that “we the people” can decide for ourselves? It appears that when the courts decide those questions for themselves, without any serious check and balance, the answer is clearly “no.”
It’s not that federal courts don’t have the power of judicial review — the ability to ensure that laws aren’t clearly forbidden by the federal constitution — it’s a matter of scope. As noted in Moore’s letter, “nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage.”
He’s right. There’s nothing in the constitution that remotely touches upon marriage, or abortion for that matter, except the part that says whatever isn’t written in there must be left to the states to figure out, or to the people. Yet we allow more than a million unborn babies to be killed annually in the United States because nine judges said it was okay back in the 1970s. We’re still submitting to that unjust ruling.
Now, in the midst of a heated national debate on the issue, we’re again allowing another set of judges to settle a fight by finding that the constitution suddenly governs the definition of marriage. But our founders didn’t write a document to govern every aspect of our society. In fact, our federal constitution is mainly about what the federal government cannot do, and then how to slow the things that it can. Yet we don’t consider a law final or a debate over until the federal courts have had their say. So much for democracy.
Thomas Jefferson was one of many Founding Fathers to warn us against holding the courts above the people.
“You seem … to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy,” Jefferson wrote in an 1820 letter to a friend who was thinking too much of the early court’s authority.
“Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps… Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control,” Jefferson continued. “The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.”
Despots. Are we there yet? Probably not, but we may be getting close. Too close if a little push-back from Roy Moore seems way too radical for the mainstream.