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God Save the Republic

6/5/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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By John Mallon
© 2005 by John Mallon
Catholic Online

Remember the old saying about Puritans? "A Puritan is someone who is terribly afraid that somebody somewhere is having a good time." Despite all my religious connections I don't know many Puritans these days, I am a Catholic and Catholics have always known how to have a good time.

However, there is a new form of Puritanism abroad today and they have tighter butts than the original Puritans ever had. These are the devotees of Political Correctness, who are terribly afraid that somebody somewhere is being offended.

It doesn't matter if a group that has fallen under the protection of the PCers is actually offended. They are going to be protected whether they like it or not.

At the moment I'm trying figure out just who is offended by the presence of the 10 Commandments in public buildingsóand who needs to be protected from them. The anti-religionists display a degree of fussbudgetry one would expect from the Church Lady of Saturday Night Live fame. They seem to be terribly afraid that somebody somewhere might actually be holding up some standard of objective morality.

The offended parties may be those like the promoters of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) treaty at the United Nations where the suggestion has been made that changes to sacred texts be mandated by treaty where they are offensive to the agenda of the Committee. Evidently they fail to recognize that such texts are held to be of divine origin by their adherents who are reluctant to take a blue pencil to God.

Anyway, this would all be harmless enough if American jurisprudence were not buying into this ersatz religion, and thereby sawing off the limb on which it sits. The Western legal tradition is rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethos. How many people know the Magna Carta was authored by a Catholic priest? (In fact, it was a bishop, Archbishop Steven Langton of Canturbury.)

The problem with exaggerating the "wall of separation" between Church and state is that morality and ethics are normally rooted in religious traditions. There is an old saying that "You can't legislate morality." How ridiculous! What on earth do you legislate if not morality?

Should theft cease to be a crime because it is prohibited in the 10 Commandments? Are laws against theft an imposition of someone's religion against thieves exercising their free choice to steal? Should we institute special rights for thieves so they won't be offended? Can a kleptomaniac say "This is the way God made me?"

This is no joke. In 1992 when the United States Supreme Court ruled on Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote:

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."

With this decision the Supreme Court abolished all basis for law as we know it. It did so by codifying subjectivism over objective reality. The Supreme Court not only sawed off the branch on which theyóand the basis of all lawósat, they chopped down the entire tree. If I am free to invent my own universe with its own rules to do whatever I wish who can stop me? Because if everyone has the right to define the nature of existence on their own, who is the Supreme Court or any lawmaking body to tell anyone what to do or not do?

Suppose in my universe I have the right to steal? Who are you to impose your beliefs on me? My rights, endowed by the creator are endowed by me because I created my universe and the Supreme Court backs me up. You may laugh, but according to PP v. Casey this is already the law of the land, awaiting a test case.

Perhaps some justices and lawmakers ought to read C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man because that is what they are engaged in.

What is law based on? In the Western tradition, seminal works like St. Thomas Aquinas's Treatise on Law trace the objective standard for right and wrong back to God.

Do they teach philosophy in law schools these days or assume the students studied it as undergrads? You know what they say about assuming. We like to say, "My right to swing my fist stops where your nose begins." But what if, in my made-up universe, I don't believe in the sovereign rights of your nose? Or those of a child in the womb?

Perhaps a good honest atheist might say that law is based on some kind of consensus. But consensus can change. Who says you won't be on the wrong side of the fence the next time it changes according to some sort of "climate of opinion" or "conventional wisdom?"

Black people were on the wrong side of the fence in 18th and 19th century America. The ...

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