Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, currently serves on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In her confirmation hearing in 2017, she went through a grueling inquisition from Sen. Diane Feinstein, who said Barrett’s set of Christian convictions “lives loudly in you.” She said it like it was a bad thing, at the same time exposing her own ignorance of the centrality of religious liberty to the Constitution and to America.
But Barrett held up her own end admirably and was advanced to the federal bench by a comfortable margin. On the bench, Justice Barrett will help us to reclaim a true understanding of our founding document, in part because she actually knows what’s in it, unlike a lot of judges in our system today.
I once heard a lawyer for the ADF (formerly the Alliance Defending Freedom), one of the premier First Amendment law firms in the land, give a speech at a luncheon. He spoke of delivering a lecture at Stanford Law School, one of the top law schools in the country.
(Note: The Federalist Papers were written in 1787 and 1788 by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to urge New Yorkers to ratify the just-proposed Constitution. It is an invaluable and indispensable aid to understanding the Constitution. In fact, it is impossible for us to understand the Constitution without them.)
My friend from the ADF asked the Stanford law students in attendance at his lecture, “How many of you, in law school, had to take a class on the Constitution?” Every hand shot up. “How many of you,” he continued, “had to read the Federalist Papers in that class?” Not one single, solitary hand went up, not one. After his lecture, a student came up to him and said, “You know, you asked the wrong question in there. You should have asked how many of us had to read the Constitution in our class on the Constitution. You would have gotten the same response.”
His point was that in law schools today the Constitution itself is rarely studied, if at all, and no effort is made to understand the Constitution as the Founders crafted it. The entire emphasis is on court precedents, on how the Constitution has been interpreted by the Supreme Court. If the Court has fundamentally erred in understanding the meaning and intent of the Framers, today’s law school students wouldn’t know anything about it.
The Constitution is our North Star
The Constitution is the North Star by which we are to direct our common and shared life together as a nation. If we fail to navigate by its light, we become utterly lost. Someone illustrated this to me once by picturing a pilot leaving San Francisco for Honolulu. If the pilot is off by just one degree when he sets his course, and follows that course without correction, not only will he not see Hawaii, he will never see land again. He will eventually run out of fuel and die a watery death. The longer a pilot flies in the wrong direction, the further from his goal he gets. We are badly off course as a culture and it is long past time for a mid-flight correction.
The Founders set the destination for us in the Preamble to the Constitution. The aim of this document, they tell us, is to:
“form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity.”
If we deviate from the flight path marked out for us in the Constitution, we will get further every passing year from unity, justice, tranquility, cultural health, and the blessings of liberty. Does anyone seriously doubt this is exactly what has happened?
Virtually every poll on this subject reveals that Americans know this country is dangerously off-track. Usually, 60-70% of the respondents will declare this country is headed in the wrong direction. We are heading toward division, injustice, domestic discord, and diminishing freedom.
And why is that? It’s largely because we as a people have ignored the Constitution, and worse yet, many of us don’t even know what it says. That’s why the nation needs a crash course on the Constitution.
The only remedy for this problem is to understand and explain the plain meaning of the Constitution, particularly where it has been corrupted by the Supreme Court on matters touching on religious liberty. The solution is at hand - the need to get reacquainted with the Constitution itself. Reclaiming America for the Constitution is doable, and it must begin with an understanding of the Constitution as the Founders bequeathed it to us.
To return to the Constitution, we must return to God
It is imperative that I add this note: a return to the Constitution is impossible without a return to God. The deepest need of our land is not political renewal but spiritual. After all, it was men of faith infused with a biblical worldview who gave us our Constitution, and it will take men of faith infused with a biblical worldview to bring it back to us.
Historians point out that the First Great Awakening, begun under the ministries of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley, created the profound cultural unity in colonial America under which the Declaration of Independence and Constitution could be written. If there were no First Great Awakening, there would be no Declaration of Independence, no Constitution, and no United States of America.
It was the Spirit of God that drove our forefathers forward in their relentless quest for freedom. A verse found frequently on the lips of the Founders was 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Liberty is only possible where the Spirit of God is free to run, free to inspire, free to direct, and free to impart his impulses to a culture and to its leaders. That is why religious liberty is critically important and should occupy a central place in hearings for a new justice for the Supreme Court.
Amy Coney Barrett has the same attachment to the Constitution the Founders had. She can help us find our way back.
I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
Many, perhaps most, who read this series of columns will claim that the task I am setting before us is impossible. We have gone so far down the road to cultural and political destruction that we can’t avert disaster. They will say it’s impossible to bring our judiciary and our lawmakers and our society back to the place where they live within the restraints of the Constitution.
You may read things in these columns you have never heard before, things about the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, Jefferson’s “wall of separation,” and the Supreme Court. I urge you to read with an open mind, and a willingness to reassess what you have heard about the Constitution. You just might have been given some bad information.
As grim as conditions in our nation today seem to be, I refuse to accept defeat or countenance surrender. Jesus taught us that “All things are possible with God.” He also taught us that with faith as small as a mustard seed we can move mountains. I say it’s time to start moving some earth.
To paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., “Some men see things as they are, and say, why? I dream things that could be again, and say, ‘why not?’” I urge you to dream with me.
The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org