The first volley over the net from Chris Wallace to Clinton and Trump during the final presidential debate concerned their position on how to interpret our constitution and what type of justices they will recommend for our Supreme Court. Whoever becomes our next president will appoint one and possibly three or four justices during their term, and whom they appoint will tip the balance of power in the Supreme Court. What difference does that make?
Clinton’s response? She began by pointing out how central this issue to the 2016 election, and I totally agree. She will recommend liberal justices who believe in reinterpreting the constitution to suit the current cultural landscape, and she made specific statements about backing legislation to protect Planned Parenthood, the privilege of women to have abortions (even partial-birth abortions) and the privileges of the LGBT community. She also said she plans to stop the privileges of free speech for non-profit organizations like Citizens United, whose documentary, Hillary The Movie, exposed details of some of her better known scandals. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Of course, like the well practiced politician she is, Hillary didn’t say she was in support of reinterpreting the constitution. She couched her stance in saying we need to be “standing up to the powerful,” and in America, I think there’s no one more powerful than Hillary Clinton at the moment. In fact, she’s so powerful that she can keep the F.B.I. from prosecuting her. Now, that’s power…scary power.
But I digress. Trump was clearly at the opposite end: “We need a Supreme Court that is going to uphold the second amendment…they will be pro-life” and have a conservative bent to uphold the constitution “the way it was meant to be.” As a history major in college who is a conservative in my view of constitutional law, I agree with Trump’s position. I want conservative justices on the bench who will uphold the law as written. I believe text trumps intention, and for me personally, Donald Trumps Hillary in this area.
Why? Because if justices can just reinterpret the meaning of the constitution to mean whatever they want, they’re basically doing an end-run around the law to change the law, but that’s illegal! It would destroy the foundation of our country’s laws…and eventually (I believe) our country. As Michael Stokes Paulsen (Distinguished University Chair and Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis) points out in his newly published book, The Constitution: An Introduction: “Legitimate constitutional interpretation consists of attending to the original, natural linguistic meaning of the text, in context, including the architecture of the Constitution as a whole.” If we allow reinterpretation of the text, we’ve lost the meaning of our Constitution, which is meant to be “the supreme law of the land” (Article Six).
If any of you are Christians but have only fuzzy memories of constitutional law from your studies of government in high school X number of years ago, perhaps it would be easier to think of “liberal” v.s. “conservative” judges in terms of “liberal” v.s. “conservative” interpretation of the Bible. Do you believe that “legitimate biblical interpretation consists of attending to the original, natural linguistic meaning of the text, in context, including the architecture of the Bible as a whole,” or do you think the Bible needs to be reinterpreted to suit the current cultural landscape? Should we re-interpret what the Ten Commandments mean by idolatry, lying, stealing, adultery and coveting? Or, do we need to acknowledge where we’re failing and return to the “royal law” (which defines what true love really looks like) so that we can conform our personal ideas to God’s “Golden Rule.”
If you recognize the supreme importance of continuing to interpret the Bible as it was originally intended by its Author, then hopefully you’ll also appreciate the importance of our country continuing to uphold our brilliantly craved constitution as it was written and intended. This foundation has had an essential part in making America the world’s #1 destination and favorite place to live. Why? Because up until now, America’s constitution has guaranteed her citizens the unprecedented freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (not the promise of happiness being handed to us on a silver platter, but the freedom to work toward happiness as an attainable goal). These freedoms are on the chopping block, and unless we vigorously protect them by securing a continued literal interpretation of our Constitution, we’ll lose them.
“Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:7-9, ESV).
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).