You know the phrase “round up the usual suspects”? That’s exactly what those of us battling on the front lines of the culture war often do when we perceive a threat to our children. We talk about the media -- about inappropriate content in movies, music and television. And with good reason: Some media moguls attack our children’s innocence with a frightening level of glee and creativity.
But sometimes we need to go beyond the usual suspects. The current battle over the future of the Supreme Court reminds us of another foe in the culture war -- judges who prefer legislating from the bench to interpreting the law.
Don’t think this is just a matter for legal experts, the talking heads on cable-TV news shows and our politicians in Washington. The Supreme Court has a more profound effect on the culture war than you may realize.
Let’s start with the most obvious example: Roe v. Wade. “That 1973 decision was certainly an extreme example of judicial revision of our Constitution,” former Attorney General Edwin Meese III wrote in a recent Heritage Foundation op-ed. “The judges wanted to reach a particular political outcome, so they simply pretended to ground their decision in our founding document. They used a non-constitutional ‘right to privacy’ to create a ‘right’ to abortion on demand.”
Everyone knows the devastating effect this decision had on the children who have been aborted since then, but what about the rest of us? Make no mistake: The underlying message sent by the high court -- that life is not a right “endowed by [our] Creator,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it, but something we define however we like -- has been lost on no one.
The Supreme Court also has a profound effect on other hot topics in the culture war, such as school prayer. School prayer was thrown out in 1962’s Engel v. Vitale, and the decision’s supporters have long invoked the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state,” which Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1802 letter, to justify it.
But as Heritage Foundation scholar Matthew Spalding writes in “The Founders’ Almanac,” Jefferson was merely trying “to explain why he opposed proclaiming national days of public fasts and thanksgiving, as had Washington and Adams.” Jefferson, who attended church services in the House of Representatives two days after writing the letter, “did not intend [it] to mean that the government should be completely secular or antireligious.”