Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s doctoral study on a conservative philosophy called natural law is a prime reason right-leaning legal thinkers recommended him to President Trump. But the public won’t have a chance to learn the jurist’s latest thoughts on the theory when he speaks Friday at a conference of Catholic legal scholars seeking to expand Christian influence on public policy.
The sponsor, the Thomistic Institute, is barring journalists from covering the conference, titled “Christianity and the Common Good,” being held Friday and Saturday at Harvard Law School.In an email, the Thomistic Institute’s director, the Rev. Dominic Legge, said coverage of Justice Gorsuch’s remarks would interfere with the event’s educational value.
“The focus of this event is on the students having a fruitful encounter and exchange with the justice on an academic theme,” Father Legge said by email. “The decision that the event would be closed was mine, not the justice’s, and it was made in accord with our normal policy for such events.”
Neither Justice Gorsuch nor Father Legge responded to requests for a transcript or audio of the justice’s remarks that would not identify students... Founded in 2009, the institute is devoted to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas
While it has different strands, in general natural law posits that certain values or rules are permanent, universal and intrinsically knowable to all people regardless of their culture or beliefs. Many natural-law adherents believe that this higher law originates from God rather than humanistic values, although not all versions of the philosophy are explicitly religious.
.. As a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, he studied under John Finnis, a legal philosopher who in recent decades revived academic interest in natural law.
Mr. Finnis has argued that natural-law principles can justify state action to promote moral virtue, which he suggests may be furthered by restricting contraception or prohibiting same-sex marriage. .
.. While some justices have attempted to avoid activities that could suggest a continuing role in politics, Justice Gorsuch hasn’t drawn a bright line.
The Trump appointee last year addressed a group at the Trump International Hotel and accompanied his Senate patron, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), on visits to Kentucky universities. Those events largely were open to press coverage, although a January dinner he had at the home of Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) with several Republican senators and a Trump cabinet secretary wasn’t.
Moore’s primary win is a fire bell in the night for GOP senators in 2018. And should he defeat his Democratic opponent, the judge will be coming to Capitol Hill, gunning for Mitch McConnell.
.. If a law contradicts God’s law, it is invalid, nonbinding. In some cases, civil disobedience, deliberate violation of such a law, may be the moral duty of a Christian.
Moore believes God’s Law is even above the Constitution, at least as interpreted by recent Supreme Courts.
.. Homosexuality, an abomination in the Old Testament, Moore sees as “an inherent evil.” When the high court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, discovered a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Moore, back on the Alabama court, defied the decision, was suspended again, and resigned.
.. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King wrote: “(T)here are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’…
.. In his Declaration, Jefferson wrote that all men are endowed by their “Creator” with inalienable rights, and among these is the right to life.
Many Christians believe that what the Supreme Court did in Roe v. Wade — declare an unborn child’s right to life contingent upon whether its mother wishes to end it — violates God’s law, “Thou shalt not kill.
.. Thomas More is considered by Catholics to be a saint and moral hero for defying Henry VIII’s demand, among others, that he endorse a lie, that the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was not adultery.
Early Christians accepted martyrdom rather than obey laws of the Caesars and burn incense to the gods of Rome.
After Hitler took power in 1933, he authorized the eradication of “useless eaters” in the Third Reich. Those who condemned these laws as violations of God’s law, and even attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1944, are today regarded as moral heroes.
.. Christianity and the moral truths it has taught for 2,000 years have been deposed from the pre-eminent position they held until after World War II, and are now rejected as a source of law. They have been replaced by the tenets of a secular humanism that is the prevailing orthodoxy of our new cultural, social and intellectual elites.
There was evidence that the father was abusing the kids, who by 2002 were teenagers. He acknowledged whipping them with a belt and forcing them to sit with paper bags over their heads. He refused to send the younger children to summer school, even though their grades were bad. When the kids called their mother, their father taped the conversations. By the time the case got to the Alabama Supreme Court, a lower court had ruled in the mother’s favor. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the ruling, with then Chief Justice Roy Moore writing in a concurring opinion that a gay person couldn’t be a fit parent.
“Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated,” wrote Moore. He added, “The state carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”
.. But Moore’s victory is also a victory for Trumpism, a populist movement that has eroded normal limits on political behavior... Fritz Stern, a historian who fled Nazi Germany, described the “conservative revolution” that prefigured National Socialism: “The movement did embody a paradox: its followers sought to destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future.”.. What Moore’s critics see as lawlessness, his fans see as insurgent valor. Trump’s most prominent nationalist supporters, including Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, lined up behind Moore, describing him as part of the Trumpian revolution. Nigel Farage, a right-wing British politician and Trump ally, flew to Fairhope, Ala., to speak at a rally for Moore, saying on stage, “It is getting someone like him elected that will rejuvenate the movement that led to Trump and Brexit.”.. Back then, anti-gay prejudice was far more acceptable than it is today, but Moore’s messianic denunciation of a lesbian mother was still shocking. Trump is not a pious man, but by destroying informal restraints on reactionary rhetoric, he’s made his party hospitable to the cruelest of theocrats.Moore’s success is bound to encourage more candidates like him. The Republican establishment’s borders have been breached. Its leaders should have built a wall.
The Constitution safeguards the liberties that the Declaration of Independence represents but did not create.
.. The foundation of Americanism, he posits, is natural law. That does not just spontaneously appear, nor passively persevere. Understanding our natural-law roots, reaffirming our attachment to them in the teeth of the progressive project to supersede them — this is hard work.
.. right reason, “certain definite principles of action from which spring all virtues and whatever is necessary for the proper molding of morals.”
.. “True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.” It is reason that learning has cultivated for the pursuit of happiness.
.. Natural law is the basis for our conceit that no one may rule over another without his consent.
.. In the absence of natural law, we would be left to the tyranny of will — arbitrary morality and rights, dictated by those who had muscled their way to dominance.
.. For Levin, rationalizing such a muscular state is the 20th-century progressive project spearheaded by
- Herbert Croly,
- Theodore Roosevelt,
- Woodrow Wilson,
- John Dewey, and their progeny.
They built on the utopian foundation of the “philosopher-kings”:
- Rousseau’s radical egalitarianism,
- Hegel’s historicism,
- Marx’s economic determinism and class struggle, and so on.
The rights of self-determination, self-governance, and private property — the blessings of liberty that are the heritage of natural law — are in peril, if not of extinction, at least of irreversible atrophy.
.. Mark Levin has not been content to inveigh against statism. In the last few years, he has offered concrete plans to roll it back, including a campaign for a convention of the states under Article V of the Constitution, aimed at stripping down Washington from without, since it will never reform itself from within.