She concludes her essay with a few magisterial pronouncements:
Christians have been trying this natural law approach for decades. They have been steadily losing ground for decades. Arguing against homosexuality from natural law is demonstrably ineffectual. It produces no converts. It draws no souls to Christ. It doesn’t even convince people to oppose gay marriage. It’s a lame horse. Giving it another run will not alter the results. It has not worked, and it’s not going to work—for all of the reasons given above. It’s time to put this old argument out to pasture, and try a different approach.
As a man who once considered himself a gay man, and converted to the Catholic Church in large part because of the Church’s teaching on the natural law, I simply have to scratch my head in wonderment that she believes the natural law draws no souls to Christ, or is ineffectual for conversion, or ineffectual in convincing people of the wisdom of the Church’s teaching about homosexuality. I’m not an anomaly. Anyone who earnestly seeks the truth will find the truth revealed in the natural law. As to the natural law’s effectiveness in drawing souls to God, we need only consult the writings of St. Paul. One of the foundations of Christian evangelization is St. Paul’s assertion that God’s law is written on man’s heart, always guiding him so that he might know good from evil. The “law written on the heart” has always given missionaries confidence that they could communicate with any society anywhere the wisdom of the Church’s teaching.
I travel all over the country, and have spoken about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality to thousands of people, young and old alike, and I can attest to the power and efficacy of the natural law in convincing people to consider the teachings of the Catholic Church. The most effective part of any evangelization is the power of witness, yet after the story of my conversion, people (especially young people) want to know why I’ve chosen to follow the Church. Without grounding my choice firmly within the natural law, my choice to follow the Church appears to most people as mere blind obedience to an arbitrary moralism. The natural law is the most effective tool we can ever use to explain to the world, and to young people, exactly why the Church teaches what it does, and why the Church’s teaching leads to freedom. The natural law isn’t a lame horse—it’s a stallion itching to run who has hardly been let out of the stable.
None of Selmys’s assertions about why the natural law is a “lame horse” have ever been a problem in my ministry. For example, one of her major complaints is that no one can possibly understand what the Church means by “natural,” since, according to Selmys, “the particular meaning of the word ‘natural’ that is used when we’re describing homosexual acts as ‘unnatural’ is more or less completely unfamiliar to everyone in the contemporary world.”
I don’t accept her claim, yet even so, it’s not difficult to teach people meanings of words that are unfamiliar to them. As a professional musician, who has taught trombone lessons for about 25 years, I’ve taught many elementary students a new meaning of the word “natural” they never knew existed, and they learn it quite quickly, especially when I constantly remind them they need to play an A natural—and not an A flat—when they play a B flat major scale.
Teaching what “natural” means in the context of human sexuality isn’t all that hard either. In my experience, it’s been remarkably easy. And in the case of students, not only do they grasp it quickly, they are grateful as well.
My talks to high school students always include a parable about Thanksgiving. I describe a typical family Thanksgiving, where the whole family has gathered at grandma and grandpa’s house. They’ve just finished a memorable feast of turkey, with all the fixings, followed, naturally, by pie. Everyone is stuffed to the gills. And yet, fifteen minutes after dinner, and to the surprise of everyone, their grandmother offers everyone a second meal. “We couldn’t eat another bite!” some say, yet in response, their grandfather, with a glint in his eye, grabs a bucket, sticks a feather down his throat, and proceeds to vomit out his dinner, horrifying the family. With a swish of mouthwash, and a quick wipe of his face, he sets the bucket on the table, looks around at his stunned family and says, “Alright, who’s next?”, then grabs another plate of food and sits down in front of the TV, acting as if he had just done the most natural thing in the world.
Students’ reaction to my story is immediate and visceral. They groan—loudly. I ask them with feigned shock, “Why does that gross you out? Don’t you like to eat? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could eat whatever you wanted, and never worry about gaining weight? Wouldn’t purging yourself of food in order to eat more food bring you great freedom to live with as much pleasure as you would like?”
And as easily as that—and in a way they’ll never forget—I’ve introduced them to what the “natural” means in the Church’s teaching of the “natural law.” It’s not hard for them to get it, for they can detect unnatural behavior in humans a mile away. They may have never thought about it in the context of human sexuality however, but that’s the power of parables like my story about Thanksgiving.
The students groan because they intuitively know that eating, followed by purging food is not normal or healthy human behavior. Indeed, they know instinctively that to do so is not natural, since they know that no matter how pleasurable food is, eating food is primarily to provide sustenance and nutrition for the body. With eating and purging, they have rightly intuited an ought from an is. Once this understanding is established, it’s an easy and direct path towards discussing sex and the design of the human body, and the freedom that comes from following the natural law.
Yet deriving an “ought” from an “is” is another of Selmys’s complaints about the natural law. She says, “But those few who have some philosophical training will dismiss natural law arguments as committing the ‘naturalistic fallacy,’ i.e. deriving an ought statement from an ‘is’ statement.”
Here, I will rely on a man far wiser than I to answer her objection.
In a book I can’t recommend highly enough called On the Meaning of Sex, author and philosopher Dr. J. Budziszewski provides an antidote to the lies and confusion stemming from the Sexual Revolution by appealing to the truth and wisdom contained in the natural law. Far from believing that the natural law is an ineffectual tool for promoting the Church’s vision of human sexuality, Budziszewski places it at the core of his argument, where he provides a lifeline of rescue for young people (like his own college students) hurting from believing and following the lies of the Sexual Revolution.
Contra Selmys, Budziszewski argues that people who don’t believe an “ought can be derived from an is” are holding onto a false dogma.
If the purpose of the eye is to see, then eyes that see well are good eyes, and eyes that see poorly are poor ones. Given their purpose this is what it means for eyes to be good. Moreover, good is to be pursued; the appropriateness of pursuing it is what it means for anything to be good. Therefore, the appropriate thing to do with poor eyes is to turn them into good ones. If it really were impossible to derive an ought from the is of the human design, then the practice of medicine would make no sense.
Speaking of a young fellow who is addicted to sniffing glue, with concepts he’ll later expand to human sexuality, he asks,
How should we advise him? Is the purpose of his lungs irrelevant? Should we say to him, “Sniff all you want, because an is does not imply an ought”? Of course not; we should advise him to kick the habit. We ought to respect the is of our design. Nothing in us should be put into action in a way that flouts its inbuilt meanings and purposes.
As he says later,
These meanings, purposes, and principles are the real reason for the commands and prohibitions contained in traditional sexual morality. Honor your parents. Care for your children. Save sex for marriage. Make marriage fruitful. Be faithful to your spouse.
Let the sexual revolution bury the sexual revolution. Having finished revolving, we arrive back where we started. What your mother—no, what your grandmother—no, what your great-grandmother—told you was right all along. These are the natural laws of sex.
I have found any attempts to convince people of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality that don’t include a discussion of “the natural laws of sex” to be dead on arrival, for without this understanding, the Church’s teaching sounds like arbitrary commandments, rooted in nothing but the whim of some grizzled old priests somewhere who think sex is dirty and that people shouldn’t be allowed to have any fun. Without a grounding in the natural law, the Church’s teaching merely becomes, “obey the rules, simply because the Church says so.” And no one is ever really convinced of anything merely through blind obedience—especially young people.
It is simply wrong to say the natural law is ineffective concerning homosexuality and evangelization. During a three-day period a few years back in the Diocese of Wichita I spoke to over 3,000 high school students. After one of my talks, a theology teacher at one of the high schools shared with me what one of his students said to him: “You know, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this guy, but now, it all makes sense to me—all of the Church’s teaching. This isn’t just about the stuff he has to deal with. What he said helps me make sense of what the Church has to say about sex, all of it.” And no wonder it made sense to him: the natural law makes sense because it’s true, for its truth comes from being rooted in reality.
I hear similar things from youth pastors and teachers all the time after my talks. Of course, not everyone who hears me speak about the natural law is convinced by it, but after my talk, they have enough understanding that they can finally see there are well-reasoned arguments for the Church’s teaching. Our job isn’t to convert everyone we meet—that’s the Holy Spirit’s worry. Our job is to promote the Good News in the most powerful way we can, and as for me and my experience, next to the witness of conversion, the natural law is the most effective tool the Church has to convince souls that her teaching on homosexuality is the path to peace and freedom.
Natural law is not a lame horse—and it’s not really been “tried for decades” as she contends. Since Humanae Vitae, natural law has been held back, whipped, bullied, and abused by prelates, theologians and lay people who don’t like the claims it makes upon the men of the world. Every time it’s been trotted out and proposed as salvation from the world’s view of sexual morality, it’s been gelded, stifled and undermined by people in the Church who don’t like what the natural law has to say—or the way it says it. As St. John Paul II lamented in 2004 to the Biannual Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
My intention in the Encyclical Letters Veritatis Splendor and Fides et Ratio was to offer useful elements for rediscovering, among other things, the idea of natural moral law. Unfortunately, these teachings so far do not seem to have been accepted as widely as hoped and the complex problem deserves further study. I therefore ask you to encourage timely initiatives for the purpose of contributing to a constructive renewal of the teaching on natural moral law, seeking consensus with the representatives of the different confessions, religions and cultures.
St. John Paul II is right. Melinda Selmys is wrong. It’s not time to set the “natural law” horse out to pasture. No, it’s been put out to pasture long enough—it’s well fed, and ready to run. In the fight for souls, the natural law is a compass and light that shines as a beacon leading to a place of safety. This is a stallion meant for battle, yet its mettle has yet been tested, for people like Selmys have had no confidence in its ability to run—or worse, have no desire to see it run. Now is the time, when the world has become so confused about human sexuality, to unleash the saving power of the natural law, and by the thundering of its hooves, lead lost souls to freedom.
In their dissenting opinions in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justices Roberts and Scalia lamented the way in which the Supreme Court’s ruling would close off public debate about same-sex marriage.
That debate, though, has been increasingly lopsided and narrow. It is increasingly lopsided because public opinion has moved dramatically in favor of legal recognition of same-sex marriages in recent history. It is increasingly narrow because, at least in the case of Christian discourse, opposition to same-sex marriage has abandoned Biblical argumentation and relied more exclusively on natural law arguments.
The American Family Association increasingly appeals to “natural marriage,” rather than “biblical marriage” in its attempts to stem the tides of sin and relativism. The Republican Party’s 2016 platform praises “natural marriage” and never appeals to the Bible in its opposition to marriage equality. And today the most influential scholarly arguments against same-sex marriage also come from natural law thinkers, such as Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George, not from scholars who rely on biblical texts.
How to explain this phenomenon? Perhaps opponents of gay marriage believe Biblical arguments have little traction in a pluralistic society. Perhaps they have been persuaded that the biblical cases against homosexuality are unpersuasive.Or perhaps there is general embarrassment at the prospect of being associated with Westboro Baptist Church’s protestors and their lewd signs invoking Leviticus.
Whatever the causes, Christians’ shift toward natural law argumentation calls for deeper consideration. It is not at all clear to me that the natural law must lead one to oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage. In fact, I want to suggest that the basic premises of the natural law can lead us to endorse same-sex marriage as a matter of legal policy.
The public debate Roberts and Scalia sought to protect is not as vibrant as they presumed in part because the natural law is the last vestige of Christian opposition to marriage equality. And even this last remaining source of opposition cannot ultimately provide stable intellectual grounding against same-sex unions.
Natural law cases against same-sex marriage frequently have at their core high regard for the nuclear family as both an institution that allows for the full flourishing of individuals and also a foundation for a functional society. Let’s accept that idea, and also the basic natural law concept that rational reflection on the natural order of creation yields a network of moral norms with which human beings can and should align their behavior.
Even accepting those premises, it is not clear that one must oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, because it is not “homosexuality” that threatens to destroy families, but rather “homophobia” that does so. I follow the meaning of “homophobia” Dale Martin offers in Sex and the Single Savior. By “homophobia,” I mean “the loathing of homosexuality that arises from a deep-seated…fear of homosexuality.”(61)
This fear of homosexuality destroys families by causing conflict between parents and children. Nuclear families are torn apart when children realize that they have same-sex attractions or that they deviate from commonly-accepted standards of masculinity and femininity in any way. Realizing this, children face the terrible decision: they can either keep their secrets to themselves, or they can reveal them to parents who may condemn them. Indeed, many parents do condemn and ostracize children who fail to live up to social norms surrounding sex and gender.
Vast literature exists about how to “come out” to parents, how parents can overcome fear, grief, and anger conjured by encountering a child’s homosexuality, and how parents can move to greater acceptance of their gay children. (cf. Carolyn Griffin et. al. in Beyond Acceptance and Robert Berstein at. al. in Straight Parents, Gay Children). All of this literature is a testament to the terrible fact that fear and hatred of homosexuality destroy familial bonds by estranging gay kids from their parents. This phenomenon ought to be of great concern to any natural law thinker, given that the basic premises of the natural law prioritize whole, unified, and loving nuclear families.
How would natural law thinkers advise families in the throes of such crises? What can parents and children do when faced with the threat of familial estrangement? One option is for gay children to try to change their sexual desires and identities in order to gain acceptance from homophobic parents. Typical natural law objections to homosexuality might once have counseled young people to defeat their impulses to same-sex attraction, admit that opposite-sex attraction is the norm for all humans, and simply live in accordance with that norm. But this option has been widely discredited.
Evidence suggests that trying to change same-sex desire is not effective, and may even be harmful. The dissolution of Exodus International, one of the leading Christian groups dedicated to helping people pray the gay away is a strong indicator that this tactic is rightly on the wane. John Paulk, one of the leaders of Exodus International, addressed the damage this approach causes in a statement explaining the group’s disunion. The statement read, in part:
Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people…From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.
We should heed Paulk’s reversal on the possibilities of changing homosexual desire to align more closely with opposite-sex attraction. Social scientific research and trustworthy human experiences, two sources that natural law thinking can accommodate, are increasingly leading us to the conclusion that familial estrangement caused by homophobia cannot be solved by forcing kids to conform to hetero-normative social custom.
Another option for gay kids who have been ostracized by their parents is simply to sever ties with their families. They can live with alienation from their parents by moving away from them, avoiding discussions of their sexuality, and/or cutting off contact altogether. Sadly, this is a common way of dealing with familial rifts created by homophobia. Literature on homosexuality abounds with stories in which parents and children live with some level of alienation following a child’s decision to come out of the closet.
The phenomenon of familial estrangement following a “coming out” moment should be troubling to all natural law thinkers, in light of the basic commitment to the importance of the nuclear family for individual flourishing and social functioning. And yet, I have never read a natural law case against this sad reality. Most natural law engagements of homosexuality purport to “defend the family” by arguing that same-sex partnerships cannot sustain this institution, without noticing that parental homophobia bears significant blame for destroying families.
A third option for healing familial estrangement is for parents to accept their gay children without condemning same-sex attraction as such. This means letting go of a moral vision of homosexuality as sinful and disordered. It means letting go of the idea that the best way to relate to one’s gay child is to “love the sinner and hate the sin.” It also means supporting children in their encounters with homophobia in society at large. Parents of gay and lesbian children who initially rejected their children’s sexual identity report that acceptance is the most effective way to reunite families torn apart by this revelation.
In their book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, Girgis, Anderson, and George attempt to develop a natural law case against same-sex marriage that does not denounce same-sex relationships as such. They try to argue that they have no moral objection to homosexuality. They claim a natural law position that ostensibly accepts same-sex attraction and relationship, while at the same time denying the legitimacy of same-sex marriage.
Same-sex relationships can be valuable, they say, in the same way that friendships can be valuable. Such an admission apparently qualifies as acceptance. The problem with their argument, though, is that they cannot both accept same-sex attraction and relationships while also denying the legal right for people in such relationships to marry. Despite the fact that they want to appear “accepting,” the moral reality, for Girgis, Anderson, and George, is that same-sex love is inferior to heterosexual love for the purposes of sustaining families and society. As natural law thinkers, they base this judgment on the possibility of procreation.
Heterosexual couples can engage in coitus, while homosexual couples cannot. Coitus is supremely important for our society, given its role in producing offspring. Because homosexual couples cannot engage in coitus, their love and relationships cannot be classified as “marriage.” Thus, Girgis, Anderson, and George undermine their posture of acceptance by writing that homosexual partners “merely touch or interlock” (25-26, 36).
Denigrating same-sex activity in this way reaffirms the idea that homosexual love is inferior to heterosexual love. Add to this denigration the condescending argument that same-sex partners should think of themselves only as “friends,” and the conclusion that these partners should not be given the right to marry, and it becomes clear that, protestations aside, the authors view homosexuality as inherently inferior. However much Girgis, Anderson, and George want to develop an “accepting” natural law account of sexuality, their arguments still constitute homophobia.
How would Girgis, Anderson, and George have a parent respond to a child who summons the strength to come out of the closet? If such a parent responded by saying, “You can still form valuable bonds of friendship!” or “Your bodily touching and interlocking may fall short of coitus, but I’m sure it can be pleasurable!” a reasonable person would conclude that this response is not fully accepting. Full acceptance would, at the very least, regard same-sex love as equally valuable and fulfilling as its heterosexual counterpart.
One would think that natural law ethicists would welcome such acceptance, as it promises to reunite estranged families, and whole, loving families are—at least ostensibly—of great value to natural law theorists. And yet, one looks in vain for such theorists to advocate parental acceptance of gay kids in the interests of keeping families together. Natural law thinkers may not want to admit that accepting homosexual kids is better for families than condemning such kids because such an admission would lead to major revisions of basic natural law ideas about human sexuality. Recognizing that we may have been wrong in discerning the natural order of human sexuality can be a difficult thing to do.
Of course, a natural law case for moral acceptance of homosexuality in the interests of keeping families united has strong implications for our thinking about the positive law. Specifically, the civic laws in states affected by the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges become relevant.
Based on this natural law argument that families can be repaired by accepting rather than condemning homosexuality, natural law thinkers should welcome the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. This is because, consistent with a natural law account of legislation, the civic law can train us in the virtues necessary to participate well in social life, including family life. In the natural law theory of Thomas Aquinas, one of the effects of the human law is to make people good (ST I-II, 92).
On the specific question of homosexuality and familial stability that I have been addressing here, the relevant virtue is parental acceptance of a child’s same-sex attraction, toward the good end of familial reconciliation. Following the Supreme Court’s elimination of state bans on same-sex marriage, I predict that many parents will come to accept their children’s sexual identities and families will recover from estrangement.
Such virtuous acceptance should be both welcome and unsurprising to natural law theorists who already believe that human law makes us grow in virtue. The shifting rhetoric in psychiatric discourse around homosexuality may be a good predictor of the way law will influence parents’ acceptance of gay children. The American Psychiatric Association’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder has fostered greater acceptance of same-sex attraction, especially among parents struggling with a child’s “coming out” moment.
Institutions such as the APA and the Supreme Court have enormous influence over individuals’ perception of homosexuality. Natural law theory will recognize that their definitions and rulings can and do shape us. I submit that these definitions and rulings are currently shaping us toward the virtue of acceptance and the good of familial reconciliation.
But the challenge to natural law engagements of homosexuality and same-sex marriage that I offer goes deeper than mere reflection on a specific Supreme Court ruling. On the one hand, natural law opposition (exemplified by Girgis, Anderson, and George) to same-sex marriage is based on a selective and incoherent evaluation of the nuclear family. On the other hand, though, it seems inevitable that natural law theory will have to revisit some basic commitments as it moves to greater coherence on questions of sexuality and the family.
The easiest ways for natural law theorists to achieve greater coherence on these questions will be to abandon their reverence for anatomical complementarity and to relax the ethical requirement that sexual partners intend procreation for sex to be permissible. Departing from these two positions will allow natural law thinkers not only to accept same-sex attraction and reunite families, but also to avoid awkward and unconvincing responses to questions about infertility. (For example, Girgis, Anderson, and George say that infertile heterosexual couples can still engage in coitus, which is socially beneficial, but they never consider the case of erectile dysfunction.)
Although letting go of these long-standing evaluations of anatomical complementarity and the intent to procreate may be difficult, it is not impossible with a small dose of humility. Indeed, humility is necessary for religious people who face the unsettling reality that sources like the Bible and the natural law cannot deliver specific moral norms that are timeless and universal.
Martin makes this point effectively in the context of sexuality and biblical interpretation. “We should remember,” he writes, “that Paul begins invoking Scripture only after appealing to other kinds of arguments and ‘sources’ of knowledge, including his own and the Galatians’ experiences.” (152)
Martin’s point is that we cannot read the Bible for moral guidance without already having our reading informed by our experiences and those of others. The same is true for natural law reflection: in reasoning toward moral precepts in light of what we think is the natural order of creation, we necessarily bring our experiences and those of others to bear on our reasoning processes. As we consider a wider and wider circle of experience (that is, one that includes LGBTQ+ people more than it used to), we may find that our ideas about order and our specific moral norms need revision.
Such recognition would not weaken the natural law’s moral authority. On the contrary, it would gain integrity by demonstrating enough humility to admit fallibility. The only thing natural law accounts of human sexuality have to lose is their dual status as the last holdout against marriage equality and as the last voice against the full dignity of people who do not conform to heternormative social standards.
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.
.. Princeton University professor Robert George hasn’t been surprised by the flood of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in his first month in office. For more than 30 years, the conservative legal scholar and political theorist has worried about what he sees as the dangerous expansion of executive power... The procedures for vetting refugees were “much more rigorous and extensive than I would otherwise have known,” he says. “Most Americans are not aware…of the rigor of the procedures, and most Americans have had their perceptions shaped by the [terrorist] events in Europe.”.. He doesn’t believe that the U.S. should prohibit the entry of people from particular countries. “We shouldn’t be trying to fight terrorism by closing our doors to the victims of terrorism,” he says. At the same time, he thinks that the U.S. should use its military, diplomatic and economic clout to help create safe places for refugees within the Middle East, closer to their homes... Both he and Mr. Gorsuch embrace the idea of natural law—the view, most fully developed in Catholic thought, that there are clear moral standards governing human behavior and that these can be discovered by the use of reason... Dr. George argues that the American founders had natural law in mind when they created the Constitution, but he doesn’t think that judges should invoke natural-law principles that are not set forth or clearly implied in the Constitution to strike down legislation, especially in ruling on such controversial issues as abortion and gay marriage... He says that Prof. West once said to him, “Brother Robby, you and I have got to be the two most misunderstood brothers in the country.” What he has in common with these colleagues, whatever their political disagreements, is “the idea of intellectual fallibility,” he says. “It’s the idea that I have something to learn from people who disagree with me.”