When the long-awaited decision in the Dobbs case finally came down last Friday, overturning Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years, Standing for Freedom Center editor John Wesley Reid summarized it like this:
“In perhaps the most climactic ruling of our time, the United States Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v. Wade. The 1973 ruling, which enabled the deaths of over 60 million preborn babies, has been condemned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”
As Christians, we praise God for this long-awaited answer to many prayers. I’ll have more to say about what is potentially the most significant Supreme Court ruling in American history, but I want to draw our attention back to a couple of other cases that came down last week as well. These decisions were also big wins for those who love freedom, but that’s not the whole story.
Because these two other major rulings by the Supreme Court from last week make one thing crystal clear: The Constitution is under attack in America.
This attack is coming from the progressive left, which wants to erode our most fundamental freedoms in a larger effort to usher in their vision of an egalitarian utopia. Utopia might sound nice in theory, but it always looks like brutal Marxism in practice. Standing in the way of that deadly future is our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitution on each of these two different points of attack — one being on our First Amendment right to religious liberty and the other on our Second Amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.
First, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court (plus Chief Justice Roberts) upheld our First Amendment religious freedoms in their ruling in the Carson v. Makin case, pertaining to school choice, government funding, and Christian schools in Maine. As the Standing for Freedom Center explained,
“Maine had barred parents from using their tuition dollars at two religious schools based on the schools’ religious beliefs and their assertion that the money would be used for a religious purpose. The First Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of Maine, finding that discrimination based on the religious use of public dollars is constitutional. The Supreme Court overturned that decision, ruling that discrimination based on religious use is no less offensive than discrimination based on religious status.”
In summary, Maine — a blue state led by progressive political leadership — had violated the First Amendment by denying religious schools the same opportunity offered to secular private schools to receive tuition vouchers from parents seeking to exercise school choice. Such a ban on the use of public funds was blatant discrimination, but the progressive-leaning First Circuit Court didn’t care and upheld Maine’s decision to deny Christian schools their free exercise rights. That’s why the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Thankfully, the Court made the right call, ruling that “Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause.”
The First Liberty Institute, which argued the case for the parents in Maine who had initially been denied use of the program’s funds to send their children to a private Christian school, said, “We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country. Parents in Maine can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government.”
That’s exactly right — the government of Maine was attempting to trample on its citizens’ First Amendment rights. And it would have gotten away with it if we didn’t have enough conservative Justices on the Supreme Court.
The second point of attack was the Second Amendment. We saw this in the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (Bruen from here on). Again, in a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court did the right thing and stopped a New York law that trampled on the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers (and also those in other states with similar laws).
The law in question instituted a bureaucratic and arbitrary licensing process for concealed carry permit applicants, requiring them to prove to a government official their “proper cause” to publicly carry a firearm outside of their home. In other words, the State made citizens show proof of some sort of direct threat on their life or some other good reason in order to be allowed to have a concealed carry permit.
But that isn’t the point of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment clearly states: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
This is exactly how Justice Thomas saw it as well. Writing for the majority, he reminded New York State that “the constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’”
Jordan Boyd, writing for The Federalist, summarized Thomas’ main point like so:
“Not only did Thomas confirm that ‘No New York statute defines “proper cause,”’ but he affirmed that the burden of proof when it comes to the constitutional right to bear arms should be on the government, not the citizens those rights are designed to protect.”
The good news is that the ruling in the Bruen case is one of the biggest victories for the Second Amendment in a long time.
The bad news is that, when taken in conjunction with the Maine case on school choice and religious liberty, it’s obvious that our most fundamental freedoms in America are under attack.
But the final piece of the good-bad-good news sandwich of these rulings is that, for now, and by God’s grace, we have good justices on the Supreme Court defending the Constitution.
How should we think about this as Christians?
First, it shows us how important it is to vote. Voting, for the Christian, is stewardship. It is a political “talent” that God has given us to invest wisely. We shouldn’t bury it in the ground and just hope for the best.
We need to vote for good congressmen who will pass good laws upholding our First and Second Amendment freedoms. We need to vote for good senators who will work to appoint good Supreme Court justices. And, as we all know too well by now, we should vote for presidents who commit to appointing Supreme Court justices who are, in turn, committed to defending every single word in every single article and every single amendment within the Constitution.
In a day and age when our very Constitutional order is under attack, having the right justices on the Court matters more than ever. Which means voting matters more than ever. Let’s not forget that.
But second, it’s important for us as Christians, as we try to filter everything through a biblical worldview, to recognize not just the goodness of these justices, but the goodness of God as well. Specifically, God’s goodness in His common grace for all of mankind.
Christians believe in something called “common grace.” It’s the idea that even though we live in a fallen world, spoiled by sin, there is still goodness that extends to all mankind from God, and even non-Christians, though trapped in their sin, can do real good to others. Ligonier, the ministry founded by the late R.C. Sproul, defines common grace like this:
“By common grace, God restrains sin, evil, misery, and wrath in this fallen world, while conferring general, nonredemptive blessings on all mankind. As distinguished from special (saving) grace, common grace is a necessary aspect of the continuance of life in this fallen world. It restrains evil and confers goodness on mankind as a whole, reflecting God’s attributes of goodness, mercy, and justice.”
Having a solid majority of Supreme Court Justices committed to upholding our American freedoms and Constitutional system — especially in a day and age when those things are under an increasingly hostile attack — is a perfect example of common grace. It’s a blessing from God that yields a good outcome for all in our nation, both Christian and non-Christian alike.
Third, and finally, while the common grace of good Supreme Court decisions restrained the efforts by Maine and New York to undermine First and Second Amendment freedoms, Christians should take to heart and mind that our Constitution is indeed under attack. As truth tellers, we should be willing to admit that the attacks are coming primarily from one side of the political spectrum — the progressive left — and respond accordingly.
Our most fundamental freedoms, both to live free lives as Christians in society and to defend our families and ourselves, hang in the balance.
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