Roy’s rock and other people’s rocks

Phyllis Schaffly makes the obvious but intelligent point that Congress could do a great deal about the federal judicial usurpations that have led to the suppression of the 10 Commandments at the Alabama Supreme Court by simply exercising its constitutional power to withdraw jurisdiction over such issues from the federal courts.

They won’t, of course, because doing so would put them at odds with the religious outlook of our elites. Justice Moore and his fans think the law, human society, and the world at large can be trusted to the extent we place ourselves under God’s protection. Hence Roy’s Rock, and hence their perseverence in a cause that seems doomed. In contrast, our governing elites think such things can be trusted to the extent we place ourselves under the protection of science and human rights. That is the reason for their absolute insistence on judicial supremacy and compulsory public atheism. Without those things, science and human rights can not be viewed as all-powerful protecting powers. Other things come into play that cannot be neatly controlled, and chaos threatens.

That, by the way, is the reason for the demonization of “fundies” in current public life—from our rulers’ standpoint, serious believers in transcendent religion threaten the order of the human cosmos, and so really are demons. People say that narrow dogmatism, fear and hatred all go together. The secularist attitude toward religion, backed by the power of the judiciary, suggest there’s something to that.

6 thoughts on “Roy’s rock and other people’s rocks”

  1. Another reason that congress
    Another reason that congress won’t withdraw jurisdiction is that the 14th Amendment, and much of the legal and cultural history of the civil rights movement reaffirms the notion that states do not have the “right” to question federal interpretation of constitutionally guaranteed rights (regardless of their correctness). If Judge Roy Moores legal arguments were correct, what would prevent a state from choosing not to uphold the freedom of speech, press, free assembly or the freedom to exercise religion? As has been evident from the use of federal troops to enforce desegregation, chaos would ensue if states could arbitrarily decide which rights they would uphold, and the rule of law would be greatly diminished.

    Ironically, Judge Roy Moore invoked the civil rights movement on several occasions in justifying his struggle. Only the most strained reading of Letter from a Birmingham Jail, where Dr. King at great length talked about when civil disobedience was appropriate, could support this claim. Besides seeming rather arrogant, this assertaion only showed how much further the liberal tyranny will need to go to be truly oppresive under Dr. Kings description.

    One of the things that you point out in the notes on liberal modernity post is that there are no moderating influences on the tyranny of liberalism and political correctness. Yet the current condition does not support that claim. At local levels and institutions, an occasional oppressive “speech code” has been ramroded through with little opposition. But at the national level, anti-hate crime legislation is the best that the “liberal elites” can do. It seems to me that a modern day Madison would use this example to argue that a strong representative democracy, through necessity of compromise and establishing coalitions, is in and of itself a moderating force. This is the essence of federalist #10(?). Consequentially, the modern day Madison would assert that efforts to weaken the authority of the federal government ( and judiciary) only enhance the excesses of tyranny. Those who would argue for states rights should carefully examine what the effects of more localized control will be. Even in the bible belt Alabama, the 8 other justices ruled against Moore.

    Besides arguing for States Rights, Judge Moore also claimed that the Ten Commandments were a significant historical influence on our law. In so doing, Moore overtly implied that the first four commandments were null.

    All of this begs the question: just who have been the willing co-conspirators in the secularization of culture and the promotion of the liberal tyranny?

  2. It seems to me that the
    It seems to me that the “what will happen to the rule of law” argument depends on the notion that people won’t govern themselves in an orderly way, so there always has to be someone higher up to tell them what to do.

    I don’t much like the argument. For one thing, it has a logical problem: how do you know the guy at the top is going to act properly? With that in mind, I think we’re better off with distributed responsibility and a limited federal role, so that no level of government becomes all-powerful. There’s also the historical point that the application of the Bill of Rights to the states is a relative novelty (it began about 1925), and the practical point that the proposed limitation of jurisdiction is quite narrow and if there were major problems Congress could always revoke it.

    I agree that the civil rights movement encouraged a view of rights as something comprehensively imposed on society from above. Not everything that came out of the civil rights movement was good.

    I really don’t think “strong representative democracy” is a good description of our current system. Durable lopsided majorities believe affirmative action ought to be cut way back or done away with, immigration limited, abortion much more restricted than at present, and some credit given to God in public life. Presumably a strong representative democracy would reflect such concerns. Our actual system of government rejects them absolutely.

    What Madison’s analysis of factions left out, presumably because it was much less relevant in a much simpler, less populous, more decentralized, and effectively more homogeneous society, is that in order to affect government in any useful way the people must be coherent enough to deliberate and act together, and government must be small enough so it is not itself an overwhelmingly dominant player. When factionalism radicalizes and becomes multiculturalism and ethnic and sexual pressure groups, when government takes over ever-more-comprehensive responsibility for social life at large, when employees and hangers-on of the government become a major voting bloc in their own right, popular rule of any sort becomes impossible. The people become incapable of collective thought and action and so fall into in the hands of their custodians.

    It’s no doubt true that wackier things happen in Berkeley than Washington, D.C. Still, most of America isn’t Berkeley, but all of America is subject to Washington. It is the federal judiciary that has imposed radical secularism and abortion-on-demand on the whole country. It is federal civil rights law that imposes radical feminism, not to mention a regime of affirmative action and therefore public lying, on almost every significant American institution. It is federal immigration policy that destroying the degree of common culture, memories, and loyalties that made it possible for the American people to rule themselves. And it is the fact that it is the federal government that is doing these things that makes partial local countermeasures, that could have a cumulative effect as they are seen to work, impossible.

    As to whose fault all this is, no doubt we’ve all participated one way or another. Still, radicalism from above has been a necessary part of the process and it’s a part that can—and therefore should—be attacked politically.

  3. The rule of law does not
    The rule of law does not presuppose that someone higher up is needed, but only that consistent standards are necessary. Either the states have the right to revoke constitutional rights or not. Regardless of the novelty of the interpretation, strict constructionalists would be wise to remember that the powers reserved for the states lie outside of those specifically enumerated or prohibited. Judge Moore tried to open up a loophole using the wording of “Congress shall make no law”, and suggested that this particular prohibition applies to the federal level only.

    The Rehnquist Court, which has lead something of a states rights revolution in the past 10 years, was not interested in granting loopholes to a reasonable standard. Especially after the 14th amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the Citizens of the United States”. Its difficult to understand how the federal judiciary was acting tyrannical in this case.

    The tyrant may be Judge Moore himself. He, without the authority of the legislature, sneaked the display in at around 2am, in what appears to have been a calculated move to both promote himself and instigate a legal fight. Judge Moore disobeyed not only the courts, but also the Attorney General of the State of Alabama, and the eight other justices of his Court. With his three dozen supporters singing “We shall overcome” outside the courthouse, the shallowness and arrogance of his position was revealed. Some might claim that a display of the Ten Commandments is not an establishment of religion, I position that I would have some sympathy for. But Moores cynical use of religious language and symbols to promote political interests and perhaps further his own career seems more of a gaudy display of public religiosity then a respectful acknowledgement of Gods sovereignty. The ultimate effect of invoking Gods name for vain purposes is only the cheapening of the Christian tradition.

    I am not sure I am properly understanding or organizing the remainder of your comments. How can durable lopsided majorities be constructed if the public is generally incapable of collective thought? If you are unhappy with the progress of the political party that broadly and generally supports the identified issues, and is currently in control of the legislature and executive, perhaps Madisonian principles are still operative.

    I will agree that anti-immigration sentiments have been durable. At least ever since the anti-Catholic nativist movement of the 1820s. From Irish-Catholics to Southern Europeans to Asians to Eastern Europeans and more recently Hispanics, each new wave of immigrants have been warmly greeted with apocryphal warnings that their arrival will be the cause for the forthcoming collapse of civilized culture.

    Yet racism, not liberalism, has been both the driving force behind anti-immigration and the greatest dilutor of cultural integrity. Racism weakens and corrupts the character and constitution of the majorities institutions. It forces minorities into a position where political organization against the majority culture is non-optional. Further, racism fosters widespread disillusionment with a majority that would harbor such abhorrent positions and encourages sympathies that often lead to the exploration of the minorities food, music, culture and traditions.

    It would be better to support policies that let the minority immigrants live their life and work in peace. Most immigrants, as evident by their willingness to come here, broadly agree with our values and traditions, and do not pose as large a threat as you imagine. Hispanics in particular come from an “unpurified” Western tradition that strongly encourages Catholicism and the traditional family. If conservatives were not so short-sighted, Latinos would otherwise be seen as the “cavalry” in the ongoing “culture wars”.

    For myself, if I had to make a choice between anti-discriminatory discrimination and pro-discriminatory discrimination, I would choose the illogical contradictory position. Its seems better to have a solid starting point of refuting known evils than to achieve an intellectual satisfaction of consistency based on questionable premises. The former at least offers a solid foundation and the possibility that mistakes can be corrected. The latter always sounds better, but rarely achieves valid conclusions.

  4. Isn’t it a bit odd to start
    Isn’t it a bit odd to start a post insisting on consistent standards as a necessity, and then end it by explicitly embracing an illogical contradictory position on an appeal to some ineffable higher validity? It seems that an appeal to the transcendent can’t be avoided, even by those who attempt to explicitly reject appeals to the transcendent.

  5. jp’s comments are rather
    jp’s comments are rather diffuse, so I won’t try to respond to everything. Some particular points though:

    1. The rule of law does not require consistent standards on all things except in a totally centralized system. The American system was not intended to be totally centralized.

    2. If you took a hundred million people at random worldwide and popped questions at them they wouldn’t be capable of coherent collective thought but there would nonetheless be lopsided majorities on some issues. The latter doesn’t require the former.

    3. The view that the issues regarding immigration are “racism” and whether there will be “policies that let the minority immigrants live their life and work in peace” strikes me as very odd.

    4. Most Hispanics are Mexicans, and there’s nothing particularly Western about Mexico. And the private views of immigrants on cultural issues are less relevant to the “cultural wars” in public life than the destruction of cultural coherence that large-scale immigration brings. The latter leads to expansion of the role of the state in social life, rule by administrators, and therefore—given the nature of the modern state and public administration—an advantage for the libertine side. California is a good example.

  6. I agree that consistency has
    I agree that consistency has its limitations. Our current constitution was borne out of the failures of the Articles of Confederation with its more decentralized structure. While totalitarian control was rejected, a strong federal system was institutionalized. The ninth and tenth amendments define the limit of federal power and reserve for the people and the states that which is outside of the powers specifically enumerated and prohibited. Therefore, for an issue such as the establishment clause, which is enumerated, consistency is warranted.

    Yet consistency is not some alter upon which to sacrifice moral principles. Confusing the issue is the fact that not all proponents of anti-immigration policies are racist. Yet a separation from the most ardent supporters of the movement, who often harbor racist sentiments, seems impossible in referring to the “durable” or historical movement. At the same time such an examination may be useful in determining if the premises of such arguments are true. If one were to find the social effects, historical associations, implications and foundations of a cause morally disagreeable, how can one be a party to that cause?

    In this light, I find it odd that a blog devoted to traditional Catholicism and politics would champion the “durable” anti-immigration movement without clarification or exploration of the slander caused to Catholics historically associated to that same cause. It doesn’t take long to find Protestant websites that maintain the church of Rome is the whore of Babylon or that the Pope is the Anti-Christ or other vicious slanders against Catholics, all of which first found traction in the literature of the 19th Century nativist movement. Even John Kennedy’s Presidential campaign of 1960 was impacted by historical anti-Catholicism, in that he had to specifically address charges from a group of over-eager Protestant ministers.

    You lament that widespread immigration will be the cause for the loss of our common culture and history, and further reduces the social structure. Yet these same charges have been heard repeatedly throughout the history of the US, first starting with Irish-Catholic immigrants, a group now assimilated into the common culture that is so threatened. Anti-Catholic protestants, for many of these same reasons you cite, attempted to pass Constitutional amendments and other repressive laws, spread rumors, enforced economic and political suppression through vigilante justice and were a contributing cause to massive riots in New York and Philadelphia. The mostly inaccurate Gangs of New York is worthwhile in that it does provide a glimpse into the culture of violence during that period.

    But anti-Catholicism was not the only cause of repression against the Irish. Political cartoons of that era depicted the immigrants with sub-human apelike qualities, a notion that was reinforced by “studies” of Phrenology and Physiology. Many of the “elites” publicly advocated theories of the supremacy of Nordic races and the biological inferiority of non-Aryans. The effect was a severe distrust of non-“native” Americans, and other outsiders to the original protestant pilgrims from Northern and Western Europe. That was (and is) the driving force behind the “durable” anti-immigration movement you are so quick to assume is not racist.

    Along these same lines of thought, many intellectuals began to misassociate the entirety of Western Civilization with Anglo-Saxon culture (Perhaps this is why you see nothing “Western” about Mexico, a nation derived from and still influenced by 300 years of colonial Spanish rule?). This misunderstanding lead to other repressions against later groups of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, often propped up by claims of Nordic supremacy, fears of cultural decay and the breakdown of the traditional family, and further slanders and repression of those groups of minorities.

    Outright claims of biological superiority have fallen out of favor, as Charles Murray discovered, but nonetheless still exist and oftentimes play a prominent role in the anti-immigration movement. Armed militia groups throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California violently “patrol” the border. Oftentimes funding comes directly from white supremacy and neo-nazi groups. These groups include Armed Border Patrol, Civil Homeland Defense and Ranch Rescue. Other anti-immigration groups include outright racists such as the neo-Confederate League of the South, which advocates complete disenfranchisement for African-Americans and Hispanics, as well as a stop to all immigration.

    Funding from white supremacists and other racist groups for more moderate anti-immigration movements such as U.S. English forced Linda Chavez and Walter Cronkite to publicly disavow their associations with the movement. Indeed, the most recent anti-immigration movement of the last twenty years has had the most active supporters and fundraisers from racist groups. A survey of anti-immigration literature finds widespread scapegoating of immigrants for all sorts of social maladies, illegitimate fears of conspiracies, invasions, and take-overs, as well as rumors of disease, economic turmoil and racial stereotypes.

    Is it odd to notice the connection between overt racists and anti-immigration? Is it odd to be opposed fundamentally to vigilante justice? Or are these groups doing the work of God in “purifying” our culture? Why is it odd to assume that people should be able to live their life in peace? Or should all of us be subject to the whim of whatever stereotypes haunt the mind of the extremist? Its not odd to notice that “identity politics” has a negative impact on our collective cohesive thought. But it is odd to fail to notice that such political organizations have only surfaced as a tool for self-preservation in reaction to the excesses of the majority. The “past prophets” of anti-immigration have made the same charges you have – yet the Irish, Italians and other minority groups have assimilated just fine. Why should anyone believe the principled anti-immigrationist now?

    The specifics of immigration policy may be publicly debated. But sinful attitudes need to be renounced. Left to its own devices, the harm to the social fabric is much more pronounced.


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