Weighing Justices

· Civil Liberties

Justice may be blind and that’s for the good but what about those scales? When it comes to weighing one side against another I’m worried about size and heft overpowering brevity and thrift. Another way of imagining this concern is to place a bible on one side of the scale and the U.S. Constitution on the other. Both speak to the law but in entirely different ways.
I have nothing against Christians, per se. I happen to be one– by baptism (not my choice) and by an adolescent era decision to become one (via the United Methodist church). However, I haven’t set foot in a church for the purpose of worshiping since I was eighteen. That said, I have no particular beef with the church I joined as a youth (against my father’s adamant objection) nor with those who choose to worship in whatever manner or in whatever religion they choose.
But I do object, and in this way I think I am a strict constructionist here, to the injection of specific religious doctrine (belief, covenant, more, scripture–whatever you prefer to call it) into the procedures of civil law. I so fervently came to this view of things over several decades of intellectual and not-so-intellectual engagement with the burning topics of American society from the Movements (civil rights, peace, women’s lib, gay rights, yadda yadda) to the Issues (abortion rights, health care, living wage, drugs, Darwin, blah blah blah) to the Wars (remember Granada? etc, etc, etc). So fervent, in fact, that I had to give up playing the game Civilization when I discovered that all my civilizations crashed after Phase I because I refused to let them invent religion.
Why am I going on about this anyway? How can I hold a certain fondness in my heart for “That Old Rugged Cross” sung by a bunch of off-key warblers in an old smelly movie theater (new church under construction) and yet get red-eye and ear steam over School Prayer? I am reminded of another story….When My High School Science Teacher Was Asked About God. Now I adored this guy. He was soft spoken and patient, never making me or anyone else feel stupid for asking a stupid question. His classroom was decorated with innumerable jars of pickled wonders and he got me through my first dissection (med school was definitely not for me) with humor. And when asked if he believed in God he replied in the most comforting way possible that he did but that God had nothing to do with Science. So, he became sort of my Minister of Science.
Separating Religion and Science, the Bible and the Constitution, Faith and Reason, and all those complicated dualities of daily life is one of the basic tenets of American life. It’s why we have and discuss and fight over our Constitution. It’s the basis of our civil life and the reason we have any religious liberty at all, including the liberty to not have a religion.
So, getting back to the Scales of Justice, the question in my mind today is what book of laws tips the scale in the heart and mind of the current Christian president’s Christian Supreme Court nominee? Can one wear an American flag lapel and a Christian cross on the same suit and be trusted to be a supreme judge of American constitutional and civil law? The answer may be yes. But you will have to prove it to me.