Are We Still “One Nation Under God”?
The Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas is America’s “moral 9/11”
On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court granted constitutional protection to sodomy.
In holding that a Texas law classifying sodomy as a misdemeanor violated the liberty protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court decriminalized sodomy nationwide, when practiced privately.
The case before the Court was Lawrence v. Texas. Many hailed the high court’s decision as a Roe v. Wade for the homosexual movement. The analogy was well drawn. Both Roe and Lawrence are dark, tragic pages in our history.
America can be rightfully proud of its heroes and their feats of selfless dedication both at home and abroad. These represent glorious pages in our nation’s history.
However, pages like Roe are shrouded in darkness. They obscure our glorious past and stain our honor. Consider the fact that Roe sealed the fate of some 44 million unborn Americans, a staggering figure equivalent to the combined populations of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
1. America’s “Moral 9/11”
Unlike Roe, Lawrence will not result directly in the killing of unborn Americans. However, it created the legal and psychological frameworks for the total destruction of what is left of the country’s moral structures.
In one fell swoop the highest court in the land laid low the legal constructs of every state safeguarding public morality. Lawrence also paved the way for destroying a second set of legal constructs – such as the country’s many Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) laws – erected to protect the sacred institutions of marriage and the family.
The scope of the Court’s rationale in Lawrence is so broad that it essentially affirms that there is no morality. As we see it, Lawrence replicates in the moral realm the devastating physical attack perpetrated against the nation on September 11, 2001.
2. An incremental Approach that Undermines Public Morality
The Supreme Court in Lawrence based its decision on a string of cases that gradually expanded the right of privacy, while denying the government’s role in upholding public morality.
Thus, in a first step, the Court held in 1965 that the Due Process Clause established a right of privacy. This right of privacy applied, the Court held, to the use of contraceptives by married couples. It held further that the state had no right passing legislation infringing on this constitutional right (Griswold v. Connecticut). In 1972, the Court used the Equal Protection Clause to expand this interpretation of the right of privacy to unmarried couples (Eisenstadt v. Baird). In 1973, the Court used the Due Process Clause again to expand its interpretation of the right of privacy to include abortion (Roe v. Wade).
The Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick temporarily interrupted the trend. Bowers affirmed sodomy was not a fundamental right, and that there was a legitimate state interest to make it a crime.
By overturning Bowers in Lawrence, the Supreme Court continued its incremental approach, profoundly undermining public morality.
The next step in this gradualist reshaping of public morality is the legal and social acceptance of “marriage” between homosexuals1 and their adoption of children. The Supreme Court will be no obstacle.2
3. A Clear Rupture with 2,000 Years of Christian Tradition
The Supreme Court chided the justices who decided Bowers for allowing themselves to be swayed by the moral standards formed during the 2,000-year history of Western Christian civilization, instead of hearkening to “the emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex.”
“Bowers was making the broader point,” Lawrence reads, “that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as moral and ethical principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives.”
The Court in Lawrence solemnly reaffirmed its decisions in previous cases to break with this Christian heritage and stated that, for it, “our laws and traditions in the past half century are of most relevance here.”
4. Liberty Becomes License When It breaks away from Natural and Divine Law
Bowers had to be overturned, the Court stated, because it failed “to appreciate the extent of the liberty at stake.” “Liberty presumes an autonomy of self,”3 and the Court’s duty is “to define the liberty of all.”4
Thus, the “right to liberty” was the basis for the Court’s decision to grant constitutional protection to sodomy.
The Court’s discussion as to how “liberty” is to be understood, although of paramount importance given Lawrence’s far-reaching consequences, was grossly inadequate.
As the Fourteenth Amendment reminds us, a person can be imprisoned – thus losing his personal liberty – only after due process of law. It is openly debatable if the Fourteenth Amendment deals with moral liberty. Nevertheless, an erroneous concept of moral liberty is at the heart of the Court’s decision in Lawrence.
Moral liberty is not meant to subsist in a vacuum. It must be understood within the framework of a moral order, within the context of a moral natural law that itself is anchored in the eternal law established by the Creator and which governs the order of the universe. When moral liberty is detached from natural and divine law it soon degenerates into license.
As Pope Leo XIII reminds us in the Encyclical Libertas:
“Liberty, the highest of natural endowments, being the portion only of intellectual or rational natures, confers on man this dignity – that he is ‘in the hand of his counsel’5 and has power over his actions. But the manner in which such dignity is exercised is of the greatest moment, inasmuch as on the use that is made of liberty the highest good and the greatest evil alike depend. Man, indeed, is free to obey his reason, to seek moral good, and to strive unswervingly after his last end. Yet he is free also to turn aside to all other things; and, in pursuing the empty semblance of good, to disturb rightful order and to fall headlong into the destruction which he has voluntarily chosen….
“Therefore, the nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or in those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil. And, so far from this most just authority of God over men diminishing, or even destroying their liberty, it protects and perfects it, for the real perfection of all creatures is found in the prosecution and attainment of their respective ends, but the supreme end to which human liberty must aspire is God.”6
In contrast, Lawrence allows so broad an interpretation of “liberty,” that all state laws proscribing evils such as prostitution, adultery, bigamy, incest, sadomasochism, pedophilia, and bestiality are now at risk.
5. Government Has No Right to Renounce its Natural Law Duty to Uphold Morality in the Pursuit of the Common Good
The Court ascribed much importance to decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the fact that many countries have legalized sodomy.7 It then concluded that “there has been no showing that in this country the governmental interest in circumscribing personal choice is somehow more legitimate or urgent.”
The Court focused on the “right to liberty,” when it was duty bound to base its decision first and foremost on the responsibility of every political authority (including the judiciary) to uphold that most fundamental principle of natural law,8 “Do good and avoid evil.”
This does not mean that the state must enforce the practice of every virtue and proscribe the indulgence in every vice, as attempted by the ayatollahs of our days. Rather, it means that in legislating on moral matters, which it should do only when these directly affect the common good, it must legislate so as to favor virtue, and raise obstacles to vice.
Nevertheless, in circumstances where homosexuality is indeed advancing worldwide, how are Americans to construe Lawrence? Seeing how sodomy was converted from its legal status as a crime in some states into a constitutionally protected form of “liberty,” how can they construe the Court’s action except as favoring not virtue, but unnatural vice?
This dereliction of duty represents a major blow to America’s Christian roots, the institution of the family and the very foundation of morality and society.
6. Sacred Scripture and Church Teaching Condemn Homosexuality
As stated, the Supreme Court chastises Bowers for upholding centuries of legal precedent shaped by natural law and Christian doctrine.
Centuries after Lawrence’s reversal, after it has become no more than a footnote for American history experts, homosexuality will continue condemned by Sacred Scripture and the Catholic Church.
Indeed, homosexuality is a sin condemned in both the Old and the New Testaments.9 Saint Peter in his second epistle, for example, says:
“And reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, God condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should afterwards act wickedly. And He delivered just Lot, oppressed by the injustice and lewd conversation of the wicked” (2:6-7).
In his epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul says:
“Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves.
“Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
“For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature.
“And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error” (1:24-27).
Homosexuality has also been condemned by Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and by the Popes for 2,000 years. Saint Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church, for example, says it “should not be considered an ordinary vice, for it surpasses all of them in enormity.”10
The Catechism of St. Pius X calls homosexuality a sin that “cries out to Heaven for vengeance,”11 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992 says: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’”12
And in his February 20, 1994 Angelus Address, protesting against a special resolution of the European Parliament encouraging the nations of Europe to approve homosexual “marriage,” Pope John Paul II states:
“What is not morally acceptable, however, is the legalization of homosexual acts. To show understanding towards the person who sins, towards the person who is not in the process of freeing himself from this tendency, does not at all mean to diminish the demands of the moral norm (cf. Veritatis Splendor, 95).…
“But we must say that what was intended with the European Parliament’s resolution was the legitimization of a moral disorder. Parliament improperly conferred an institutional value to a conduct that is deviant and not in accordance with God’s plan….
“Forgetting the words of Christ ‘The truth shall set you free’ (John 8:32), an attempt was made to show the people of our continent a moral evil, a deviance, a certain slavery, as a form of liberation, falsifying the very essence of the family.”13
True charity towards homosexuals consists in showing them the enormous unnatural lie they have embraced, to help them see the horror of the sin in which they find themselves, and to assist them in every way to abandon their deplorable state.
7. Can We Still See Ourselves as “One Nation Under God”?
An act is immoral if it violates natural or divine law. That an immoral act is committed in private does not diminish the fact that it still offends God, for no sin, private or otherwise, escapes His omniscience. Not even our most intimate thoughts are unknown to Him.
In civil society, it behooves the state to punish immoral acts — including those practiced privately — that harm the common good and disturb the social order. Homosexuality, incest, and other sexual abnormalities undermine the family, which is the basis of society.
To sustain that it is not a legitimate state interest to punish homosexual acts that are practiced privately is tantamount to affirming that it is not in the state’s interest to protect the family and, therefore, the common good.
Moreover, when the state’s condoning of such immoral acts is codified into positive law, the latter breaks with natural and divine law. In so doing, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, positive law perverts itself.14 In breaking with the eternal law, the state establishes a new atheistic standard of “morality.”
The day America subscribes to this atheistic “morality,” how can it continue to ask for God’s blessings with any sincerity of heart? How can it honestly refer to itself in the Pledge of Allegiance as “One Nation Under God?”
8. We Should Fear that God Will Withdraw His Blessings from America
America is a profoundly religious nation. Even today, amidst the raging Cultural War, when religion is being slowly squeezed out of the public square, it finds refuge in the depths of many hearts.
While many in Europe deride the fact that our political leaders, especially after 9/11, weave quotes from Scripture into their speeches and end them with “God bless America,” we actually love the custom.
God has blessed our nation abundantly in its short history and it is proper and good that we express our gratitude.
Will America continue to receive God’s blessings in the wake of Lawrence? We certainly hope and pray that it will.
This will certainly happen, if Americans resolve to reject the homosexual agenda15 despite the pressure brought to bear by a liberal media, the world of Hollywood, and more unwanted changes to our laws by the Supreme Court.
9. Those Who Love God Need to Stand up and Be Counted
Genesis teaches us that God was determined to punish Sodom and Gomorrah for their wicked ways. Abraham begged for mercy, asking God if He intended to destroy the just with the wicked. He asked God if He would punish Sodom if there were even fifty just men in the city. God replied: “If I find in Sodom fifty just men, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”16 Abraham knew there were not fifty just men in Sodom so he bargained with God. What if only forty-five could be found? What if only forty? Or thirty? Twenty? Ten? The Lord said: “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”17
Here is a lesson for us today. If we love America, and we do, we must stand up and be counted by God. He must be able to find enough faithful souls who abide by His Commandments.
We may or may not be able to reverse Lawrence in the short run, but we must work untiringly to create the moral climate whereby homosexuality is rejected. We must not be intimidated. We must voice our rejection loudly and firmly, legally and peacefully, in defense of Christian morals. Only such public voicing of our rejection of the homosexual agenda can ascend to Heaven as a worthy act of reparation to our offended God.
We can prove ourselves true to God. We know that we can stand by Our Lord not just during His many miracles, when He cured the sick and raised the dead. We know that we can stand by Him not only amid the public acclaim of Palm Sunday.
We know that we can be right there next to Him when He is nailed to the Cross. Right there close to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John and the holy women, amid the taunts and jeers, even if all we can do is to proclaim His innocence and our faith in Him like the Good Thief: “Lord, remember me when You shall come into Your kingdom.”18
We are Americans. We believe in liberty. True liberty! There is no power on earth that can make us change, unless we choose.
May God bless America!
July 4, 2003
The American TFP
- As much as possible we avoid using the word gay, as its generalized use would be a victory, in our view, for homosexual ideology. Indeed, the word itself conotes joy. A vice that is an aberration against nature cannot give true joy or happiness. Likewise, in opposition to a usage that is becoming generalized, we restrict the term homosexuality to homosexual practices, thus excluding the mere inclination. No individual who suffers from such an unnatural inclination and resists it with the help of grace can be called a homosexual, just as no one who resists the inclination to steal or lie can be called a thief or a liar.
- Lawrence opens wide the door to homosexual “marriage.” The Court stated: “When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice” (emphasis added).
- “Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do. The decision in Bowers would deny them this right.”
- . The Court reiterated its holding in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey that “our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”
- Ecclus. 15:14.
- The Papal Encyclicals, 1878-1903, Claudia Carlen, I.H.M., ed. (New York: McGrath Publishing Company, 1981), p. 169.
- “Other nations, too, have taken action consistent with an affirmation of the protected right of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct. The right the petitioners seek in this case has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom in many other countries.”
- .“Natural moral law and its component part, the ius naturale, is precisely this divine law with reference to man, so far as the latter participates in the divine law. The eternal law dwells as blind necessity in irrational nature. As oughtness, as norm of free moral activity, it is inscribed in the heart of man, a rational and free being…. There is no soul, however corrupt it may be, in whose conscience God does not speak, if only it is still capable of rational thought. There are human actions, consequently, which are in themselves good or bad. Bad acts are not qualified as such by force of law, but because they are such in themselves: because they constitute a disturbance of the natural order…. Not the will of the earthly lawgiver, but variance with natural reason is the ground of the intrinsic immorality of determinate actions” (Heinrich A. Rommen, The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy [St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1947], pp. 37-38).
- Cf. Gen. 19:1-29; Lev. 18:22; Deut. 22:5; 2 Pet. 2:6-7; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10.
- The Book of Gomorrah (Patrologia Latina, vol. 145, col. 159-190) quoted in Roberto de Mattei, L’Église et l’homosexualité (Paris: Pierre Téqui Éditeur, 1995), p. 12.
- Cf. www.ewtn.com/library/catechism/PiusXCat.txt. Theologians give Gen. 19:13 as the scriptural basis for this designation.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1995) § 2357, p. 625.
- Angelus Address of February 20, 1994, at www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/angelus/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_ang_19940220_it.html [our translation from the Italian original].
- “As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) ‘that which is not just seems to be no law at all’: wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (Q. 91, Art. 2 ad 2).
Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law” (The “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas, II-I, Q. 95, Art. 2 [London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1915], pp. 56-57).
- Livio Melina, professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome, makes an important observation on “gay culture”: “Today this term [gay] is highly politicized and does not simply mean a homosexually oriented person but one who publicly adopts a homosexual ‘lifestyle’ and is committed to having it accepted by society as fully legitimate. Justifiable opposition to offences and discrimination, which violate a person’s basic rights, cannot be confused with this demand. In fact a systematic plan for the public justification and glorification of homosexuality is taking shape, starting with the attempt to make it fully accepted in the mind of society. It aims, through increasing pressure, at a change in legislation so that homosexual unions may enjoy the same rights as marriage, including that of adoption” (“Christian Anthropology and Homosexuality: Moral criteria for evaluating homosexuality,” L’Osservatore Romano, weekly English edition, March 12, 1997, p.5).
- Gen. 18:26.
- Gen. 18:32.
- Luke 23:42.