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Justice Kennedy’s retirement and what it could mean for the direction of the country

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

NEWS OF JUSTICE KENNEDY’S RETIREMENT: WHAT IT MEANS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, last week, big news broke on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he’d be retiring July 31st, 2018. Harry, as many people will review the career of Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court, he no doubt is going to have mixed reviews. Your thoughts?

DR. REEDER: Justice Kennedy was a Ronald Reagan appointee. Some people may be old enough to remember that it was quite an ordeal in that, I think, one of the most brilliant that has ever existed with an impeccable track record, Judge Bork, was nominated. He was more or less a mentor to Justice Scalia, who died recently, on this matter of what is originalism or what we also call strict interpretation based upon the Constitution as it was written in its context and apply it to today’s context.

Senators Kennedy, Biden and others undertook a campaign to destroy Judge Bork, which succeeded in removing him. The next nominee that was put forward, Justice Ginsburg, it had been uncovered his practice of smoking marijuana as a law student and later on as a law professor. He withdrew.

ALTHOUGH ELECTED A CONSERVATIVE, KENNEDY’S SUPPORT OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION LED TO DANGER IN FAMILY ISSUES AND FIRST AMENDMENT

And then came Ronald Reagan’s third nominee, which was Justice Kennedy. Because he came under Reagan and because of his past record, he was considered to be a relatively reliable conservative justice but he has, over the period, made it very clear he is no Scalia, he is no Justice Bork, he is not an originalist in that sense.

Having said that, he is almost always reliable on the First Amendment issues. However, he has been a proponent of the sexual revolution as he has not upheld the sanctity of marriage, and its historic definition, in his leadership and opinion on the Obergefell case. He has a new civil right tied to the sexual revolution in terms of the striking down of all the sodomy laws, not only the affirmation of same-sex marriage but also the removal of all historic ethic that placed sexuality within the context of marriage.

Interestingly, he, himself, in his opinions realized that he had put in danger the free practice of religion because all major religions observe the fact that sexuality belongs in marriage and marriage is one man and one woman and he can see the collision. Tom, because of the profile I’ve laid out and sketched out, he has become known as “the swing vote” — which way is he going to go in most cases?

Well, with his retirement — he’s 81 years of age — President Trump has a second opportunity to place a justice on the Supreme Court and he has already said that he will pick from that list that he announced during his candidacy.

His stated commitment to appoint Constitutionalists and the publishing of that list of 25, I think may have won him the election because most Evangelicals would have had a very difficult time voting for him otherwise. Many who had issues with President Trump from a number of vantage points, I think, went to the poll and pulled the lever almost exclusively on this Supreme Court issue. And, if I may say, politically, it seems to have borne out. Gorsuch, by all accounts, has manifested not only judicial consistency as an originalist, but also has manifested a certain amount of brilliance in the public statements that he has made in the various cases.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MIDTERMS?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, you mention many conservative evangelicals who went to the poll in the last presidential election and voted for Trump for the Supreme Court decision alone — will that have carryover to these midterms?

DR. REEDER: There are two thoughts. One is while you are assured of having the votes to get through the nominee, go ahead and get it before the election and get it done before November. The other one is, well, no, hold this back and then use this to stoke the base of the conservatives — the evangelicals, the constitutionalists — to make sure that the president does have a majority in the Senate in order to get this nominee through.

There’s a third thought and the third thought is go ahead and get it done while you can get it done and then the fact that you could get it done, you make that the point of the next election that there is likely going to be at least one, possibly two more Supreme Court appointments with Stephen Breyer’s age at 79 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s age at 85. The fact that you’re able to get it through becomes the rallying point — you need to help us maintain that — so I think, politically, that’s what they’re working through.

Through a Christian and world and life view, I’m grateful for the turn that Justice Kennedy has made in the last three decisions and upholding First Amendment issues, particularly the free practice of religion, then I think it’s very important that the Supreme Court should be comprised of originalists — that is, those who see their job not to make law from a “living Constitution,” but to interpret the law from its context and apply it to today’s cases and that we maintain that genius of the American experiment. In fact, I want to talk about that some tomorrow as we focus our program upon the July the Fourth celebration and its ingenious dynamic of the three branches of government.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP OUR GOVERNMENT TRUE TO PURPOSE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, this is a significant decision. As we have seen with the previous justices that were put on the Supreme Court, it affects the direction, the morality and the conscience of the nation for decades to come.

DR. REEDER: Yes, it certainly does and so, as a believer, I believe that the American experiment that this would be a country governed by law not only necessitates a branch for lawmakers — that is, the legislators, the Congress — and also a branch for the execution of the law — that is, the presidency — but we desperately need competent and qualified justices who understand the role of the judiciary — not to become the executive branch, not to become the legislative branch, but to truly be the judiciary to make judgements based upon the law.

One of the great blessings for a nation is to have a justice that is “blind” in the sense that it doesn’t matter who is before the court, that they will get a fair interpretation of the law — it’s not just the rich, it’s not just the powerful, but all who stand before the law get the appropriate judgements of the law. And the opinions of the Supreme Court obviously set the precedents for the rest of the courts — the appeals court, the district court and the local courts.

What I would say, Tom, is that I, of course, am going to pray for this appointment, that it will be a good one. I’m not sure what they’ll do politically — I’ll leave that to the political pundits and the strategists — but I will pray that there will be an excellent appointee and I pray that that one, in their development after in office, will be consistent as an originalist and a strict constructionist of the Constitution and its proper application and will have wisdom from above.

PRAYERS FOR A JUST AND WISE COURT THAT PLEASES GOD

I love the prayer that used to accompany every single court. It’s interesting, Tom, recently, there was a lower court decision that went to the Supreme Court that the Supreme Court did not address concerning prayer for a commission meeting in Rowan County, North Carolina. That’ll probably come back to the Supreme Court.

However, beyond commission meetings, we almost always used to begin the session of a court with a prayer: “God, save this court.” And what the prayer meant was God, keep the court faithful and effective in bringing forth cases, process and judgements that are not only manifest with wisdom — perhaps even the wisdom of Solomon as he would sit in cases — but, beyond that, would also let justice roll down like rivers so that the citizens of this country all have the equal protection of the inalienable rights have been God-given and the courts would preserve that.

This is going to be a very important appointment and I am certainly in prayer that it would result in a justice that understands the role of a judge and will do so with wisdom and who will relish justice even in the midst of mercy. And dare I pray that the Lord would grant us a judge who would walk humbly with God — in other words, an echo of the words of the prophet: “And what does the Lord require of you, O man, but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

COMING UP TOMORROW: CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, as you mentioned earlier, tomorrow is Independence Day, our Fourth of July. It is our nation’s 242nd birthday. We’ll celebrate our nation’s independence on Wednesday’s edition of “Today in Perspective.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

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