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Courts ‘disordering’ liberty Land, others say in statement

WASHINGTON (BP)??Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land has joined a cross?section of religious, public policy and academic leaders in warning that the American court system is aiding the “disordering of our liberty.”
In the statement, published in the October issue of First Things magazine, 46 signers say, “The great threat to the American experiment today is not from enemies abroad but from disordered liberty. That disorder is increasingly expressed in a denial of the very concept of moral truth.”
The American courts have played a major role in this decline in recent years by frequently exercising power “without the consent of the governed,” they say.
“If the Supreme Court and the judiciary it leads do not change course, the awesome consequences are clearly foreseeable,” the statement says. “The founding principle of self?government has been thrown into question. Already it seems that people who are motivated by religion or religiously inspired morality are relegated to a category of second?class citizenship. Increasingly, law and public policy will be pitted against the social and moral conviction of the people, with the result that millions of Americans will be alienated from a government that they no longer recognize as their own. We cannot, we must not, let this happen.”
The document, titled “We Hold These Truths: A Statement of Christian Conscience and Citizenship,” says the most obvious example of the courts’ abuse of power is the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which erased the abortion laws of all 50 states in declaring the Constitution includes a privacy right to abortion. Subsequent high court rulings that have harmed the people’s ability to govern themselves, according to the statement, are:
?? Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 abortion decision that redefined liberty apparently to mean “nothing more nor less than what is chosen by the autonomous, unencumbered self.”
?? Lee v. Weisman, the 1992 ruling rejecting a junior high graduation prayer by a Jewish rabbi. The decision “seemed to suggest that an ethic and morality that ‘transcend human invention’ is what is meant by religion that is constitutionally forbidden ground for law,” the signers say.
?? Romer v. Evans, the 1996 opinion overturning a state amendment banning laws granting civil rights status to homosexuals. In the ruling, “thousands of years of moral teaching regarding the right ordering of human sexuality was cavalierly dismissed as an irrational ‘animus,'” the statement says.
The document says the signers oppose the idea America should be declared a Christian nation. “We do not seek a sacred public square but a civil public square,” it says.
In addition to Land, others normally identified as conservatives who signed the statement include William Armstrong, former U.S. senator; Gary Bauer, Family Research Council president; Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship president; James Dobson, Focus on the Family president; Don Hodel, Christian Coalition president; Presbyterian pastor James Kennedy; Richard John Neuhaus, Institute on Religion and Public Life president; and John Cardinal O’Connor of the Archdiocese of New York.
A number of signers, however, are not usually identified as conservatives. They include Vinton Anderson, presiding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary president; Robert Seiple, World Vision president; Ron Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action president; and Bennett Smith, Progressive National Baptist Convention president.
The document was released for the July 4 holiday but was agreed upon by the signers before a group of controversial Supreme Court decisions was announced in late June. Among those rulings, the high court struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and a federal law prohibiting the on?line distribution of indecent material to minors. In the introduction to the statement in First Things, the editors say those decisions “indeed may make more urgent” the issues addressed by the document.
First Things is a monthly journal published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote a religiously informed philosophy for society.