Our nation has been on a slippery slope for some time now - in the words of Robert Bork - "slouching toward Gomorrah". Slowly slipping away are the standards of decency which have defined us as a nation for over 230 years. Over one hundred years ago, Alexis de Toqueville wrote, "America is great because America is good." Our "goodness" may be in the process of being called into question. The moral fabric of our society has been unraveling ever more rapidly as each day goes by as we as a culture seem to be sliding down a hill into a moral abyss.
The "slippery slope" just got slicker on Wednesday when the United States Supreme Court issued it's ruling on the case known as Kennedy v. Louisiana 07-343.
The 5-4 decision of the high court ruled unconstitutional a Louisiana law allowing for the death penalty of convicted child rapists. This ruling also nullifies similar laws on the books of Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.
The case stems from an incident in Harvey, LA (suburban New Orleans) in 1998, when then 43 year old Patrick Kennedy was accused of raping his eight year old stepdaughter. Kennedy was convicted in 2003 by a jury of his peers and was, under Louisiana statutes, sentenced to death for the brutal assault on this innocent eight year old girl. The Supreme Court of Louisiana, and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the convition upon appeal. Many of us would agree that a heinous crime of this nature should evoke nothing less than capital punishment.
But not five Justices on the United States Supreme Court!
"Swing Justice" Anthony Kennedy joined the four most liberal members of the court (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, Stephen Bryer, and John Paul Stevens) in ruling that execution for the crime of child rape falls under the 8th Amendment prohibition of Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Justice Kennedy, writing in the majority opinion said this, "However devastating the crime to children, the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child."
If that is the case, then what, in the name of God is a proportional punishment for the brutal rape of an innocent child?
Justice Kennedy continued, "Evolving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person, and the punishment of criminals must conform to that rule." He said that the Justices had determined that, "there is a distinction between intentional first degree murder on the one hand and non homicide crimes against individual persons, even including child rape, on the other. While these crimes may be devastating in their harm they are not comparable to murder in severity and irrevocability."
This ruling just baffles the mind. The phrase "evolving standards of decency" speaks volumes. That is the "slippery slope" to which I earlier referred. What about the stolen "dignity" of the innocent victim? How can the rape of a child ever "evolve" from an act of sheer depravity, to something that is relatively not so bad? Where will the "evolving standards of decency" eventually take us? Only God knows - but I for one do not want to go there.
The decision lets stand the death penalty for cases of the "most heinous homicides", and "crimes against the state" such as espionage, treason, and terrorism. While each of these crimes are worthy of their punishment - how can the physical and emotional terror of the rape of an innocent child deserve any less?
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion (shared by Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts). Alito wrote - "Murder is unique in its moral depravity and in the severity of the injury that it inflicts on the victim and the public." But Alito also opined, "Indeed, I have no doubt that, in the eyes of ordinary Americans, the very worst child rapists - predators who seek out and inflict serious physical and emotional injury on defenseless young children - are the epitome of moral depravity."
Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, said yesterday, "The opinion reads more like an out-of-control legislative debate than a constitutional analysis. One thing is clear: the five members of the court who issued the opinion do not share the same 'standards of decency' as the people of Louisiana."
We as Americans are faced with many choices as our national, state, and local elections roll around in November. The Presidential race has now come down to two presumptive nominees. Battle lines are being drawn, important issues are beginning to be addressed. We face a number of problems that the next Congress and Chief Executive must deal with - an unpopular war, where Americans are being killed daily; an economy that is in the tank; skyrocketing oil and fuel prices that seem to have no ceiling in sight; illegal immigration; and on and on and on. These are indeed major issues, and I do not want to diminish the importance of any, but I will not cast my vote for President based on any of the above issues.
In my humble opinion, the most important thing a President does during his term of office is to carry out his constitutional role of appointing Federal Judges and Supreme Court Justices. The next President will likely have opportunity to name as many as three Justices to the High Court, and dozens to the U.S. Courts of Appeals. These judges are not elected by the people and they serve for life! Yesterday's ruling (along with Roe v. Wade, Dred Scott, and other past infamous decisions) underline the cultural magnitude of those decisions, which plot the course of our nation for generations. While we cannot vote for Federal Judges, we do vote for the person who appoints them. Will we elect a President who will appoint Justices who legislate from the bench and hold to this hogwash of "evolving standards of decency"? Or will we elect a President who will appoint Judges that have a high view of the constitution and the original intent of the framers?
I am not especially enamored of either of our major choices for Chief Executive in 2008. But I will mark my ballot for the one who is least likely to appoint judicial activists to the highest courts in the land.
The law of sowing and reaping is a physical law. It is also a spiritual law. I believe it is also a social law. We reap exactly what we sow. Our society has been sowing to these "evolving standards of decency" for some time now. God has given us implicit instructions as to how we may avert His judgment and bring healing upon our land. 2 Chronicles 7: 14 "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
We have continued to ignore the warning signs and continue to "sow the wind and reap the whirlwind".
Welcome to the harvest.