God and the High Court

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WASHINGTON, July 15 (UPI) — What with jihads, invasions and epidemics, you’d think God would be pretty busy.

Now the Rev. Pat Robertson has put yet another side dish on the Lord’s already rather full plate: The televangelist is asking the Almighty to prod at least three Supreme Court justices into retirement.


Robertson launched “Operation Supreme Court Freedom” — a “massive prayer offensive” — this week while appearing on his Christian Broadcasting Network. The televangelist said he felt compelled to ask God to make the retirements happen because of a series of anti-morality decisions since the 1960s. Those decisions include taking prayer and the Bible out of public schools, support of abortion and making it “illegal for little elementary school children to give thanks over their milk and cookies at snack time.”

That last ruling might be a little hard to find, but the others are there all right. You can look them up.

The latest outrage, according to Robertson, occurred at the end of the court’s current term.

“Now, the Supreme Court has declared a constitutional right to consensual sodomy and, by the language in its decision, has opened the door to homosexual marriages, bigamy, legalized prostitution and even incest,” Robertson said on the CBN Web site.

In Lawrence vs. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that there is a “privacy and liberty interest” implicit in the Constitution’s guarantee of “due process,” or fair treatment, that gives consenting adults the right to have the kind of sex they want behind closed doors.

“But there is a higher tribunal than the United States Supreme Court,” Robertson assured the nation. “There is the Judge of all the Earth. We must earnestly come before Him now and cry out for redress of our grievances. He loves America as much as we do, and He does not wish to destroy it.”

Robertson was very specific about what he wants his listeners to do.

“Would you join with me and many others in crying out to our Lord to change the court? If we fast and pray and earnestly seek God’s face,” Robertson said, “then He will hear our prayer and give us relief.”

Robertson was less specific about which justices he has targeted for divine manipulation.

“One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition,” Robertson said. “Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire? With their retirement and the appointment of conservative judges, a massive change in federal jurisprudence can take place.”

There’s no problem in identifying Justice John Paul Stevens as one of the Gang of Three. The leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc is also the oldest justice at 83.

However, two of the court’s members have recovered from a form of cancer: moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor from breast cancer and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from colon cancer.

The identity of the justice with heart problems is anybody’s guess. Stevens recovered from heart problems years ago, but he’s already on the list. O’Connor’s husband had a pacemaker implanted in 1999, but he’s not a justice.

Some might find the idea of asking God to push three justices into retirement a trifle off-putting. Asking God to tweak their health problems into a deciding retirement factor is just a bit too close to asking the Lord to become a Celestial Hit Man.

I’m sure, however, that Robertson is just asking God to let nature take its course.

But what about God’s playful sense of humor, which the Lord tends to display from time to time? What if God reaches down and — “doink!” — flips the wrong court member, say conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, off the ledge of retirement?

Then, O Lord, the Rev. Pat Robertson will have a bone to pick with Thee. — On a more serious note, though they won’t say so publicly, Supreme Court police are less than thrilled with Robertson’s campaign. Too often, overly impressionable people hear the message of a religious leader, misunderstand the leader’s reference to “the tyranny of a non-elected oligarchy” and then try to become the armed instruments of God in eliminating the problem.

If you’re reading this column and you’re thinking of coming to Washington and doing the Lord’s work by personally making changes at the Supreme Court, think again. Federal time is hard time.

And everyone will think you’re an idiot.

”’Mike Kirkland is UPI’s senior legal affairs correspondent. He has covered the Supreme Court and other parts of the legal community since 1993.”’

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.