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Craig Parshall, General Counsel


American Law SOS: Bad News and Good News

August 11, 2010

The last seventeen days have been a bad news/good news story for the legal process in America. Let me start first with three examples of bad news. On July 26th in the Eastern District of Michigan’s federal court, a decision was rendered that, if followed by other judges, could end up confining Christian professionals to a kind of academic “Warsaw ghetto” of oblivion. In Ward v. Wilbanks, an “A” student in the counseling graduate program of Eastern Michigan University was kicked out for allegedly violating the code of ethics. Her infraction? The fact that during the practicum program, Julea Wards, the student and a Christian, suggested to her supervisor that a potential client (a homosexual dealing with depression) be referred to another counselor because she would not be able to affirm the client’s lifestyle, something she might be expected to do. Her attempted referral, by the way, was actually in accord with the standards of the American Counseling Association. However, Judge George Caram Steeh didn’t see it that way and upheld the University, even though he admitted that Julea’s administrative hearing before school officials had culminated in a veritable “theological bout.” Secularists often cite the medieval heresy trial of Galileo as supposed evidence of the intractable closed-mindedness of “the church.” I am now waiting to see if those same commentators will line up in support of Julea Ward’s right of Christian conscience to commit the modern “heresy” of speaking up for Biblical morality.

Next came the decision of federal judge Vaughn Walker, who holds court in San Francisco. In Perry v. City and County of San Francisco, he ruled that the statewide Proposition 8 ballot initiative that upheld marriage as comprised of one man and one woman violated the constitutional rights of same-sex partners. By his reasoning, homosexuals possess the same fundamental rights to marry as heterosexuals. His outrageous ruling achieved its end, in part, by striking expert testimony that supported the importance of traditional marriage and which cited scientific studies showing that children were generally better off in heterosexual married households than in a host of alternative arrangements, such as living with stepfamilies. Walker ruled that those studies weren’t good enough, apparently making the critical assumption that married homosexuals will have just as positive an influence on children as traditional marriage. It’s hard to limit my examples of Judge Walker's flawed legal analysis, but here are two: at one point he notes that alternatives to marriage – like “domestic partnerships” – “do not provide the same social meaning as marriage.” He fails to recognize that permitting aberrations like same-sex marriage will end up radically redefining within our culture that very same “social meaning” of marriage. Judge Walker also accepted the breathtaking proclamation by the expert witnesses, on behalf of the gay activists, that “gays and lesbians lack political power.” For those of us who spend any time on Capitol Hill, such a proposition is patently absurd for reasons that ought to be obvious to anyone.

Then there is the Senate confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. She has advanced the stunning notion that federal judges can use the legal principles of foreign nations and international courts to change the way they interpret our own American Constitution. As a legal scholar Ms. Kagan has also written about free speech in terms that deeply trouble those of us who believe that First Amendment rights should belong to Christians, especially when we voice opinions at odds with the politically correct climate of popular opinion.

Yet there is a glimmer of light breaking through at the same time. This summer I had the opportunity to join Bob Powers, our Vice President of Government Relations, in mentoring two law school interns (“externs” technically) from Liberty University School of Law: Michelle (“MG”) Waddell and Jeremy Lemon. They are part of a small army of future lawyers being trained not only in the “nuts and bolts” of legal practice, but also in the Biblical roots of our Western law traditions. It will be up to them and their generation to try to reverse the dangerous trajectory of our legal ship of state. Frankly, we leave them a ship with tattered sails and a broken rudder. To them I say, Godspeed, and may your tribe increase.