Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nothing New under the Sun

With the heresies of the Episcopal Church (USA) still freshly assaulting my mind, I happened across this wisdom from 140 years ago:


When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins with toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. 
Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We agree to differ, and favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. 
From this point of view error soon goes on to to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departures from the Church’s faith but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate the faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it. 

Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1875), pp. 195-196.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Final Judgment in Fort Worth Case

Judge Chupp has entered a final judgment against TEC, its rump diocese of Fort Worth and its parishes, thereby ending the lawsuit in which they sought to claim the corporation, property and bank accounts owned and controlled by Bishop Jack L. Iker and his co-trustees. Judge Chupp ordered that the plaintiffs “take nothing” from their complaint. This leaves all real property, corporate control and diocesan bank accounts exactly as they were after Bishop Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave TEC in November 2008.

The TEC parties have said they plan to appeal the final judgment to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal. However, any such appeal will be guided by the “neutral principles of law” announced by the Texas Supreme Court when it reversed Judge Chupp’s original judgment in their favor, based upon his belief that he was required by Texas law to defer to the “hierarchical” Episcopal Church. Under neutral principles, the Texas courts look solely to the documents establishing a party’s title: whose name is on the deeds, what trusts have been recorded, and what (if anything) the Church’s governing documents say about a diocese’s ability to amend its own constitution so as to remove its affiliation with the Episcopal Church.

Such an appeal will probably take a year or more to resolve. The losing side could then ask the Texas Supreme Court to review the case, but its decision to do so is discretionary. The same would be true of any further request for review filed with the United States Supreme Court after the Texas courts have finished with the appeal.

In the meantime, the parties are settling upon terms for Judge Chupp to approve next month that will allow the TEC-aligned congregation of All Saints to continue to worship in the same church it has been using since the lawsuit began, until the appeal is decided. The congregation claimed to own title to all of its property, but an examination of the facts under neutral principles showed that the deeds to the actual church property were in the name of Bishop Iker’s diocesan corporation, which the court declared was the owner of All Saints. Bishop Iker is showing a good deal of Christian charity toward the congregation, which had written him a letter at the outset of the litigation threatening to take him personally to court should he venture on the property. Most recently, they rebuffed again his efforts at conciliation, and would not acknowledge his authority.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Rout (not Rule) of Law

I am an attorney, licensed to practice law in California (and also to appear in a number of federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court). As such, I take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and I take the oath seriously.

The Justices of the Supreme Court take two oaths upon entering their lifetime offices, which you may read here. Suffice it to say that each Justice undertakes "to support and defend" our Constitution, and to "faithfully and impartially" perform the duties of their office. After the 5-4 "decision" last month in Obergefell v. Hodges, there is a legitimate question as to whether Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan any longer respect their oaths.

Are those strong words? They are intended to be. Consider just this fact:

Well before the Obergefell case ever came to the Supreme Court, both Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan officiated at same-sex marriage ceremonies. Yet neither of them saw fit to recuse themselves from deciding whether same-sex marriages must be imposed on all States under the Fourteenth Amendment. They simply ignored the request to do so, because it was filed not by a party to the case, but by amici curiae ("friends of the court", who may offer advice, but are not actual parties).

How does the Justices' insistence on participating in the decision reflect any impartiality in the matter whatsoever? Their minds were already closed on the subject.

Imagine the left's outrage if two lawyer-obstetricians had been on the Court in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided, and their votes had changed the outcome to one that refused to make an abortion a federal constitutional right. But when two liberal Justices see no reason to recuse themselves for having already performed same-sex marriages, nobody (not even the parties!) makes a peep.

As for Justice Kennedy, he broke his oath by legislating from the bench -- i.e., climbing out of his role as judge and deciding by fiat to impose what he thought was the constitutionally required definition of "marriage" upon America. The other four Justices, including Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, signed onto his legislative usurpation without a single qualm, so they are just as complicit in the violation of their oaths.

Note for the five Justices in the "majority": the word "marriage" nowhere appears in the United States Constitution. So where, pray tell us, do you find the source of your power to define the word for the entire country?

Answer: Nowhere. Justice Kennedy and his four cohorts simply asserted that authority.

Once five Supreme Court Justices decide to abjure their oaths, and make up the law for the occasion, what is left of our much-touted "rule of law"? It has become a rout -- and nothing deserving of our respect, to say naught of allegiance.

We have a lawless President, who changes or suspends the laws at will, and ignores whatever he doesn't like.

We have a lawless Congress, who has to vote to pass laws before they can know what they contain, and who routinely (and fraudulently) exempts itself from the laws to which it subjects the rest of us.

And now we have the ultimate oxymoron -- a lawless Supreme Court.

When all three branches of the national government show such contempt for the rule of law, one might expect anarchy to result, but instead (because of the powers already vested in them) we get Animal Farm. The resulting elitism of those within the Beltway turns our country's founding principle on its head.

Once the common folk begin to grasp the fact that there is no leadership, but only lawlessness, and competition to "get mine first", the country may have to resort to martial law to preserve order. Such an extreme measure in response to an external threat (such as invasion) would be understandable. But in response to internal unrest engendered by elitist lawlessness, it will be a tragedy for the republic.

People need to use Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media not just for chatter, but to begin holding their elected leaders (and unelected judges) accountable. Without accountability, there can be no responsibility.

And where there is no responsibility, there can be no republic, but only a descent into tyranny.

Maybe Robinson Jeffers was prescient:

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire

And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.

Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly

A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption

Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.

There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say – God, when he walked on earth.