A justice to keep America from straying
By David R. Dow
Christian Science Monitor
When President Bush nominates someone to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, he should remember one thing: Judges are America's prophets.
The president and his allies have said many times that judges aren't supposed to impose their personal values on the rest of us. That is true. What judges are supposed to do, however, is to force us to live in accordance with our own values.
It is easy to confuse these two things. When judges force us to adhere to our own values, they sometimes require that we behave differently from the way we have been behaving. Because they have forced us to alter our actions, it's natural to think they must be imposing their own values on the rest of us. But that's not what is happening.
Consider how, in these landmark cases, the court told us we had to change our behavior:
• Brown v. Board of Education (1954): We can't require blacks and whites to go to separate schools.
• Baker v. Carr (1962): We must count the votes of all citizens equally.
• Gideon v. Wainwright (1963): We can't imprison people without providing them with a lawyer.
• Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): We can't prevent married couples from using contraceptives.
• Loving v. Virginia (1967): We can't prevent whites and blacks from marrying one another.
• Batson v. Kentucky (1985): We can't strike people from juries just because they are black.
• United States v. VMI (1996): We can't prevent women from attending state-run military schools.
• Lawrence v. Texas (2003): We can't interfere with private sexual activity between consenting adults, even if they are the same gender.
In all these cases, the court forced us to act differently from the way we had been acting. When the court did all these things, therefore, it was interfering with the political process. It was thwarting the will of the majority. Legislatures, representing us, had enacted all these laws that the court struck down. But it is a mistake to think that the court was imposing its own values. Rather, in all these cases, the court was safeguarding our own. It was telling us that we had betrayed the Constitution, our higher law.
Rest of the Article