Our country has been repudiating the principles of our Constitution for much of its history.
After finishing law school, I discovered how. One day as I was reading a familiar passage, the answer leaped off the page. White was precisely on point when she wrote, “When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near.” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 p. 451; emphasis supplied.)
The rule of law was first established in the United States through the Articles of Confederation. The founders of our country realized those weaknesses could not be remedied by altering them. They went beyond their mandate and drafted a new constitution. As our country went through the process of ratifying the Constitution and then the Bill of Rights, the understanding was that the federal government was to be a government of limited powers, having only those powers spelled out in the Constitution and any subsequent amendments. Thankfully, this understanding was memorialized in writing in the Tenth Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Sadly, that has done little good as the Tenth Amendment has largely been ignored.
Please allow me to give you a few examples of how our Constitution is being repudiated.
First, we have the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, it was the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Is there anything in the Constitution or any of its amendments granting power to the federal government to oversee public education in this country? No! So, education should be under the control of the states.
Second, Congress passed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and President Obama signed it into law in 2010. Again, there is nothing in the Constitution or any of its amendments granting power to the federal government to oversee health care in this country. Chief Justice Roberts found the act constitutional under the taxing power in the Constitution. We were subject to being penalized on our federal income tax returns if we did not have health insurance. However, the penalty which was the basis for Chief Justice Roberts finding the act to be constitutional is not being enforced. That fact is an important constitutional issue that is being ignored. In 2006, Massachusetts enacted the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law providing for universal health care. Under the Tenth Amendment, the state of Massachusetts had the power to do so, but not the federal government.
Third, numerous presidents have issued executive orders. Executive orders facilitating the carrying out of the law are not problematic as that is the president’s responsibility under the Constitution (see Article II). But when executive orders make law, that is problematic as the law-making function is vested in Congress (see Article I), not the executive branch.
Fourth, we have a Supreme Court that is also willing to make law--we call it legislating from the bench. For example, in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. ___ (2020), the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not allow discrimination based on sex. Bostock consolidated the cases of two gay men and a transgender female. Sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act is about discrimination against women, not homosexuality or transgender issues. Congress’ work on the Civil Rights Act spanned the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Because a federal legislator was concerned that the Civil Rights Act was going to become law, this federal legislator proposed a killer amendment affording protection to women to kill it. That killer amendment blew up in the face of its author when it gained support and became law when the Civil Rights Act passed Congress. Again, the law-making function is vested in Congress, not the Supreme Court.
Our country has been repudiating the principles of our Constitution for much of its history. This process has been accelerating since Lincoln’s day. As we witness the continuing repudiation of the principles of our Constitution, may that motivate us like never before to be about the task of the gospel commission (see Matthew 28:18-20) that Jesus has given to His disciples of all ages so that we can soon meet Him in the clouds!
Vialo Weis Jr., Esq., is Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Indiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.