Why Is Government Even Regulating Marriage?

In America, the state, not the Bible nor the church, regulates, defines, and redefines marriage. Americans cannot be legally married without complying with and gaining the government’s permission.

Yet prior to the 16th century, this was not the case. No government regulated marriage; only churches and synagogues recorded and regulated birth, marriage, sex, and death. In fact, the overwhelming misunderstanding of the First Amendment and the concept of “separation of church and state” contribute to overall confusion as to why the American government institutionalized marriage.

Understanding America’s historical roots provides significant insight. In the early 1600s, English Puritans immigrated to America in part because they rejected the Church of England’s position on marriage. The Puritans asserted that marriage was a civil contract, not a religious ceremony.

Once they arrived in the New World, the Puritans instituted their own marriage laws—which became the customary model for marriage throughout New England. They legally required marriages to be “agreed” or “executed” (not “performed” or “solemnized”) by a magistrate, not a minister. They also legalized divorce if the terms of the marriage agreement were broken.

Unlike its European counterparts that instituted civil marriage in the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States left the issue of marriage to the states, resembling a mélange of western Christian marriage traditions within a federalist system. Other colonial regions followed different traditions: Virginian law modeled the Anglican position on marriage; Quakers brought their version to Delaware, and Catholics in Maryland and other states.

All of these traditions were significantly impacted by the Protestant Reformation, whose leaders overhauled previously existing and long-held quasi-church-state authority over marriage. The early American settlers followed the example of the reformers who had transferred the “ordinance of marriage” (previously overseen by the Roman Catholic Church) to the secular state.

Martin Luther, the Catholic priest who initiated the Protestant Reformation in Germany, argued marriage was a “worldly thing … that belongs to the realm of government.” John Calvin, his Swiss counterpart, remodeled Christian marriage by enacting the Marriage Ordinance of Geneva, which regulated and enforced “the dual requirements of state registration and church consecration to constitute marriage.”

Nearly five centuries later, Protestants continue to insert government into marriage, demanding it be regulated in the civil realm. In 1996, former president Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law, which was partially dismantled in 2013 and fully rejected on June 26, 2015 by the Supreme Court.

The federal government did not codify marriage until 1996; such licensing had always been determined by the states. Since 2004, the majority of states have granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, in many cases, such as in Iowa or Alabama, licenses for same-sex unions were administered despite state statutes or constitutions prohibiting it.

Unelected judges began overruling the majority will of the people, first in California with Proposition 8 and later in Iowa. Marriage became a legal and political quagmire that could have been avoided.

If the early settlers had followed the early church’s example evidenced throughout the New Testament, perhaps biblical marriage would not have been transformed into a regulated government institution.

If marriage had been left to the church, its leaders could marry only its members who practice and follow its beliefs. Civil unions and legal matters among any parties could be left to the government in order to provide the full range of civil liberties citizens in a quasi-democratic republic expect.

Granted, 17th century Puritans rightly viewed the government as agents of God’s authority; yet they morphed this belief with aspects of legalism and reinforced some of the same mistakes and compromises the 16th century protestant reformers made. Five centuries later, the consequences of those decisions, and the failure of their descendants to change them, resulted in the confusion that today validates the government’s authority to regulate and redefine marriage.

This column was originally published by Constitution.com.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Oklahoma Demands The Removal Of This Monument Depicting One Of Christianity’s Most Important Doctrines

A controversial ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court this week has sparked controversy among those on both sides of a recurring First Amendment issue. Months after a new Ten Commandments memorial was erected on State Capitol grounds to replace a similar monument destroyed in an automobile crash, the court determined such a display violates the state’s constitution.

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KWTV reported that, in a 7-2 decision Tuesday, the court dictated that the monument was unconstitutional and must be taken down. The decision was met with widespread criticism among many Oklahomans, including state officials like Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

In a statement released shortly after the court’s ruling, he stated bluntly that the majority “got it wrong.”

Pruitt cited the historical context of the Ten Commandments as a valid reason to permit such a monument to be displayed on state property.

“The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law,” he stated, asserting that the latest decision contradicted previous constitutional interpretations by the same court.

In response, he confirmed that his office “will file a petition with the court for a rehearing in light of the broader implications of this ruling on other areas of the law.”

In the meantime, Pruitt is asking that enforcement of the court’s order be delayed until a decision is made regarding the requested rehearing.

Many social media critics echoed Pruitt’s sentiment regarding the Ten Commandments’ relevance.

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Should displays of the Ten Commandments be banned on public property? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Judicial Tyranny And Dark Days In America

What should we do when laws are passed or upheld that go against our faith and conscience?

Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry in all 50 states, a historic decision striking down gay marriage bans and defying nature, biology, reason, and the Constitution.

First, the Obamacare ruling.

With the Supreme Court issuing its second major decision upholding abortion funding in Obamacare, we again have an opportunity to speak, act, or simply do nothing. Their decision in King v. Burwell says that millions of Americans can receive taxpayer subsidies allowing them to purchase health care plans under the [Un]Affordable Care Act.

Inconvenient pregnancy? No problem. American citizens will pay for your abortion. Next up: redefining God-ordained marriage as deviance or whatever you want it to be.

It doesn’t matter that the majority of people oppose Obamacare and homosexual behavior. We have surpassed the point in America where government power trumps the will of the people. Moreover, it was wrong of Supreme Court justices Ginsburg and Kagan not to recuse themselves from this case–seeing they gladly participated in same sex “marriage” ceremonies in the past.

Five progressive Supreme Court justices have now redefined marriage – the only definition of marriage known throughout history – completely ignoring 51 million American voters who have cast ballots in favor of biblical, natural marriage in state constitutional amendments.

In an 1820 letter to militia officer William Jarvis, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

You seem … to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy … Their power is the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.

Jefferson was one of several who warned that the courts could gain power little by little, advancing like a thief “until all shall be usurped from the states.” We truly do not give America’s Framers and Founders enough credit for their wisdom and foresight.

More than 30 states have voted to ban same-sex marriage in recent years; but homosexual activists have won numerous court battles recently, including today’s daunting decision.

When something good, moral, and biblical is eliminated or removed, something bad, immoral, and unbiblical often replaces it. (Look at what has been ushered into government schools.)

Francis Schaeffer said:

We as Bible-believing evangelical Christians are locked in a battle. This is not a friendly gentleman’s discussion. It is a life and death conflict between the spiritual hosts of wickedness and those who claim the name of Christ.

Opposition is guaranteed. Most of us understand that living our faith in public will attract resistance, ridicule, and even hatred. If we remember our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we will not take it personally when people come against us.

Religious leaders in America should be bracing for a cultural and legal assault on churches, ministries, and religious schools. Non-profits holding to Christian values must prepare as well.

Our founders realized that if sinful men violated their God-given parameters as well as the constitutional limits of their office, government could become abusive. Since they established a system in which all three government branches were accountable to the people, they would be astonished today that the citizens the Constitution was written to protect have done little to resist the corruption, growth, and immorality of the United States government.

We are continuing to witness the consequences of Christians taking the path of least resistance. The world often interprets our silence as approval, so we must speak up about all sin as well as the need for repentance–and live the truth regarding marriage. We also must pray for a country that has turned its back on Almighty God, and for a lukewarm church in desperate need of revival.

The stakes have been raised. God is watching, and He knows those who are His.

For the Lord is our judge, The Lord is our lawgiver, The Lord is our king; He will save us. Isaiah 33:22

David Fiorazo is author of the new book, The Cost of Our Silence.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Huckabee Says He Will Do This Epic Thing As President Since Obama Lit Up White House With Rainbow Lights

In a recent interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee reacted to the prevailing news story of recent days. He criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage on a federal level, going on to cite Barack Obama’s reaction as especially inappropriate.

“We’ve seen something, though, that is, I find, very interesting,” he said. “When the president lit up the White House the other night with rainbow colors, I guess that’s his prerogative. If I become president, I just want to remind people that please don’t complain if I were to put a nativity scene out during Christmas and say it’s my house, I get to do with it as I wish despite what other people around the country may feel about it.”

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Huckabee went on to lament the ostensible hypocrisy with which leftists treat the judicial branch. He couched his point in the narrative of a hypothetical scenario.

“We’re also going to say that every unborn person is in fact a person,” he said, “and is absolutely guaranteed due process. And therefore we would strike down the idea of abortion from conception forward. Is the left going to be OK to let the Supreme Court make that decision? Because, based on the response this week, I think they have to say, ‘Yes, that’s fine. When five lawyers on the Supreme Court make that decision, we’re OK with it.’”

Huckabee has spoken out against judicial activism in the past, weighing in last month on the expected Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage.

“When it comes to prayer,” he asserted, “when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.”

Did Obama act inappropriately by promoting gay marriage with the recent rainbow light show? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

‘We the People’ Have The Final Say On Same-Sex Marriage — Not Judges

Although it seems strange now, at the time of the nation’s founding, it was not uncommon for the U.S. Supreme Court to both conduct trials and hear appeals. In the very first jury trial conducted by the U.S. Supreme Court, State of Georgia vs. Brailsford, Chief Justice John Jay gave the following instructions to the jury:

“It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision…you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.”

These instructions from the first Chief Justice of the United States, and a co-author of the Federalist Papers, demonstrates the historically correct role and power of juries. The Court did not grant to the jury the right to determine both the fact and that law; it simply recognized the juror’s right which it still has today. However, judges today want to restrict juries to deciding matters of fact, and claim for themselves the final authority to decide matters of law. Persons have even been arrested for handing out literature near a courthouse explaining to potential jurors their true role and great power.

As many awaited the SCOTUS opinion on same-sex marriage, attention was increasingly directed to the ultimate source of power and authority in our American System of government – “We The People.” As activist judges and courts continue to operate outside of their constitutionally limited role, the role that citizens serve, as jurors and electors, becomes more important and focused.

The power of the individual citizens is probably at its zenith when they serve on a jury. As jurors, they literally have the power to affect an individual’s life forever, including up to death. The Framers of our system of government viewed the jury as being of supreme importance in defending individual liberty against government abuse.

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Thomas Jefferson

There are only 14 words describing freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the Constitution. But there are 186 words describing trial by jury in the Constitution. It is guaranteed in the main body in Article 3, Section 2, and in two amendments, the Sixth and the Seventh. No other right is mentioned so frequently — a total of three times — or has as many words devoted to it. It is clear, because of historical evidence, that the Founders viewed the jury as the most important institution, since it gave birth to and defended all other rights. It should also be noted that trial by jury and jury rights were common law rights at the time of the drafting of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and so are also included as rights retained by the people under the Tenth Amendment.

Juries meet by the thousands each week and month all over the country. As such, they constitute one of the largest and most powerful agencies of law enforcement in the United States. They have the absolute — and permanent — power to ignore government laws, keep people out of prison, ignore judges and prosecutors, make the outcome of any jury trial what they want it to be, and try and keep our government honest. In the absence of overt wrongdoing, such as bribery, their decisions cannot be called into question.

The important vital role and power of the jury predates our Constitution. Since 1215, when the Magna Carta was signed, and throughout American history, there has been no more fundamental principle of English or American constitutional law than the right to a jury trial. And in a jury trial, it is not only the right but the duty of juries to judge the facts of a case, the intent of the accused, and the law(s) being applied in the case.

It is also their right, and their duty, for jurors to judge whether the law is just, and to hold the law invalid if, in their opinion, it is unjust or oppressive, and to hold all persons innocent if they violated the law, or innocent for resisting the execution of such laws. This fact about the jury has been attacked in modern times by those who promote the “evolving constitution” viewpoint. This liberal philosophy turns on its head the concept of individual liberty and requires an elite political class to guide and direct the rest of society.

Even so, the court in modern times continues to recognize the broad role of the jury.

“The jury has an unreviewable and irreversible power to acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge. The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard uncontradicted evidence and instructions of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law.”  U.S. v. Dougherty, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1972

“If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence.”   United States v. Moylan, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1969

The jury’s role is much more than just another check and balance in our system of government. America’s founders intended it to be the final political institution that would protect our rights from government abuse and encroachment.

“A right to jury trial is granted to criminal defendants in order to prevent oppression by the Government.”  Justice Byron White, Duncan v. Louisiana (1968)

“The purpose of a jury is to guard against the exercise of arbitrary power.”  Justice Byron White, Taylor v. Louisiana (1975)

The duty of a juror to protect a defendant against abuse from the government was much better understood in colonial times than it is today. Consider the 1735 case of Peter Zenger in the colony of New York. Zenger was the publisher of the New York Weekly Journal and was tried for seditious libel for printing articles exposing the corruption of the royal governor. The Zenger case has been referred to as the most important trial in American history because the jury in this case established the rights of freedom of speech and of the press in America by nullifying the seditious libel law which made it a crime to criticize public officials. In the case, the judge proclaimed that truth was not a defense. In acquitting Zenger, the jury exercised its right, power, and duty to nullify a law it believed to be immoral, unfair, and unjust. Andrew Hamilton, Zenger’s attorney, argued jury nullification directly to the jury and gave his opinion of the law to the jury in direct opposition to the instruction of the trial judge. Today, a lawyer who told a jury the truth – that they have the power to disregard a grand jury indictment, the words of the prosecutor, and the instruction of the judge by acquitting a man they believed to be unworthy of punishment – would be charged with, and tried for, contempt of court.

The landmark English case of William Penn and William Mead in 1670 is one of the other greatest trials in the history of jury trials. Penn (who later came to America and established the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) and Mead were tried in 1670 for violating the Conventicle Act by preaching to an unlawful assembly at Gracechurch Street. Through the Conventicle Act, the king made the Anglican Church the official church and religion of England. In their trial as in most trials today, the jury was given the following instruction by the judge: “The court is the judge of the law and you will accept the law as I give it you. You the jury are the judge of the facts. If it is determined that the defendants have violated the law, and they have so admitted you must find them guilty.”

The facts were clear that Penn and Mead violated the law as they admitted. Even so, the jury acquitted them — against the judge’s instruction — and they paid a heavy price. The Conventicle Act was nullified by the jury’s “not guilty” verdict, which infuriated the judge. One of the jurors, Edward Bushell (the only Quaker on the jury panel), and another juror, Thomas Veer, led the jury that acquitted Penn and Mead. The jurors were locked in a room with no food, water, toilet facilities, terrible stench, and unsanitary conditions; eight of the jurors gave in and paid their fines. But Bushell, Veer, and two others refused and were jailed for nine weeks in a prison that was referred to as ‘Hell above ground’ while they appealed their case to Court of Common Pleas. The court finally ruled in a surprising decision of reversal which established many of the rights in our Constitution that Americans take for granted today. This case led to the abolishment of the practice of punishing juries for verdicts unacceptable to courts.

The Zenger and William Penn cases were within living memory of many of the Founders and within common knowledge of all of them. But juries also refused to convict defendants charged in connection with other laws they believed to be unjust such as prohibition laws, including the Fugitive Slave Law and the Navigation Acts.  The king’s response to the Navigation Act was to abolish trial by jury. (Would our modern-day Courts or Executive Branch go that far?)

The American Framers knew that panels of average citizens were best equipped to judge the morality of the law in its application to a particular case. Juries have an important political benefit for legislators and society because they send an important peaceful message in a routine and institutionalized way that change in law is needed. The jury has been referred to as a safety valve that tempers, through mercy, the mechanical application of rigid rules or power used as coercion. And it is an antidote for victimless crime laws.

Opponents continue to try diminishing the role of juries. Periodically, they even float the ridiculous argument that juries should be eliminated altogether. But claims of chaos, anarchy, inconsistent or unjust verdicts, and repealing law are unfounded. Studies show that people take their responsibility as a juror as seriously as other major life decisions.

Jury nullification poses no threat that juries will punish a defendant beyond what the law allows because jury nullification doctrine acts in the direction of mercy only. Juries have no power or ability to create new charges. In addition, a judge can direct a verdict of acquittal, but not of conviction, if the court determines at the end of the trial that the evidence is insufficient to warrant jury deliberations. The court as a matter of law may also set aside a conviction or grant a new trial where the verdict is not supported by evidence, and the defendant can appeal a guilty verdict because it is final; but the government cannot appeal an acquittal.

Mark Howe, in Juries As Judges Of Criminal Law, Harvard Law Review (1939), examined early American cases. He concluded that jury nullification poses no threat to the reasonable doubt standard. It is clear from the language in court opinions that the Americans intended jury nullification to work only in the defense of liberty and not to the aid of the government. “The purpose of the rule [is] the preservation of civil liberties against the undue bias of judges.”

Based on my time serving in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, I can say with some conviction that no matter how unpopular or silly laws may be, legislators seldom go back and correct their mistakes without great prompting. While it is within the proper role of the legislature and electorate to pass laws, it is within the proper role of the jury to veto the application of a law which the jury finds to be oppressive. Just as state governors may veto, both the Senate and the House have vetoes, and the judges have the veto of judicial review, then the citizens who are asked to live under the laws and apply them also have a veto when they serve on juries.

Occasionally, a critic will concede the power of the jury to nullify the law but deny its right to do so. This is mere semantics because there is no practical difference between an unreviewable power and a right. Moreover, the Zenger case and the Founders refer to jury nullification as a “right.” Our Constitution clearly states that “We the People” created the Constitution, and therefore it follows that the people are sovereign. A sovereign people have the inherent right to judge the law when they come together on juries to decide cases.

Much of the historical discussion of jury nullification has been in the context of criminal cases. That is because the purpose of jury nullification is the protection of constitutional rights. In the past, the issue between the individual and government typically took place in a criminal trial. In the early years of the federal courts, it was not unusual even in civil cases to inform jurors that they could judge the law. Now, with the rise of civil asset forfeiture, jury nullification applies with equal validity to civil cases where the government is in contest against the individual.

Oklahomans in 2004 passed an amendment to our state constitution by a margin of 76 percent to 24 percent that defines marriage to be between a man and a woman. A Federal Judge claimed to have the power to “strike down” our state’s duly enacted law. Oklahomans are not sitting idly by. We know that judges do not have the right to “strike down” laws which have been duly passed and that are fully within the purview of the state. Oklahomans will address the issue again.

But citizens can push back against such tyranny as they serve on jury panels. For example, let’s say you are called to jury duty; and in the trial before you, prosecutors have charged a local baker for not providing a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony, which violates a local law. Your dilemma is that you disagree with the law. You believe that business owners should be able to choose who they do business with just as customers do. Or you may have other reasons you disagree with the law or its application in the case. The judge, and possibly the prosecution, will likely instruct jurors that they must find the baker guilty if it is clear he broke the law. But based on the application of jury nullification as outlined above, you are free to cast your vote as “not guilty.” And you do not have to reveal or justify your decision – it is personal and private.

We need to realize that the increasingly totalitarian bent of those entrusted with governmental power are finding a way around jury nullification. They are working to vest power in administrative agencies to levy huge fines without the right to a jury trial. For example, a $130,000 fine has been recommended by an Oregon state administrative judge to be levied and paid by a family bakery business for a violation of the Oregon civil rights law. The offense? Refusing on the basis of Christian religious conviction to make a cake celebrating “same-sex marriage.” The award was based upon an administrative hearing, not on a verdict after a trial by jury in a court. The recommendation is now before an Oregon Labor Commissioner who, according to recent investigative reports, has been exchanging e-mails with LGBT activists in a cooperative effort to shape and implement the state’s civil rights act forbidding businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Such actions by unelected bureaucrats are exposing the constitutional weakness inherent in administrative agencies, which combine legislative, executive, and judicial power. At the time the Constitution was written, the melding of those powers was considered the definition of tyranny. Now, it is the order of the day. A wonderful expose of the modern administrative state was recently published by Columbia Law Professor Philip Hamburger, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? His book demonstrates that the modern administrative state traces its roots to the king’s prerogative courts in England, such as the Court of Star Chamber. In England, the King’s Court of Star Chamber was abolished in 1641; but it has returned with a vengeance in modern America.

Many in government are troubled by the jury because it cannot be controlled and it has the power to stop government oppression. According to every state constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution, political power is inherent in the people; and whenever government becomes destructive or lawless, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. Thus, the jury is of utmost importance in all of its functions–but specifically because the people are sovereign. Thomas Jefferson said this about the importance of citizen juries:

“Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the Legislative or Judiciary department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the Legislative.  The execution of the laws is more important than the making of them.”

One of the characteristics that has made America great is that each individual state stands independent from the others in determining public policies. Efforts to force all Americans to live or think the same way are both mistaken and doomed for failure. As judges and prosecutors try to force unjust or unpopular laws and their penalties on citizens, juries offer a very important and reasonable solution by bringing a verdict of not guilty. Juries deliver a peaceful means to provide balance in society, correct government overreach, and rescue their fellow citizens. Today, people are needed as much as any time in history to embrace their role as jurors to preserve liberty and our American system of government.

 

Charles Key served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1986-1998 and 2006-2012, representing a district in Oklahoma City. He can be reached at traditionalmarriage@lawandfreedom.com.

This article is part of a series on “Building Resistance to Same-Sex Marriage.” Please support this important work with a contribution to the U.S. Justice Foundation. Permission is freely granted to publish, copy, reproduce, distribute, or excerpt from this article for any purpose.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth