NLM: The Theology of the Offertory - Part 7.5 - The Use of Toledo
An urgent need
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His concern over the court’s involvement in cases touching on religious conviction had an unforeseen personal effect. In 1997, he resigned from the board of First Things over a symposium on the possibility of judicial tyranny. Some of the contributors to the symposium questioned whether because of cases like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the United States could be considered still to have a legitimate government of, by, and for the people rather than what Russell Kirk elsewhere called “archonocracy,” or rule by judges. Berns, a World War II veteran, would have none of it. He wrote to the editors, “You do not speak for me… when you say that the government of the United State is morally illegitimate and come close to advocating not only civil disobedience but armed revolution.”A Guide to the Work of Walter Berns
Berns knew from revolution: at Cornell in 1969 he was one of the few faculty who refused to bow to radical student demands, which cost him his post. But his reaction to the symposium is informative. The Supreme Court’s extension of its religious “logic” had created too many holes in the fabric of the polity. While other religious conservatives, myself included, rejoiced in the resistance to the “naked public square,” Berns lamented that it also meant the disintegration of a nation founded explicitly on the laws of Nature and Nature’s God, with religious freedom coming second to citizenship, an argument he elaborated on in his masterful 2001 book Making Patriots.