I was listening to the Roberts hearings today (9/13/2005) and was so grateful for our system of government. The hearings are the greatest civics lesson I have ever heard. Every school in America should take these few days off and listen. The teachers can explain the idea of the rule of law vs the rule of men and the separations of powers, the difference between the legislature and the judiciary etc. John Roberts has such a command of how the system works that he can explain it simply, clearly and consistently. I wasn’t able to listen to the entire hearings but of what I heard here are just a few highlights.
1. Discussion on the Value of Free Speech and the Public Square
This discussion brought tears to my eyes. I do not remember the Senator who spoke about free speech and the public square but the question was itself beautiful. The idea was that the public square and being able to speak in the public square is a fundamental part of both freedom and being human conveyed the real value of these proceedings. Does the government have an obligation to promote a public square and protect the public square for the common good. For example, today technology is such that people drive alone from private property (their home) to private property (a parking lot) and therefore the public square is shrinking. What is the obligation of the state to promote and protect the right not only to speak but the right to have a forum to be heard, i.e. the public square, and in so doing promote free speech. Public dialogue is part of a healthy society. What a profound reality!!!
2. Separation of Powers and discussion on Interpretation of Law and the Making of Law
This topic was I believe initiated by Sen. Grassley. The question was about various constitutional philosophies. Roberts was simple and brilliant. Roberts said there are theorists who believe that there is no line between interpreting and making laws and therefore we are fooling ourselves if we think that we are not always making law. To this idea, Roberts said No, there is a line that can be drawn and in fact in the case about the bakers not being forced to work over 13 hour days the decision said that it believed the law was wrong. This is a clear case of judges making policy. It is not within the judges discretion to make policy but simply to interpret law or to determine if the law under question is constitutional. I really liked this discussion as it gets to the heart of questions of hermeneutics and therefore has such application to the Christian life and the rule of the word of God over our lives. We are a people under the rule of the book and not the rule of men. WOW!!! God bless America.
3. International Precedent and Democracy
Roberts answered this question with such simple clarity it just is like an atomic bomb to the silly notions of International precedent playing a role I the decisions of the American courts. Roberts simply said the use of international precedent undermines democracy. Judges are appointed by elected officials to interpret laws made by elected officials in light of other laws created by elected officials that have been interpreted by judges that were appointed by elected officials. To go outside of the system of law which finds its authority in the will of the American people by looking to other nations is to circumvent the American people and our democracy. I am sure I didn’t say that correctly. Listen to the tapes.
My plan is to get the tapes of the hearings from NPR or wherever I can find them and save them for my children.
This is the best introduction to great thinking and great ideas that I can think of.