“I plan to place our Bible prominently in the Chief Judge’s chamber in New Orleans as a reminder to all who visit that we, no less than the [U.S.] Supreme Court, remember our judgments are ultimately subject to a Divine standard.”
– Edith H. Jones, Chief Judge,
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
So wrote Chief Judge Edith H. Jones in a very kind letter to us at American Judicial Alliance after we placed a “Harlan” Bible in her hands for safekeeping.
This year, Jason Stern and I have traveled to several states dedicating Bibles to courts, sharing the message of the Gospel and the Constitution with churches and civic groups, but I must say that we were pleased to be allowed the privilege of dedicating a Bible to the highest federal court possible under the Supreme Court.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is composed of twenty one judges who rule on cases appealed from district courts located in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
While talking to Judge Jones, I made mention of America’s first Chief Justice John Jay’s name, which is chiseled on the lintel corner of the 5th Circuit’s building, and referenced Jay’s quote:
“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”
I couldn’t help but to also mention John Jay’s solid faith in the Bible as demonstrated by his last words. He was asked if he had anything he wanted his children to know, to which he replied,
“They have the Book.”
Aside from dedicating the Bible to the 5th Circuit, we also distributed laminated copies of the “Prayer for the Judge’s Bench,” which on the obverse side includes prayers by President George Washington and Chief Justice John Jay. Jay, who was a president of the American Bible Society, wrote:
“Most merciful Father! … Above all, I thank thee for thy mercy to our fallen race, as declared in thy holy gospel by thy beloved Son, “who gave himself a ransom for all.” …
Give me grace also to love my neighbor as myself, and wisely and diligently to do the duties incumbent upon me according to thy holy will, and because it is thy holy will, and not from worldly considerations …
Let thy Holy Spirit lead and keep me in the way in which I should walk, and enable me to commit myself entirely to thy kind and gracious providence and protection as to all my spiritual and temporal concerns….
These heartfelt words are from the pen of a fellow who had been President of the Continental Congress, an author of the Federalist Papers, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York.
It is our plan to continue to bring this message of hope, history and grace to courts all over America and give them courage to stand up for God like the Founding Fathers did!
“We have the Book!”
We have been hit by the same budgetary slump that faces all of America right now, but we know that a brighter day for our children and grandchildren can be around the corner if we do not give up hope.
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians6:9
Thank you for allowing us to be your ambassadors.
P.S. Thank you in advance for your prayers and donation. We think of you often and pray that God will bless your finances, family and home. Your gift is most needed at this time.
“It is a mistake to suppose that the Supreme Court is either honored or helped by being spoken of as beyond criticism. On the contrary, the life and character of its Justices should be the objects of more constant watchfulness by all and its judgment subject to the freest criticism. The time is past in the history of the world when any living man or body of men can be set on a pedestal and decorated with a halo. True, many criticisms may be like their authors, devoid of good taste, but better all sorts of criticism than no criticism at all.”
— Hon. David J. Brewer, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in an address before the Marquette Club of Chicago, 1898.
Prayers at graduation ceremonies are in the news again as a federal judge has ruled that the First Amendment’s “non-establishment” clause forbids even student-initiated supplications.
The federal judge’s last sentence of the article linked above [“We don’t put the Constitution to a vote,”] illustrates an important distinction between pure democracy and the rule of law under a constitutional republic. But it neglects the crucial point that, as ACLU co-founder Justice Felix Frankfurter once acknowledged,
“The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution and not what we [the justices] have said about it.” -Felix Frankfurter, concurring in Graves v. New York, 306 US 466, 491-2 (1939)
We may take comfort from the assurance of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the “separation of church and state” metaphor that has so clouded First Amendment jurisprudence: “Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally.”
It was Justice Byron White who recently noted that “The Court is most vulnerable and comes nearest to illegitimacy when it deals with judge-made constitutional law [sic] having little or no recognizable roots in the language or design of the Constitution.”
Small wonder that recent polling suggests that 77% of Americans believe our courts have gone too far in restricting free exercise of religion; 76% support public displays of Ten Commandments; and 90% support keeping “one nation under God” in our Pledge.
Founder and Patriot John Adams once remarked to Governor Dickinson that “We Americans are not to be conjured out of our senses by the words ‘British Empire’ as we know that Britain is a constitutional monarchy.”
Similarly, we Americans today are not to be “conjured out of our senses” by the words “separation of church and state.” Let’s continue to defend our Constitution’s text and heritage as we stand for “separation of atheism and state.”
As George Orwell once observed, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” AJA’s point in calling attention to America’s “Organic Laws” is to espouse the obvious reality contained in our Declaration of Independence – that is, that law comes from God and the self-evident reality of objective truth. In other words, the inscription on America’s coins is the “National Motto” and not the “National Anachronism” [i.e., “out-of-date application or wrong-period attribution of an event”]
And let’s remember that it was judges’ “perversion of judgment” rather than “walking in God’s ways” that was the catalyst directly resulting in the leaders of Israel abandonment of self-government under God to ask for a king (i.e. authoritarianism) in 1 Samuel 8:3+.
Otherwise, we abandon our children to an “Orwellian” future:
“You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brien gently. “How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.” “Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” -George Orwell, 1984
Justice Clarence Thomas deserves commendation for suggesting that “a more fundamental rethinking of…Establishment Clause jurisprudence remains in order.” My expectation is that those prayer-wishful students in Indiana would say, “Amen to that!”
“American Judicial Alliance’s presentation should be required for all Supreme Court nominees and sitting Federal Judges.”
— Congressman Ted Poe
“I am so impressed with the great work you are doing! You have a powerful team working with you. America needs you more than ever. You give me hope!”
– William J. Federer, Jr.
Speaker and best-selling Author
“More than anything, thank you for the Harlan Bible. Our nine judges all thank you for your kindness and your effort!”
– Judge Harmon Drew, Jr.
Louisiana 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal
“I appreciate your efforts to restore some morality in our courts.”
– Retired Judge William N. Knight
31st Judicial District Court of Louisiana
“The judges are already tracking down their predecessors to have each one sign the Bible you presented in the tradition of the Supreme Court. Thanks again!”
–Retired Judge Tim Taft
Texas First Court of Appeals
What Supreme Court Justices are saying about the Harlan Bible:
“It was a thrilling moment when I signed my name in the Bible which…contains the signatures of all the Justices for the past 100 years. Thank you for sending your article…. I found it inspiring.
–Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
“I read with special interest your account of the first Justice Harlan and his Bible.… Thank you for an engaging pause in the day’s occupations.”
—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Via American Minute:
The first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was the president
of the American Bible Society. Who was he?
John Jay, who died MAY 17, 1829.
A member of the Continental Congress, even serving as its president, John Jay signed the Treaty of Paris with Franklin and Adams, ending the Revolutionary War.
Jay helped ratify the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers with Madison and Hamilton.
In 1777, John Jay told an Ulster County Grand Jury:
“The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favoured with an opportunity of…choosing the forms of government under which they should live.”
To the New York Convention, December 23, 1776, John Jay said:
“When you have done all things, then rely upon the good Providence of Almighty God for success, in full confidence that without his blessings, all our efforts will inevitably fail.”
“The Holy Gospels are yet to be preached to these western regions, and we have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not suffer slavery and the gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not be.”
On May 17, 1829, as he was dying, John Jay was asked if he had any last words for his children.
He replied: “They have the Book.”
“If [a law] is wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution. It’s not what we say it is, it’s what it actually says. And I think we have to be humble enough to say ‘we were wrong.'”
— Justice Clarence Thomas, February 2009
Thomas was responding to a question about the Court’s review of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law. His quote echoes former Justice Felix Frankfurter (who happened to have been the president of the ACLU before his court days). Here is Frankfurter’s quote:
“The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution, and not what we have said about it.” — Felix Frankfurter, Graves v. New York, 306 US 466 (1939)
Here is an audio clip of Justice Thomas’ remarks:
Here are a few more quotes to chew on:
“[I]n the lapse of [time], changes have taken place which in particular passages … obscure the sense of the original … [and] present wrong signification or false ideas. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced …. mistakes may be very injurious.” Noah Webster in Preface of the Webster Bible
“Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally.” — Thomas Jefferson
“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson, p322.
“The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all instruments is, to construe them according to the sense of the terms, and the intentions of the parties.” Justice Joseph Story, III Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §400 (1883) at p383
Ever wonder what the phrase the “Pursuit of Happiness” meant in the U.S. Constitution? Well here’s a hint from the Massachusetts Constitution. Remember, John and Samual Adams were two of the three framers. Hence, what they did in Massachusetts in 1780 gives us real insight into what the framers meant in 1776:
“Art. III. As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of the public instructions in piety, religion, and morality: Therefore, To … See Morepromote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies-politic or religious societies to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.”
A Word from our Founders:
“To the security of a free constitution, [knowledge] contributes in various ways – by convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burdens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness – cherishing the first, avoiding the last – and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.” – George Washington, First State of the Union Address, January 8, 1790
– “When we consider that this Government is charged with the external and mutual relations only of these States; that the States themselves have principal care of our persons, our property, and our reputation, constituting the great field of human concerns, we may well doubt whether our organization is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices and officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily and sometimes injuriously to the service they were meant to promote.” – Thomas Jefferson, First State of the Union Address, December 8, 1801