Monday, January 17, 2005

Thomas Continued

Following up on this post, here's the transcript of what an Alabama state SC justice said about Clarence Thomas, sent in by a reader:

PARKER: ``Just moments before I placed my hand on the Holy Scripture, Justice Thomas soberly addressed me and those in attendance. He admonished us to remember that the worth of a justice should be evaluated by one thing, and by one thing alone: whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath _ an oath which as Justice Thomas pointed out is not to the people; it's not to the state; it's not even to the Constitution, which is one to be supported, but is an oath which is to God Himself.''

I think this somewhat different than the reporter communicated in his article, though it's ambiguous writing not deliberate deception. He's referring to the oath of office, not some general oath or commitment. And, the oath itself, arguably, is to God (on bible, so help me god, etc.).

...let me just add that while I think Thomas is off the hook in some sense, it's precisely this kind of thing which bothers me about the "ceremonial deism" defense of seemingless "harmless" mixing of religion and government (God in pledge, on money, etc...) While a reasonable person will probably conclude that all Thomas meant was that the oath of office was to God, and therefore of paramount importance to keep, there's still the implication that for these judges, even in the context of serving the state they still consider God to be the higher power, and that view has been enshrined by various forays into ceremonial deism. Now, thinking God is a higher power is not especially surprising -- He is God, after all, and if you believe in Him of course his Almightyness will trump the puny power of the state. But, in the context of being a judge, a strong intertwining of your job and your religion raises legitimate questions about what you do, as a judge, when God's law and man's law collide.

It's not about belief in God as a higher power, it's about belief that you personally are sure that you know just what God's Law is, and how He would want you to carry it out. If I had those kinds of beliefs, I'd be a bad judge, because of course God's Law (as I am certain of it) would trump man's law...