Clarence Thomas: Faith and Reason Are Mutually Reinforcing

The following is excerpted from a speech given by association Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the October 2019 dedication ceremony for a new chapel at Hillsdale College.

…Although a chapel is a place for many activities, it also serves as a statement about the importance of those activities. The construction of a college chapel, in particular, is a public declaration that faith and reason are mutually reinforcing. And in 2019, the construction of a chapel is a bold act of leadership at a crucial time in our nation’s history. So I would like to underscore briefly the broader significance of the decision that Hillsdale College has made in building Christ Chapel.

Beginning in the early 1900s, many elite private colleges and universities began to face questions about the continuing relevance of religious instruction on campus. These questions would have surprised the founders of those schools, many of which were created in part for the express purpose of providing religious instruction. But as time went on and as schools moved away from their religious roots, the relevance of religion to higher education was increasingly questioned, and campus chapels, in particular, came to be viewed as relics of a bygone era.

With the completion of Christ Chapel, Hillsdale College has staked out its position in this debate, and its decision serves as an example for all of us. The construction of so grand a chapel in 2019 does not happen by accident or as an afterthought. Christ Chapel reflects the College’s conviction that a vibrant intellectual environment and a strong democratic society are fostered, not hindered, by a recognition of the Divine. Hillsdale College affirms, with the writer of Proverbs, that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

By constructing this Chapel, the College upholds the continued importance of its Christian roots, even as it respects the rights of each person to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Our country was founded on the view that a correct understanding of the nature of God and the human person is critical to preserving the liberty that we so enjoy.

John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He recognized that the preservation of liberty is not guaranteed. Without the guardrails supplied by religious conviction, popular sovereignty can devolve into mob rule, unmoored from any conception of objective truth.

As I think about our political culture today, I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s warning that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it on to them . . . [to] do the same.”

Each generation is responsible both to itself and to succeeding generations for preserving and promoting the blessings of liberty. Faith in God, more than anything else, fuels the strength of character and self-discipline needed to discharge ably that responsibility. That is why I am so encouraged by the construction of Christ Chapel…

The full speech can be heard in the video below.

US Supreme Court Rules 7-2 in Favor of Religious Expression

From Fox News:

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony.

The case – Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – asked the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple’s right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the U.S.

The decision to take on the case reflected renewed energy among the court’s conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court.

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., declined to make a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips told the couple that he would make a birthday cake but could not make a cake that would promote same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs…

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

“The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression,” the Court said in its decision. “While it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy said when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission made its decision “it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.” The opinion says the Commission “violated the Free Exercise Clause, and its order must be set aside.”

In its decision, the Supreme Court did not decide whether a business has the right to refuse to serve gay and lesbian people outright.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, two of the Court’s more liberal justices, dissented.