MAY 2022 POLICY COUNSEL SPEECHES
Pastor, Cornerstone Chapel
It’s an honor to be here. I appreciate the invitation. We’ve each been given ten minutes, which I think qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment for a pastor, but I’m going to do the best that I can in those ten minutes. I pastor Cornerstone Chapel which is about 20 miles west of here in Leesburg, Virginia, which is the county seat for Loudoun County, Virginia. Has anybody heard of Loudoun County, Virginia lately? We’re in the epicenter of what is happening in our culture right now. I pastor in the shadow of the nation’s capital. This is where God has called me, the land of politics. “Politics” from two Greek words: polity meaning “many” and ticks meaning “bloodsuckers,” so that’s where we are planted.
In May of 2020, I was watching the news, and I saw this young man, a PE teacher for Loudoun County public schools. Loudoun County had started to go viral in the news because Tanner Cross was speaking out at a Loudoun County school board meeting where they were inviting public comment on Policy 8040. It allowed students to determine whatever gender they wanted to be, and every teacher and every classmate was forced—think about this, forced speech—to identify those children by their preferred pronouns even if it defied God’s beautiful design of their biological gender. So, there Tanner Cross is, as a Christian, saying that he can’t lie to his students. If this policy passes, he would be lying to God, lying to students, and it would go against his faith as a believer in Jesus Christ.
I was watching this, and I was applauding this guy. Later I was told, “Oh, by the way, he goes to your church.” I called him and his wife, Angela, to the church and prayed for them. I got them up on a Sunday morning at all three of our Sunday morning services, and they got standing ovations. We just wanted to come along side of them and pray for them and encourage them. I made a statement that morning. I made a statement that basically said this: “When you lie to a child, by not affirming their God-given biology, and allow them to choose whatever gender they want, that’s emotional child abuse.”
The Loudoun Democrat party picked up that statement, and that afternoon they put out a press release against me demanding I recant my comments. I was just glad the Democrats were listening to a church service, so I was happy about that. Well, Ben Shapiro and the Daily Wire picked it up that afternoon. Five hours later, my phone is blowing up. The story went national. “Okay,” I thought, “God’s opened doors for us to address this issue.” You know, the battle came to us. We didn’t go looking for this battle, but so be it. The next Sunday I stood up, and I said, “I can’t recant; I won’t recant.” And I said that I’m going to allow our atrium to be used to collect signatures to recall six of our school board members, because they’ve got to go.
That’s the action we started to take. Meanwhile, obviously, this is an election year for the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. It’s election season. I’ve known Glenn Youngkin for a few years. He and I both served on the board of the Museum of the Bible. He resigned that position when he ran for governor. I had him at our church three times before the election because I’m just not embarrassed or ashamed about taking stands for truth and for recognizing men and women who represent our biblical worldview and our Christian values. Mike Farris is an elder at our church, so I feel pretty well protected, too. I said to Mike, “I’m always trying to give you opportunities to challenge the 1954 Johnson Amendment. Please, I’m doing the best I can to get that overturned.”
I’ve been involved in politics, but I don’t consider myself to be political. I just consider myself to be biblical. When we present truth, it’s going to sound sometimes political, but listen, we need to be messengers of truth in this generation where truth is very relative. It’s my truth vs your truth. In 2008, David Barton came to my church and challenged me, “Do you ever preach election sermons?” I didn’t even know what one was, but for 300 years of American history—before even the Revolutionary War, during the colonial period—pastors would get up in their pulpits and expose candidates for what they believed or what they didn’t believe. They would talk about policies that would shape a nation, so I’m not doing anything new, friends. It’s just something that has unfortunately become forgotten in many pulpits.
I stand on the shoulders of great pastors before me like Jonas Clarke in Lexington and William Emerson in Concord and John Peter Muhlenberg in Woodstock, VA who were all instrumental in gathering men from their churches to fight in the Revolutionary War. John Peter Muhlenberg gathered the men of his church and started the 8th Virginia Brigade which is still in force today. We need to be people of courage in this generation, and I believe that pastors in particular and Christians in general need to be the tip of the spear for fighting for faith and freedom in our country because it is dependent on us and our voices being raised for the glory of God. George Washington in his Farewell Address in 1796 said that religion and morality are indispensable supports of our political prosperity. We need to be about advancing the truth and taking back our land for the glory of God.
I’m inspired by other pastors who have gone before me and not just in America. One of my heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood up to Hitler and Nazi Germany. We need to take a lesson from what happened in Germany. A friend of mine—I was speaking with him this morning—Dr. Erwin Lutzer wrote a great booked called When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposed Hitler and opposed Nazi Germany, and he joined the German resistance movement as a pastor. He said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” So, we must speak up, and we must act now and hold dear those values that are important to us.
I leave you with this quick Biblical story. In 2 Samuel 23, there’s a list of David’s mighty men. These were the elite of the elite of the Israeli army, and among the number of the 30 were three that were considered the most elite of the elite. One among that three was a guy named Shammah. Shammah gets two verses in the Bible. That’s it. He’s listed as one of the mightiest men of the Israeli forces, and he only gets two verses. One verse talks a little about his heritage, and the second verse tells us what he did. What he did was stand in a field of lentils, and he defended that field against the Philistines. That’s it. That’s why he’s mentioned in the whole Bible: for defending a field of lentils, which by the way are basically beans. He defended a bean patch.
The cause of liberty can be daunting to us and sometimes overwhelming, but I want to encourage you that all God really calls us to is to defend our little bean patch. I have a bean patch; you have a bean patch. Where God has called you and the gifts he has given you are what you need to be faithful to preserve and to protect. And together, as we form this kind of quilt work across the country, each of us defending our little bean patch, then we will take back our schools, our states, and our country for the glory of God in Jesus name. God bless you, thank you.
Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg
Co-Chairman, Center for American Security
America First Policy Institute
I’m going to briefly cover two things. One is Ukraine, and the other is presidential decision making based on what I saw in the White House and what I see now. I’ll start with Ukraine. At the start of this campaign, Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, said in public testimony in front of Congress that Kyiv would fall within three days. Well, we’re at day 76.
Then, when the administration didn’t have a lot of confidence, they wanted to get President Zelensky out of Kyiv and he said, “I don’t need a ride; I need more ammunition.” That alone tells you that this is a pretty good guy. I had the opportunity to meet him about two years ago. You look at the guy and think, “Okay, this is a real guy, and these guys are going to fight. And they’re going to fight exceptionally well.”
When it comes to what happened in Ukraine, you could not pick a worse plan for the Russians to execute. For those of you who have ever served in the military, there’s something called the principles of war. He violated every one of them: unity of command, simplicity, mass, etc. Everything he tried to do, he did wrong. He tried to decapitate the government at the very start and replace it with somebody else out there. He had three to four and some people say five main actions of advance instead of going at Kyiv as hard as he could. He sent in forces that really went in almost blind. What was happening was that the Ukrainians operated exceptionally well. They distributed fighting. They pushed back on Kyiv, and then they pushed back basically everywhere.
I reminded everybody at the very start when I was on the news recently that there’s an old Napoleonic axiom: The moral is to the physical as three is to one. What does that mean? I’ll put it in Kellogg’s terms. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that counts; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. You’ve found a nation that was willing to fight a lot harder than the Russians were. They were able to take it to them, and they were beating the best units the Russians threw at them such as the Russian airborne units. They were able to push them back from Kiev. Putin thought he would use pure mass. I said this philosophy of the Russians was IFR: I follow roads. Most people realized that wasn’t going to work there. You know, when you’ve got a two-lane highway and you put tanks on both of them…tanks do run out of gas. If you can’t refuel them, they’re sitting targets. The Ukrainians have fought exceptionally well.
I think where we are today is almost a stale-mate. I’m glad we’ve started supplying them with military equipment that they really need right now. We haven’t given them all they need yet, and it took us a long time to finally get them what they asked for. I don’t know why we didn’t give them the Polish MiG 29’s or help them out.
That would have increased their air force by a third. We didn’t give them the long-range artillery, the 155mm, which would have outranged the Russian artillery. We didn’t give them drones for a while. We still haven’t given them multiple long-range missile systems that we have—be it HIMARS or MLRS—that over match the Russians. It’s so important they have these resources because they’re in an attrition fight now. Regardless of what people say about the Russians, the fact is that mass does matter eventually. You know, if you’re a good football team but your best linemen are 240 pounds and you’re playing against a Big Ten school where their linemen come in at 300, over a period of time, they’re going to wear you down. Putin’s going to keep throwing troops at this and continue to wear down the Ukrainians as best as he can. Size and numbers are a quality of their own.
If I were advising the Ukrainians right now, I’d say that we ought to start talking. That doesn’t mean you stop and quit, but this goes back to what the Chinese used to do years ago. They called it “da da, tan tan,” which is “fight fight, talk talk.” Just keep the going slow out there, but at least give these guys a breather. Seventy-six days is a long time to fight. I don’t care who you are or what you are. Your equipment breaks down; you break down, and the losses get to be pretty significant. The Russians have lost a lot, and I think because of that, I’d do one of two things if I were Putin. One, I’d double my bodyguards, and second, I’d get a food taster on real quick because I think it’s only a matter of time until someone says to him that this is enough. They’ve been humiliated. Nobody even worries about the Russians anymore as a military fighting force. They sure cannot take on NATO, especially when you’ve added two very quality countries like Sweden and Finland that are potentially going to come in. The Swedish Air Force is one of the best in the world. They fly the Gripen fighter, which is exceptionally good, and they’re not like—I hate to say this—like North Macedonia, which is a NATO partner. You start bringing organizations like that in and just outweigh them.
Do I think the Ukrainians can win this? Yes, they can. They can win this by pushing the Russians out of at the area they are occupying. Putin’s going to have make a decision sooner or later. Does he continue to fight or negotiation? Russia will not be able to take Odessa to the south. He does not have troops available. He can’t close the deal. He probably can’t get very much past the Donets River; he’s not going to get to the Dnieper River at all. I think he’s going to fail. He may negotiate his way out of it by saying he got what he wanted to get, but that’s not what he originally wanted. So, is it going to be a strategic loss for the Russians? The answer is yes.
I’d like to talk briefly about presidential decision making. The reason it’s important is because we now have a president who has historically been a very bad decision maker. The American people were forewarned when Bob Gates said that Joe Biden has not made a good national security decision in the last forty years. When Joe Biden was vice president, Barack Obama even made the comment that we should never underestimate Joe’s ability to screw something up. That should have sent some warning flags to everyone. Remember, Biden was the same guy in the Situation Room when they were getting ready to go after Osama bin Laden, he was the one individual who argued against going after Osama bin Laden. All public record.
Biden sets a leadership pattern, and I’m a big believer in patterns. You know, we all set patterns, too. You probably go to the same service station; you probably go to the same grocery store; you probably walk down the aisles of the grocery store the same way. You do a lot of things the same. Presidents do as well. I don’t care if it’s Trump, Biden, or Obama. And Biden has historically led poorly, and he’s doing a lot of things badly now. So, his recent leadership pattern is exceptionally worrisome to me. He just flew off to South Korea today, and he left all these problems behind. Look who he selected—and it was his selection—as vice president: Kamala Harris. Look at the decisions he’s made; they’re basically indecisions. He’s made no decision on the border for example. Well, no decision is, in fact, a decision.
When we were working with President Trump, we were never worried about somebody making a decision. He would make it, and we’d have to scratch our head and try to figure out how to execute his guidance going forward. It was very candid. He was very clear in his guidance. A lot of profanity in the guidance, but it was very clear guidance to all of us. I think the two styles are remarkable out there, and I think this is a cause for concern among Americans. It’s not Biden’s age, not his mental capacity, but his pattern of indecision, of making bad decisions going forward. You’re going to be stuck with that for the next year, year and a half.
I’m very concerned about what’s going to happen next in national security because this leadership pattern is something that we’re going to see continue to happen again and again and again. There’s a lot of bad places out there where things can go wrong: obviously with China, obviously with North Korea, obviously with the Middle East, obviously with what’s happening in Ukraine today.
I’ll close this by talking just briefly about the Middle East. I’m concerned with Iran and this Administration opening the door wide for the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon. It’s just a matter of time before they have a nuclear breakout. The president wants to get back in the Iranian nuclear deal, and that was a bad deal. The reason we were so against it is because it had sunset clauses. Over a period of time, they were going to be able to create a nuclear weapon whether you liked it or not, and Trump’s position was close that ability down. You can see the problem here if you just reflect briefly on what everybody was concerned about early on with the Russians in Ukraine: they were concerned about Putin’s use of nuclear weapons. Now imagine a nuclear weapon in the Middle East, which the Saudis will try to match. The Israelis supposedly have one. There is real concern, and these presidential decisions will impact the people of the United States.
Loudoun County High School
Thank you so much for having me here today. I’m very honored and humbled to be here. I have taught high school for 27 years, 20 of them in Loudoun County, Virginia, and everybody knows Loudoun County. I have loved my career and my students, but I will be honest: the last five to ten years, I have been increasingly dismayed by the direction of public education.
It started nearly ten years ago when we were told that we could no longer take points off if students didn’t put their names of their papers. I used to take off one point for a no-name paper, and for most kids, it only had to happen once. Now, this practice—this very simple practice of teaching discipline and accountability—isn’t allowed, so today, I have a corkboard in the back of my classroom filled with nameless student papers. Then came the directive that we could no longer grade homework, and the rationale was that it wouldn’t be equitable since some students don’t have anyone at home to direct them. How much homework do you think is assigned now?
Next came the notion that students should only be graded on their mastery of content. This means that we cannot grade students on preparation or formation of their knowledge. I’m required to give students formative grades and summative grades. A formative grade is about the formation of their knowledge, in other words, classwork and homework. A summative grade is about the summation or mastery of the content: tests, quizzes, research papers, projects. Formative grades are not allowed to count toward a student’s final grade in the course; only summative grades are allowed to count. So, guess what the first question is from my students every time I give them an assignment: Is this formative or is this summative? Because, you see, they’re doing the calculus. They’re thinking, “If this isn’t counting toward my grades, then I’m not going to do it.” Quite frankly, kids just do not have the forethought to see ahead and know that this is going to impact them negatively if they don’t do this work. So, how many formative assignments do you think students turn in? Not many.
In addition to this, I am required to allow students to retake any assessment that they get less than an A on, and for the most part, they are allowed to turn in work late without any penalty. In this decline of excellence, our county has voted to do away with class rank and valedictorian, and they’ve lowered the entrance standards for our elite academies of science. And I won’t even get into the issues of general discipline or the fact that I’m not allowed to take a cell phone away from a student who is defiantly not engaging in class because TikTok videos are so much more interesting than the Federalist Papers.
This year has been particularly eye-opening for me. I am teaching a subject that I have been away from for about 10 years. This is supposed to be a class for the average student who may or may not go to college. As I have gone through the materials that I used 10 years ago, I have been startled by the fact that I cannot use those materials with my students today, and it’s not because those materials are outdated. It is because my current students would be incapable of doing the work. Half of my students are below grade level in reading. A third of my students cannot read above a fourth-grade level. These are 16 and 17-year-old high school students, juniors in Loudoun County public schools, and they can’t do the work because they can’t read. It’s a testimony to the fact that since failure is not an option, the system just keeps passing kids along whether they actually show mastery or not.
I paint this backdrop to help you understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the level of erosion that we have seen in America’s public schools. It is amidst this erosion that our school districts across the country are not focused on fixing the failing academics, but on indoctrinating our kids with radical ideologies about race and gender. Critical race theory is teaching our students to judge one another based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. Students of color are being told that they’re permanent victims while white students are being told that they are either overt or complicit oppressors. Our school board claims that critical race theory isn’t being taught, but the truth is, it is. Their equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives use social-emotional learning sessions for students and equity training for all employees. These sessions present as truth all of the CRT claims about systemic racism, white privilege, micro-aggressions, and implicit bias.
I have personally witnessed the damage that this is doing as it trickles down into our student body. I have personally witnessed students excluding one another because of the color of their skin, saying things like, “You can’t be a part of this conversation because you’re white.” That is heartbreaking. No child should be excluded because of the color of their skin. Isn’t that what we decided in Brown v. Board of Education? No child will be excluded because of the color of their skin.
Then we have the current very radical gender ideology, and with the current gender ideology students can on-demand make whatever claim they wish. According to the policy in my county, the way a student identifies must be validated. Teachers are required to call that student by whatever name and pronoun they claim, but this entire notion of gender transition and fluidity is utterly confusing to kids and adults. I had a student one year who was male. He used to dress very feminine and claim that he was a lesbian. His claim was that he was a girl who was attracted to girls trapped in a boy’s body, so he was a lesbian. We laugh, but the truth is that this is a student who needed help. Under the current system, nobody can try to help this kid. Instead, everybody in the school system has to come along and validate this tortured logic. Not even the parents are allowed to question it because they might get referred to child protective services for not validating their child’s gender claims.
All of this is so wrong. That is why I joined the lawsuit, and with the representation and support of Alliance Defending Freedom, we are challenging this harmful policy. As a teacher who loves my students and deals with them in truth and reality, these are dangerous times. But I continue to stand for the truth because words have meaning. If I am forced to refer to a student by a pronoun that is not in alignment with that student’s biological sex, I am conveying to that student that gender is fluid, and that is just not true. The best thing that we can do to love and respect others is to treat them with enough dignity to speak to them in language that is true and accurate and conversant with reality.
And the reality is, every single one of us has a word stamped inside of us, and the abbreviated version of that word is either XX or XY. If you take that abbreviation and unravel it, you get the human DNA strand, which is over 3 billion letters long. How can we as human beings look at that word, the longest word known to humanity, and say that there’s no meaning behind that word, that there’s no Author behind that word, that I get to decide for myself what that word means. When we live like this, we are living in rebellion against who we were designed to be. We’re living a lie, and—I’m sorry—I cannot lie to my students. I will not encourage them to live a lie.
Perhaps the foundational issue that we’re facing in education today is that we’ve moved away from a culture of academic excellence to a culture of self esteem and feelings. We’ve done away with healthy competition in school thinking that’s the answer to the stress and anxieties that adolescents have. But the truth is that the adolescent years are stressful and anxious, and we can either teach our kids how to navigate that well or we can coddle them. I would argue that we have been coddling them. Yet our kids are no happier, they are no more well-adjusted – in fact they suffer today from even higher rates of anxiety, stress, suicidal ideation and depression and gender confusion than they did 20 years ago. We’ve made things worse, not better.
I know I’ve painted a bleak picture, but there is hope. I’m looking at a sea of that hope right out here in front of me. I’ll just end with this little piece of encouragement for you.
I was feeling pretty deeply discouraged for a few years. It was the beginning of a new school year. I was moving into a new classroom. As I was cleaning out this classroom, I was just feeling how dark things were. I was praying, and I was just saying “Lord, I cannot do this anymore. It is just too hard. It is too heartbreaking. It hurts too much.” And while I was cleaning out this bookshelf, I saw a book kind of stuffed in the corner at the bottom. I picked it up and dusted it off. This is the book. And when I dusted it off, I saw the cover said Holy Bible. And I thought, “My goodness! What are you doing here?” And then I opened the front cover, and inside, in beautiful penmanship, it says “Presented by the Senior Class of 1955.” This Bible had been a gift to my school from the Senior Class of 1955. Immediately, my cynical nature started to bubble up, as I’m sure many of you are thinking right now, like, “Oh, look how far we’ve fallen, you would never see anything like this today!” But the Lord got a hold of my heart, and he said to me, “Monica, I did not give you this gift for you to judge this place. I gave you this gift so that you would know I have not abandoned this place, and I have placed you here for such a time as this. So, stay, and be my salt, and be my light, and stay for me.” And so, I do.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Lord has not abandoned me, he has not abandoned our children, he has not abandoned the halls of our public schools. We have been trying to push Him out of the public sector for decades, but He is still here. He is waiting for teachers like me, and parents like you, and grandparents like you, and our kids to stand up and say, “This is the truth, this is the way, walk in it!”
Thank you and God bless you.
The Honorable Janice Rogers Brown
Edwin Meese III Award for Originalism and Religious Liberty
I want to thank Judge VanDyke for that lovely introduction. And I want to express my gratitude to the Alliance Defending Freedom for honoring me with the 2022 Edwin Meese Award. It is really an honor and I am grateful and humbled to be considered worthy of it. I have said before that we all owe an incalculable debt to General Meese for his courage and perspicacity in pushing back – and doing so with great effectiveness and irrepressible good humor — against the plague of living constitutionalists who had hijacked the Constitution. I will always be grateful to Ed Meese for his friendship, for his many kindnesses, and for being such a mensch. For those of you who do not speak Yiddish that means a man of integrity and honor. General Meese is the kind of brave-hearted, great-souled man who appears rarely in any generation; the kind of citizen and patriot whose wisdom and steadfastness continues to be a great blessing.
As bad as those bad old days were, I confess to certain nostalgia. The enemy was easy to identify; the path forward could be clearly discerned. There was still such a thing as the loyal opposition. Someone, I think it was Martin Luther, observed that humanity is like a drunk that climbs on a horse from one side; falls off. Clambers up the other side and falls off again. We are, as a country, going through a time of testing and trial. The election of 2020 may prove to be more of an existential crisis than the upheavals of 1776. After several years of unprecedented political tumult, civil discourse has been replaced by riots, and speakers intimidated and even assaulted by mobs. When public intellectuals as disparate as Christina Hoff Summers, Ayan Hirsi Ali and Charles Murray are disinvited, de-platformed, or canceled it is not because they are guilty of ‘hate speech’ – however that is defined – they’re being condemned as heretics for contradicting leftwing orthodoxy.” It is the same reason students who protest the appearance of Heather MacDonald are taught to sneer at “truth” as a Euro-normative construct they need never pursue. Perhaps that is the reason “post-truth” was declared Oxford Dictionaries “Word of the Year” in 2016. Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” And it certainly the reason university professors can argue that speech that opposes the left-wing narrative is violence; to respond with actual violence is merely self-defense. And when such bogus reasoners claim the moral high ground, it may be time, and past time, to think “anew” about the kind of polity it takes to sustain self-government.
Ours is not the America the Founders hoped to establish, and we are not the People who managed to sustain government of and by the people for a couple of hundred years. Thomas Wolfe warns us that we can’t go home again, and in one Tennessee Williams’ play the narrator says: “I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further – for time is the longest distance between two places.”  Perhaps that is why we measure our distance from the stars in light years and not miles. Viewed that way, we read the history of America’s brave experiment the way we investigate old galaxies, knowing the light we see today is the reflected glory of events long past. And, in this epoch of progressive hegemony, time and distance seems to be the best way to think comparatively about constitution making and breaking.
Madison, the architect of our Constitution, was a bit of a nerd or, to put it more kindly, a policy wonk. He had a prodigious work ethic and he prepared for his role at the Constitutional convention by a comprehensive course of reading on the history of failed democracies. Democracies he concluded were susceptible to rule by demagogues and mobs. In one of the most famous of the essays Madison submitted to the Federalist Papers, he condemned factions, defined as a group “united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” To the extent being “woke” means supporting leftist causes through violence, threats, and intimidation without concern for the damage done to the government or our political institutions, the woke are difficult to distinguish from the impetuous mobs Madison feared.
Fifty years later, as confrontations over abolition heated up, Abraham Lincoln also foresaw that the unchecked growth of what he called the mobocratic spirit would destroy the American republic. In a prophetic speech at the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln warned that what no “invading foeman” could do, “the silent artillery of time” might accomplish. In contrast to the progressive theorists who would succeeded him, Lincoln thought the role of great political actors responding to urgent necessities “was to look backward rather than forward.” “As a nation of freemen,” said Lincoln in 1837, “we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” He believed that fading memory, “grow[n] more and more dim by the lapse of time,” was the greatest “danger to our political institutions.” The history that could once be read in the battle-scarred lives of our fathers, brothers, and sons—“the pillars of the temple of liberty”—had crumbled away, and he feared the temple itself would fall unless the succeeding generation replaced the old revolutionary passion with civil reason “molded into general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws.”
Lincoln and his generation succeeded in preserving the temple of liberty with new pillars, hewn not “from the solid quarry of sober reason” as he had predicted in 1837, but from a “new birth of freedom” that extended America’s founding promise of liberty to all Americans. I fear we now find ourselves on the precipice of another constitutional crisis. Where Lincoln perceived widespread lawlessness and violence, it becomes daily clearer there is a more fundamental schism in our national culture. Noting that we have abandoned the natural law, “the one deeper idea that kept us together,” Christopher Wolf predicts “the various factions of America must agree about general goals of public policy rooted in a common conception of morality, or we will have no union.” And that, Robert Reilly insists, requires a “resuscitation of ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”
Daniel Hannan has observed that America was fortunate in the timing of its founding because the first colonies were planted when the mania for Magna Carta in England was at its height. The Englishmen who crossed the Atlantic were “keenly aware of their rights as free born Englishman and drew consciously on the language of the Great Charter when framing the charters of their colonies.” However, while British constitutional theory accepted parliamentary sovereignty, the colonists insisted that the “Great Charter, as a written compact, stood above both crown and parliament” and it was that natural law sentiment that that led to the notion of limited government that is at the heart of American constitutionalism.
There has always been concern about the fragility of the republican form of government. As the story goes, on the last day of the constitutional convention, when an importunate questioner asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government have we got? He replied: “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”
John Adams may have been the most prescient of the Founders on the subject of virtue – and he famously predicted that “[h”]uman passions unbridled by religion. . . would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” The constitution “was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” President Washington warned in his farewell address that “Religion and Morality” were indispensable supports of a self-governing regime. Both Washington and Adams understood that virtue and morality could not be disconnected from religion and faith and that free government depended on maintaining those ties. From our present perspective these observations seem naive, even simple-minded. But, in reality they reflect a coherent and fundamental philosophical understanding. Self-government depends on a precise architecture, a commitment to a consistent world-view carried through at every level. Our political institutions were invented by men for whom religion was a lodestar, reason the holy grail, and civic virtue (responsibility, restraint, and self-reliance) an inexhaustible resource.
The Founding generation had a deep understanding of the way the axioms and first principles of moral reasoning were integral to the telos that defined American constitutionalism. The drafters of our constitutional documents assumed that any good regime must respect the nature of the creature to be governed. Man was a creature of the logos, whose rational nature, created by the God of the logos, was guided by the moral law engraved on every heart. The Founders presumably believed the statement adopted by Thomas Jefferson from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, edited and endorsed by the convention: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The mistake of the French revolutionaries, in Adams view, was not contempt for tradition, it was contempt for man. Natural rights “rightly understood” were a framework for governance that respected man’s immutable nature. The distinctive achievement of the American Revolution was the establishment of the constitution “as a formal instrument or code giving existence to government and prescribing and limiting the exercise of its powers.” Abraham Lincoln may have been the most articulate defender of the old “American constitutional order and the principles it enshrined.” Progressivism – a toxic combination of social Darwinism and philosophical pragmatism – undermined Lincoln’s and the Founders) conception of a fixed constitution and with a big assist from the judicial branch has implemented a historicist view of the Constitution and constitutionalism. This is emphatically not a distinction without a difference.
American constitutionalism was the embodiment of the self-evident truth the Founders articulated; progressivism posits that there are no fixed or eternal principles that ought to govern the politics of a decent regime. The founders distinguished between the cumulative progress of science and technology and progress in morals and politics which must be taught to each new generation. They held fast to a vision of natural law, the antithesis of inevitable, transformative progress. This early understanding was grounded in rational moral truths linked to religion and objective standards of right and wrong. These were ideas progressivism forcefully repudiated. Woodrow Wilson contemptuously dismissed America’s core principles as “fourth of July sentiments.”
No American institution was more deeply infected with the pathogen of progressive historicism than the court. Nor did any component of government have a greater capacity to spread the infection. Many modern judges saw themselves as translators of the lofty generalities of the evolving Constitution. Consider Justice William Brennan’s position on the death penalty. In a 1986 speech, he described the Constitution as a “public text” and a “sublime oration on the dignity of man,” whose inherent ambiguities judges must resolve. Although the Constitution clearly contemplates capital punishment, Brennan insisted he was “bound” by the Constitution’s overarching theme of human dignity to ignore its actual text in order to embody a community striving that had “perhaps not arrived.”
This was the judicial adventurism to which General Meese administered the inoculation of originalism and textualism. The stock of the living constitutionalists did not fall in a day, but, it became less and less defensible. The living constitutionalist claim they are merely keeping the constitution in tune with the times. Conservative jurists reject the living constitution in favor of strict adherence to the text, history, traditions, and logical structure of the constitution. On the surface this sounds admirably protective of constitutional premises, but consider Chief Justice Rehnquist’s description of the source of morality in a democratic society:
If a society adopts a constitution and incorporates. . .safeguards for individual liberty, these safeguards indeed do take on a generalized moral rightness or goodness. . . .neither because of any intrinsic worth nor because of any unique origins in someone’s idea of natural justice. . . . The laws that emerge after a typical political struggle in which various value judgments are debated likewise take on a form of moral goodness because they have been enacted into positive law.
Really? Rehnquist then cites Holmes famous attack on natural law approvingly. This then, as Steve Hayward observes, not only leaves the door ajar to “unqualified majoritarianism,” it seems to mean “strict textual originalism is indistinguishable from positivism.” This apparent flight from moral substance seems to confirm Harry Jaffa’s trenchant observation: “No one can at one and the same time be a legal positivist and an adherent to the original intentions of the Framers.” Jaffa concludes: “In asking what were the intentions of the founding Fathers, we are asking what principles of moral and political philosophy guided them. . . The crisis of American constitutionalism – the crisis of the West – lies in precisely the denial that there are any such principles or truths.” In other words, once the truth claims and reliance on eternal verities are hollowed out, everyone is on the same side – and it is not the side of freedom. “Social expediency rather than natural right [determines] the sphere of individual freedom of action.”
Recently, Justice Elena Kagan proclaimed: “We are all originalist now; we are all textualist now.” And yet, it appears that no amount of interpretive rigor can slow down the juggernaut of progressive ideology. Those ugly decisions just keep coming.
There was a time when this society’s intellectual life – “[its] views of the universe, of human nature, and of esthetics, [its] social and political ideas” – reflected a Judeo-Christian ethic. And as President Calvin Coolidge observed on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the clergy played an indispensable role. Coolidge’s speech carefully considered the underpinnings of American constitutionalism as found in the “texts, the sermons, and the writings of early colonial clergy who were instructing their congregations.” Thus, he said “[t]hey preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.”
President Coolidge says more in that speech that becomes daily more resonant. He notes that at the time of the Founding, “the people were not so much engrossed in how much they knew or how much they had, as in how they were going to live.”
America now has the world’s oldest written constitution. Its eloquence and venerable old age should be a reason to hold it in high esteem. Instead, as couple of constitutional scholars have confirmed, the US Constitution is increasingly out of step with global trends. An analysis of the 729 constitutions, adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, reveals that since the beginning of the 21st Century, “there has been a precipitous decline in the use of the American Constitution as precedent.” Indeed, the constitutions of the world’s democracies are ‘less similar to the U.S. Constitution now’ than at any time in the past 60 years.
And no wonder. Once we possessed American cool and certitude: God had blessed America because it was good. These days, we are not so sure. Legal scholars now seriously argue we, out of “a decent respect [for] the opinions of mankind,” ought to reinvent ourselves; the Supreme Court has, at times, liberally sprinkled its opinions with citations to foreign law and foreign public opinion; and the loyal opposition that once characterized American politics has been reduced to an echo chamber of Old Europe’s virulent anti-Americanism. The US constitution with all its amendments is 7299 words. Compare that with the Constitution of the EU, aka The Treaty of Lisbon, containing a staggering 76,000 words. As Daniel Hannan observes, the U.S. Declaration of Independence promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The EU equivalent, The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, “guarantees its citizens the right to strike action, free health care, and affordable housing.” The U.S. constitution was the culmination of a popular uprising in which citizen soldiers left their crops in the fields to fight. In contrast the EU Constitution was imposed over the objection of an electorate that had repeatedly rejected its provisions at the ballot box. “Where the one was based on empowering the people and controlling the state, the other was based on empowering the state and controlling the people.”
Something has gone wrong. Ryzard Legutko may be right: There is a demon in democracy. But we seem to be in a place we have never been before. These are not our father’s totalitarians; nor the social justice warriors of a decade ago. Maybe they are not even the wokerati of 2020. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we keep asking “who are those guys?” I think we know.
In an age when we have had to deal with the looming malevolence of GAFA and the madness of crowds, we understand inventing a future for freedom won’t be easy. Whenever an open society comes into conflict with a closed society, the open society loses – at least temporarily. And the struggle is amplified when the closed society begins inside the gates; all the more terrible when our children and grand children label us the enemy. Ingratitude is ugly; class warfare uglier; and racial hatred a horror from which we cannot avert our eyes – even when it pretends to be a religion focused on purifying and cleansing the stains of a reprehensible past.
Lezsek Kolakowski’s long view of history echoes the elements of mythic struggle. He invokes St. Augustine’s poetic trope in The City of God, recalling how God enriches history by the same kind of antithesis that gives beauty to poetry. “[T]here is beauty in the composition of the world’s history arising from the antitheses of contraries – a kind of eloquence in events instead of words.” Thus, he concludes the devil often tries with great success to “convert good into evil,” but the battle is never ceded to him.45
God, Kolokowski says, may “reforge evil, havoc, and destruction into instruments of his own design.” .And this flaw, this twisting of light into darkness, had the potential to turn politics into a sheer struggle for power. And that seems to be the best explanation of our toxic top-down revolution.
America has been a beacon to the world because of its commitment to freedom; it has become a pariah for the same cause. In the 21st Century, things have changed; America is routinely pilloried as the worse society in the world, condemned for it domestic racism, as well as the spread of its cowboy capitalism and its cultural hegemony. A cynic might echo Revel’s rueful observation: “Were the American ‘melting pot’ [so cruel a mirage], we would expect to see disillusioned hordes abandoning the U.S.A. for Albania, Slovakia and Nicaragua.” Instead our southern border is being overrun by hundreds of thousands of people seeking to gain entrance.
The spirit of radical multiculturalism, a movement that began in the 1960’s, morphed, in the fullness of time, into full-fledged Wokism. The revolution of 2020 seemed to take us by surprise. But, had we been less distracted by video games, phony reality shows, and mind-numbing social media we might have realized American universities have spent the last five decades making sure that college graduates in 2020, especially those with advanced degrees, can’t quite grasp a concept that toddlers had no difficulty understanding in 1970, i.e., the wisdom of Sesame Street – one of these things is not like the other!
During a global pandemic — one that purportedly justified unprecedented restrictions on basic liberties — the press characterized the wanton destruction of the country’s historical legacy, statues being toppled, monuments defaced and vandalized, businesses being pillaged — as legitimate expressions of social unrest. So what if it looked like what Margaret Thatcher described in an earlier era as “crime masquerading as social protest.” The opposite of objective truth is poisonous subjectivism. And, as C. S. Lewis warned long ago, starting down that slippery slope must soon lead to the abolition of man.
Even in the 1990s, Chrisopher Lasch noted the culture wars were thinly disguised class warfare and “middle America. . .ha[d] come to symbolize everything that [stood] in the way of progress: family values, mindless patriotism, religious fundamentalism, racism, homophobia, retrograde views of women.” And yet, It is the new religion of social justice, or wokism, or moral environmental purity that insists on orthodoxy and dogma. It is their beliefs that are impervious to rational discussion. The poison of subjectivism dictates that “protest is the distinctive moral feature of the modern age” and “indignation the predominant modern emotion.”
It is worth noting that this stifling new religion demands not only punitive zeal but also dogmatic self-righteousness. The narrow intolerance that characterizes this virulent iteration of identity politics is the antithesis of the transformative community ethos that possessed the souls of folks stirred by the religious revival that swept across the American colonies. Professor Joshua Mitchell says that the Christian notion of radical equality is being supplanted by a strange sort of anti-egalitarian “spiritual eugenics” which require pure and innocent groups to ascend while the stained transgressor group must be purged. However creatively it may be analogized, it is a vile, destructive, mean-spirited orthodoxy.
And it is being aggressively exported. Robert Cardinal Sarah has expressed dismay at the way international organizations are trying to impose “by any means” the deconstructive theory that differences between men and women are nothing but oppressive norms. “To say that human sexuality no longer depends on the identity of a man or a woman but rather on sexual orientations. . .is a nightmarish totalitarianism.” He concludes: “The battle to preserve the roots of mankind is perhaps the greatest challenge the world has faced since its origins.” More recently, the World Health Organization has published new Abortion Care Guidelines that demand access to taxpayer-funded abortion at any time for any reason and prohibits any requirement for consent by parents of a pregnant minor or the father of the child.
This is a tyranny of those at the top of the social hierarchy, a self-interested, narcissistic minority committed to “warping. . .not just state power but all human institutions to serve private interests at public expense” and they are indifferent to, indeed boldly dismissive of, the notion of the common good. How did America’s hopeful experiment in self-government devolve into this toxic, top-down war against truth? Against reason? Against objective reality? Against God? It is a story as old as Eden.
Orestes Brownson, in the wake of the Civil War, recognized the danger of the humanitarian impulse of the abolitionists which might seem to the casual observer to be , “building on a broader and deeper foundation. . .being more Christian, more philosophic, more generous and philanthropic; but, Brownson warns, “Satan is never more successful than under the guise of an angel of light.” Brownson sees that humanitarianism and Christianity are not the same. Humanitarianism puts man in the place of God; loses men in humanity; thus, sacrificing the rights of men in a “vain endeavor to secure the rights of man. “ Brownson, like Prince, was quoting the Apostle Paul: “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” 2 Cor. 11:14-15. It will take great courage to take a stand for truth when we live in the kingdom of lies. I do not know if the American experiment can be saved. I do know we must do everything in our power to rescue its ideals. We have not just a country to restore; not just a civilization to defend; we are struggling to preserve what God created as the crowning achievement of the cosmos – humanity itself.
 Jonah Goldberg, What The Free Speech Debate Misses, National Review Online (Apr. 24, 2017).
 Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again 546 (1973) (1940) (“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood . . . back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame . . . back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”).
 Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie scene 7, in Plays 464 (2000) (1945).
 The Federalist No. 10, Transcript of the Federalist Papers (1787-1788), available at https://www.ourdocuments.gov/print_friendly.
 Abraham Lincoln, Speech Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (Jan. 27, 1837), available at http://www.constitution.org/lincoln/lyceum.htm (last visited Sept. 13, 2011).
 Bradley C.S. Watson, Living Constitution, Dying Faith, ISI Books 2009, p.38.
 Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (Nov. 19, 1863), available at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/gettyb.asp (last visited Sept. 13, 2011).
 Id. at 114.
 Id. at 115.
 Bradley C. S. Watson, Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence, The Heritage Foundation’s First Principles Series, No. 24, 1.
 Ibid., 1-2.
 Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. The Constitution of the United States: Contemporary Ratification, 27 S. Tex. L. Rev 433, 438 (1986).
 Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Speech to the Text and Teaching Symposium, Georgetown University, Oct. 12, 1985.
 Steven F. Hayward, Two Kinds of Originalism, National Affairs, Winter 2017, p. 15.
 Ronald J. Pestritto, America Transformed: The Rise and Legacy of American Progressivism, Encounter Books (2021), p. 209, quoting Frank Goodnow, The American Conception of Liberty and Government, 11.
 Cragg, Forged in Faith, 113, 117.
 Jonathan Faull, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Knows Her Constitutions, https://africasacountry.com/2012/02/ruthaderginburg/
 Daniel Hannan, The New Road to Serfdom, Harper Collins (2010) 42.
 Ibid. at 45.
 Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple makes an appropriately ominous sounding acronym.
 See KOLAKOWSKI, supra note 25, at 191 (quoting ST. AUGUSTINE, THE CITY OF GOD 11.18). 45 Id. at 179.
 Revel, Anti-Americanism 97 (2003).
 James Panero, Going Under with the Overclass, First Things, Vol. 40, No.8, April 2022, 5.
 Michael Ward, AFTER HUMANITY, Word on Fire, 2021, 42, quoting Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 71.
 Joshua Mitchell, AMERICAN AWAKENING: IDENTITY POLITICS AND OTHER AFFLICTIONS OF OUR TIME, Encounter Books: New York (2020) xviii.
 Robert Cardinal Sarah, GOD OR NOTHING, Ignatius Press, San Francisco (2015) 164-166.
 Michael Anton, PESSIMISM VINDICATED, First Things, June/July 2021, 46.
 Orestes Brownson, THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC, San Bernadino: Loki Publishing (2019) 140.