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Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote … that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.
– Samuel Adams, April 16, 1781
In three weeks, voters will go to the polls in record numbers for a non-presidential election year to cast their ballots for leadership in Congress and in their respective state governments. What is the cause of this newfound electoral energy?
The Founding Fathers believed that voting was a moral obligation of the citizenry, a privilege given by God that allowed the people to determine the character of their leaders, to protect their rights and to decide the destiny of their country. In the early days of the republic, every kind of issue was put to a vote, and nearly everyone eligible cast votes to decide them.
Lately, fewer and fewer adults of voting age have exercised this vital right, and most who did only participated in what they considered to be the “important” elections: the vote every four years for president. Only about 50 percent of voting-age adults go to the polls in presidential election years, and in non-presidential election years a mere 33 percent of the voting age populace cast a ballot.
There are, of course, many reasons for voter apathy, but surely one key factor is that the people no longer decide moral issues that matter the most to them – the federal courts do. Last year, for example, a federal district judge invalidated Nebraska’s state constitutional amendment to protect marriage despite the fact that 70 percent of Nebraskans voted for it.
In 1999, the elected commissioners of McCreary County, Ky., posted a display of the Ten Commandments in the county courthouse because they considered it “the duty of elected officials to publicly acknowledge God as the source of America’s strength and direction.” Despite overwhelming support for the display from the citizens of the county, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower federal court order commanding that the display be removed from public view.
In 1973, 46 states and the District of Columbia had laws that placed severe restrictions on obtaining an abortion. The United States Supreme Court tossed aside all of those laws in one day with its decision that year in Roe v. Wade. Similarly, in 2003, the Supreme Court overturned the laws of the states outlawing sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas, even though just 17 years earlier the Court had categorically stated that there is no constitutional right to commit sodomy.
None of these judicial decisions had a plausible grounding in the U.S. Constitution. Across the nation, federal judges have usurped the will of the people and replaced it with their own personal morality. Ironically, the federal judges are doing what liberals frequently and unjustifiably accuse Christians of doing: imposing their own morality on the rest of society.
However, people are starting to wake up and take matters into their own hands by making their voices heard at the polls. In 2004, states began passing amendments to their constitutions strictly defining marriage to be between a man and a woman. Currently, 20 states have such amendments, and they have received an average of 70 percent of the votes of the people. This November, eight states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin – will have marriage amendments on their ballots. All of these are expected to pass by wide margins.
In 2004, the city council of Boise City, Idaho, ordered the removal of a monument of the Ten Commandments that had been on display in a public park since 1965 because of fears that the city might be sued because of the display. The people of Boise City filed a petition containing more than 19,000 signatures asking that the issue of displaying the monument be put up to a vote of the people. Following a battle in the state courts, which upheld the legality of the petition, the issue whether to move the monument back to the public park will be on the November ballot. Polls show support for the measure hovering around 75 percent.
Perhaps the biggest moral-issue vote in the country this November will occur in South Dakota. In February of this year, the South Dakota Legislature directly challenged the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe by enacting a complete ban on abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger. Proponents of abortion circulated a petition and placed the law on the ballot for an up-or-down vote by the people of South Dakota. For the first time in over 30 years, the people of a state will have a chance to vote on the issue of abortion.
It appears that people are tired of having moral issues decided by men and women in black robes. Our Founding Fathers would be pleased to know that we still believe in government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Our federal courts would be wise to recognize that as well.
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