Monday, April 2, 2007

Theism in the Judiciary?

According to Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, “Christianity at its best is the foundation of reason and liberty.”

I believe this is truer than perhaps even Judge Brown realizes. Although I have never heard anyone describe this problem this way, it seems to me that the judiciary is by its very nature in an odd epistemic position. The courts interpret the law, that much is clear. That means that, when it is behaving as it should, it doesn't impose its own value judgments, it doesn't take any truths for granted except what the legislature tells it.

But what about the laws of logic and rationality? What about the principles of induction and causation, which David Hume long ago showed have no basis in pure empirical thought? Clearly it is acceptable for the courts to take these truths for granted. But on what basis? The constitution doesn't set forth these truths. The legislatures have not done so. So is assuming the universality of these rules an example of "judicial activism"?

In my view, this is the best argument for having a judiciary that is governed by natural law. It explains why our founders identified with a higher law, and that the truths of these higher laws were "self-evident," and that they owed to a supreme being. If our nation denied the transcendent truths of the universality of those things that define our humanity, we are left with a truly arbitrary existence.

A legislature can operate by whatever rules it likes. It is the will of the majority that governs. But to avoid the tyranny that this arbitrary mob would eventually lead us, a judiciary is needed. And this judiciary must find its basic governance--the laws of logic and rationality and order--in a transcendental source. In America, that source is "the laws of nature and . . . nature's God."

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