VITAL SIGNSrnRELIGIONrnDare to Be a Danielarnby Harold O.J. BrownrnI n early July, the United States SupremernCourt, acting on a plea brought by hvornunidentified families, one Mormon andrnone Roman Catholic, ruled the practicernof prayer at high-school football gamesrnunconstitutional {Santa Fe School DistrictrnV. ]ane Doe). Although the prayerrnwas delivered by a girl designated by herrnfellow students, Justice John PaulrnStevens, author of the majorit)’ opinion,rndeclared that praying might make somernpeople feel excluded and, therefore,rnis not permissible. Like Nebraska v.rnCarhart only days later, the prayer decisionrnis a stunning example of the wa’ inrnwhich our “eminent tribunal,” has arrogatedrnto itself supreme authority. ThernCourt seems to believe that, once a fiememberrnmajority has been formed, therernis no power in heaven or on earth thatrncan challenge it.rnIn Carhart, a five-to-four majorityrnruled that a Nebraska law banning “partial-rnbirth” abortion is imconstitutional.rnAlthough Justice Sandra Day O’Connorrnwrote in a concurring opinion that a better-rnwritten law might meet “my standardrnof constitutionality,” those very words,rn”mv standard,” confirm that one justice isrnmaking herself the measure by which thernlives of more than one-quarter billionrnpeople are to be ruled.rnCarhart casts a sharp light on the wa)’rnthat the Supreme Court has begun torntreat the Constitution as it it were therninspired Word of God and to present itselfrnas Cod’s authorized and infalliblernprophets. Both Carhart and Santa Fe reflectrna judicial mindset that claims a kindrnof apotheosis of the judiciary in generalrnand of the Supreme Court in particular.rnThe procedure that the Nebraska lawrnprohibited, partial-birth abortion, is sornhorrible that medical and legal observersrnin other countries are amazed that anyrnphysician can perform it, not to mentionrnthat it can be ofificiallv sanctioned by thernhighest court in the land. Justice O’Connor’srn”standard of constitutionality-” permitsrnthousands of almost-born babies tornbe killed each year by the suctioning outrnof their brains.rnThe general attitude of Christians andrnJews toward secular authorities has beenrnobedience, as St. Paul urges in Romansrn13:1: “Let ever’ person be subject to therngoverning autiiorities, for there is no authorityrnexcept from God, and thosernwhich exist are established bv Cod.” Itrnmay be permissible to disobey when thernruler is a t)’rant, as eminent theologiansrnhave argued and Christians from time torntime have done. I’he attempted coup ofrnthe German officers against Hitier on Julyrn20, 1944, is a case in point. There are,rnhowever, tvvo situations in which biblicalrnbelievers are not merely permitted butrnactuallv commanded to disobcv a ruler orrna government, situations that arise whenrnthe rider or goernment attempts to set itselfrnand its laws above and against Cod,rnmaking of itself an idol, in fact if not inrnname. Both cases are described in thernBook of Daniel, in chapters three and sixrnrespectivelv: A Jew or a Christian whornhonors the Cod of Scripture must, notrnsimply may, disobey when governmentrnorders him to perform what God forbidsrn(in Daniel 3:5, idolatr)’) or prohibits whatrnGod commands (in Daniel 6:7, prayer).rnThis second situation arose in thernSante Fe decision, when the Constitutionrnwas invoked to suppress the simplernpractice of public prayer by a high-schoolrngirl in Santc Fe, Texas. When thernprophet Daniel was forbidden to pray, herndisobcvcd and conseqnentK’ was “cast intornthe lion’s den.” According to the biblicalrnaccount, tlie lions were more observantrnof God’s law than of the king’s,rnsparing Daniel’s life. King Darius recognizedrnthat riie will of Heaven had overriddenrnhis own and ordered Daniel released.rnHis own scheming counselorsrnwere then thrown in, and the lions devouredrnthem. The ston.- is celebrated in arnSunday-school children’s song, “Dare tornBe a Daniel.”rnIn this fall’s football season, will somernhigh-school girl in Texas “dare to be arnDaniela” and utter a prayer over the loudspeakerrnat a game? If so, this deed willrnchallenge both the judiciar-, whose imperiousrnwill would thus be thwarted, andrnthe educational authorities, who wouldrnbe expected to act as tire Court’s agentsrnand wreak vengeance on the would-bernDaniela. But how could this be done?rnThere is as yet no law against such arnprayer in Texas. Indeed, if there werernone, it would seem to violate the FirstrnAmcndmenf s protection of free speech,rnhistoricalK’ considered imiolable (except,rnperhaps, where prayer is concerned).rnOur legal tradition respects thernprinciple nulla poena sine lege (“no punishmentrnwithout law”), but in this casernpunishment woidd be expected, if not inexorabUrnexacted. After all, it is possiblernthat the educational authorities in Texasrnwould defer to the legal principle oi nullarnpoena and permit the young Danielarnto go unpunished. If so, how far worddrnthe procession of Daniels rise before beingrnconfronted by the majesty of thernSupreme Court and cast into the 21stcentun’rnequivalent of Darius’s lion’s den?rnThose whose goal is the eradication ofrnever}’ trace of reverence toward Cod fromrnAmerica’s public stage relenflessly seek tornabsolutize the “principle” of the separationrnof church and state, a principle notrnfound in tiie Constitution but extrapolatedrnfrom the words “no law respecting anrnestablishment of religion” in the FirstrnAmendment. In so doing, they ignorernthe words that follow, which forbid “prohibitingrnthe free exercise thereof” Thosernwho prefer to respect the freedom of religionrnratiier than to squeeze from the textrna fraudulent freedom from religionrnshould not make the mistake of supposingrnthat mere symbolic expressions of reverencernfor God—such as prayers at footballrngames or in schoolrooms, Biblernreading in classes, or Christmas crechesrnin hallways —contribute significantiy tornthe religious devotion of the public.rnWiat we must not fail to see, however, isrnthat their prohibition and suppressionrndoes something that Scripture and historyrnwarn us not to do: to refiise to honorrnGod or to give him thanks (Romansrn1:21). As a nation, we have failed to heedrnthis warning, obeying instead the dictatesrnof an imperious judiciary’. As a result, wernare alreadv- experiencing the consequencesrndescribed in Romans 1:28, inrnwhich we read that “God gave them overrnto a depraved mind.”rnThe effects of being gien over to a deprarncd mind are becoming increasinglyrnevident in die disintegration of our socialrnorder. The’ will ncer be reversed un-rn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn