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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

With justice for all?

The Little Sisters of the Poor lose to Big Brother

With justice for all?

(Associated Press/Photo by Brennan Linsley)

I was just 6 years old when a big, brick federal courthouse in Waterloo, Iowa, handed me my first disappointment with civil justice—right there in the true-blue heartland of the USofA. I sat with my father and grandfather as a judge ruled harshly against them in a tax case having to do with the grain business they owned together. I learned that day that a building’s impressive looks and a judge’s authoritative appearance weren’t enough to ensure that things would always go the way they were supposed to. My father and grandfather were honest businessmen, and they were outraged that their government was treating them so greedily and unfairly.

Thirty years later, a van operated by the Christian high school where I served as headmaster was involved in a minor fender bender—but not so minor that the driver of the other car didn’t sue. Four times, I took five students from their classes for the whole morning to serve as witnesses in the court case that followed. Four times, the party suing the school and its insurance company failed even to show up in court. And four times, inexplicably, the judge continued the case. The students learned a great deal more about American courts than I wanted them to.

A dozen years later, a hospitalized friend was raped in the middle of the night by a male nurse in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. The criminal and civil cases that followed over the next few years made cynics of most of us who wanted to support and encourage our friend. Looking for justice, she instead got mere scraps thrown out the back door of a traveling circus.

Should I go on? Should I mention the young mother in our church who, after suffering the ignominy of losing her adulterous husband, also lost custody of her children, thanks to the “progressive” views of a circuit court judge? We witnesses were dumbfounded.

Now we’re talking about calculated efforts to compel folks to adopt a particular system of belief, or to pay massive fines for their noncompliance.

So for me, at least, it hasn’t been a lifetime of watching how well the system works. I’m not especially enamored of this thing we call “justice” in America.

But having said that, there’s an important distinction to be made at this juncture in our public life. All those lapses in justice that I cited (and I’ve learned almost everyone has his or her own list) might well be charged up to incompetence, overcrowded court dockets, or misguided efforts at following some other court’s misguided precedents.

Not so—or let’s say, not at all so—with the crass ruling handed down on July 14 by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver against the Little Sisters of the Poor, a historic Roman Catholic relief organization, in a case involving Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Now we’re talking about calculated efforts to compel folks to adopt a particular system of belief, or to pay massive fines for their noncompliance. Now we’re talking not about incidental slipups on the way to justice. We’re talking here about applications of the law deliberately designed to override the consciences of our citizens.

It was like putting an exclamation point—or maybe three of them—at the end of an already threatening judicial year. The Supreme Court had just showcased its burly power by affirming Obamacare and by its hasty endorsement of same-sex marriage. So why not try something almost as outrageous at the circuit court level? And if this legal juggernaut could make its point by running ruthlessly over an organization called Little Sisters of the Poor, why not go for it?

Instead of an incidental or occasional slipup, it’s now become a purposeful pattern—subscribed to by a whole gaggle of judges. As Little Sisters attorney Mark Rienzi put it: “It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan.”

No reason at all unless Big Brother’s goal is, with bigger and bigger bites, to gobble up everything that used to belong to Little Sister.



  • gumpsey
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    The highlighted quote could have been lifted from an article about Islam. Secularism or whatever you want to call the wave of cultural intolerance in the US is certainly behaving like a government endorsed religion.

  • Wally
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    Well said.  The
    injustice of our Justice Department, the shameless governmental support for the
    killing and trafficking of baby organs and other evils that seems so prevalent
    have caused me to take more recent comfort in Romans 8:18-25.  This country's Pledge of Allegiance once was
    important to me.  Recent events, however,
    have revealed where my true allegiance should always be; to His Kingdom. 

  • MTJanet
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    They, the government, started with our money - using it for vile purposes a la planned barrenhood.  Now they are after our beliefs and undermining them or else we pay a price.  Persecution is well under way and progressing quickly.  It won't be long before they go after our houses of worship and our Bibles.  Yes, standing strong in the Lord is the only good option or capitulating and falling away in the these last days.  

  • SueQ's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    Of course, I,too,have come to realize that there is no justice in this world.  We were never promised that there would be. I lost millions of dollars  by the hand of vindictive and greedy men. some of them called themselves Christians. So...I have learned to submit to injustice instead of wasting my time railing against it.  We paid no attention to the wise ones of the past who warned that government involvement in anything would eventually mandate government control of  everything. I am close to my home as my own pilgrimage winds down, but it is the children for whom I grieve.  They may have a longer road ahead! God's patience must surely be wearing thin, but I trust him enough to know when the last sheaf of wheat has been gathered.

  • Janet S
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    And so the path to persecution of Christians continues.  We are not there yet, but we are not far.  We need to continue to be salt and light in this present darkness.  If America ever needed the followers of Jesus to stand firm, it is now.  

  • TxAgEngr
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    The god of The Left (the federal government) is a jealous god and its high priests (the Leftist members of the federal judiciary) are making sure that the American people have no other gods before it.

  • Varenikje's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    On the one hand I feel like World should accentuate the positive and be more encouraging.  On the other hand, this *has* been a "threatening judicial year."  But as someone who doesn't vote, I would say God is still in control.  

  • JSchultz
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 11:59 am

    We should certainly stand against governmental intrusion into our personal and church life.  Moses challenged Joshua with these words: "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you."  Remember the words of Jesus: "In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage I have overcome the world"; and finally: "Peace I leave with you....Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid". So let's stand up, pray and vote!