The Briefing 06-27-14

The Briefing 06-27-14

The Briefing


June 27, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

  It’s Friday, June 27, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 1) Abortion counseling buffer zone law struck down in defense of free speech The end of June brings a flurry of decisions by the United States Supreme Court. It ends its term as the summer begins. And as the term ends, a series of decisions are handed down that are likely to be remembered as the most important of the court’s term. Why? It’s because the court takes this time, the distance between the oral arguments in a case until the decision is handed down, to make certain that it has said what it wants to say when the decision is released. And the last of those decisions will be handed down next Monday, the last day of June and the last day of the court’s term.   But yesterday, there were important decisions handed down before the court went into a three-day recess. And among those two decisions, the most important is the fact that the court unanimously struck down a so-called buffer zone when it has to do with abortion counseling in the city of Boston and, by extension, to the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The court’s ruling was 9 to 0 in terms of the fact that the buffer zone, which prevented any kind of counseling of a woman against having an abortion, as being a violation of the basic American right, a fundamental right of free speech. But even as the decision was handed down on a 9-0 vote, what was behind the decision was a disagreement on the court as to how far the decision should reach. For example, the majority opinion struck down the fact that there could be a buffer zone that would privilege certain kinds of speech over against other speech when it comes to that 35-foot space that would include public sidewalks and public streets in front of any abortion clinic. The court did not strike down a similar law that would have allowed for this kind of buffer zone in front of any kind of medical facility, and the court majority insisted that this decision actually has nothing at all whatsoever to do with abortion. So what we have here is the court unanimously saying that what the Massachusetts law stipulated was unconstitutional, an unconstitutional abridgment of that basic American constitutional right of free speech.   But you also had a basic division on the court that made something else evident. The only way the court got to a 9-0 vote on this issue was by agreeing that this was not an abortion case. Had it been an abortion case, the liberals on the court would’ve found themselves in a duty-bound position by their own logic to defend abortion over against any kind of infringement. One of the most concerning aspects of the contemporary composition of the US Supreme Court is that those on the left are adamantly determined to defend abortion under virtually any conceivable circumstance, including even so-called partial-birth abortions.   As the hometown newspaper there in Massachusetts, The Boston Globe, declared, the US Supreme Court had ruled that the state laws violated the First Amendment, restricting access to public ways and sidewalks—and the keywords are what follows—places that are traditionally open for free debate. But the disagreement on the court itself, even behind the 9-0 ruling, was made evident in the concurring opinion that was handed down by Justice Antonin Scalia, who was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Clarence Thomas. In his initial words in his concurring opinion, he said:   Today’s opinion carries forward this court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents. There is an entirely separate abridged version of the First Amendment applicable to speech against abortion.   Now I happen to believe that Justice Scalia is absolutely right in making this assertion. He’s right in suggesting that there’s something cowardly about a court that reaches the right decision by agreeing that the issue isn’t what the issue is actually about—in other words, abortion. Justice Scalia is counted in the unanimous vote—after all, it was 9-0—but he writes about the majority opinion, “This is an opinion that has something for everyone and the more significant portion continues the onward march of abortion speech only jurisprudence.”   Time will tell whether or not in this case, as in so many others, Justice Scalia’s proved to be prophetic. But, at the very least, anyone who is concerned for the sanctity of human life has to see this as a win. It may turn out to be a narrow win, but it’s a very significant win, and since it was a unanimous decision, in that sense, it is a very conclusive win. The opportunity is now before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to try to come back and rewrite the law so that it does not conflict with the United States Constitution, but the majority opinion, even with the criticisms of Justice Scalia, will be a mighty powerful obstacle for the state of Massachusetts to overcome in trying to craft just such a law. 2) Separation of powers defended in court in America, not in battlefield In a second major decision handed down by the court yesterday, the court rebuked the President of the United States. The court ruled that President Obama had overreached his constitutional authority by making certain so-called recess appointments when the Senate of the United States was not actually in recess. The court ruled unanimously that President Obama had innovated even over the practices of his predecessors by making appointments when the Senate actually wasn’t in recess, when it was just in something like a three-day holiday weekend. In other words, the president was acting over against the Constitution, was overreaching his constitutional authority in making certain appointments years ago to the National Labor Relations Board. And this is a far-reaching decision in this sense because this means that every one of the decisions made by that very important federal agency in the time since President Obama made those recess appointments is now in question because, as it turns out, those who were serving on the board were not qualified to do so. They had not been confirmed by the Senate.   By a narrower vote, in the second part of this decision, a 5-4 vote, a bare majority of the court decided not to virtually eliminate the president’s recess appointment power altogether. That’s also very telling. It tells us that there was only a one-vote margin separating those who were willing to say that in this age the president has no right of such recess appointments.   So it was a 9-0 decision on the big question and a 5-4 decision on the more narrow question, so what from the Christian worldview perspective is most important here? What’s important is the American genius of the constitutional separation of powers. We should stand back in a bit of wonder here and recognize that this is possible, this kind of decision, the framing of this kind of issue, only in the United States of America and only under the American Constitution. The United States Constitution that is to this day the longest-operating written Constitution in the history of humanity. And we need also to recognize that there was a deep Christian wisdom written into that separation of powers. That deep Christian wisdom is the understanding that evil tends to collect itself where power is unchecked, and it is the doctrine of sin that led the founders of this country to believe that every branch of government needed to be co-equal, able to check any overreach by another power. And in this case, it’s a very interesting three-part discussion because you had the Supreme Court of the United States, an equal branch of government with Congress and the president, instructing the President of the United States that he had acted unconstitutionally in not allowing the Congress of the United States the opportunity to review and to consent to his appointments.   Also making news in terms of the separation of powers, this week the Speaker the House of Representatives, John Boehner, announced that he will sue President Obama by the use of executive actions that go around the authority of Congress. And this will again demonstrate the separation of powers with the Speaker of the House suing the President of the United States before a federal court.   From a Christian worldview perspective, there’s something else that needs to be noted here. Many other nations would go to war over this. There would be an attempted coup or some kind of toppling of the power structure. In the United States of America, one of the wonders of our constitutional system and its longevity is the fact that even when the disagreements run this deep, people go court, not to war. 3) Edie Windsor celebrated by Bill Clinton, the president who signed DOMA Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Windsor decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court. That was the decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. I was asked by CNN to respond on that one-year anniversary. My article appeared today at But yesterday, on that one-year anniversary, there was a bizarre cover story, front-page story, at USA Today, and yet, very few people seemed to have noted just how bizarre it is. The article is by Richard Wolf, the lead reporter on this issue for USA Today. Here’s how he began the article:   Edie Windsor turned 85 last week, but she was too “overdone” for a party. The woman whose lawsuit forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage introduced President Obama at a Democratic National Committee event a few nights earlier. A few nights later, she was to be introduced by former president Bill Clinton at an MTV “Trailblazers” event.   Now as you heard her name, Edie Windsor is the reason why the Windsor decision has its name. It was she who sued against the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act, and she won in court and it was thus struck down. That will stand as one of the most signal decisions of the United States Supreme Court, and to those who believe that marriage, by God’s intention, should be the union of a man and a woman, one of the most devastating judicial actions ever undertaken.   But what makes this story so interesting were those last words in that introductory paragraph. Let me read them again: “A few nights earlier, she was to be honored by former President Bill Clinton at an MTV “Trailblazers” event.” Where’s the irony there? Well Edie Windsor sued the government of the United States over the Defense of Marriage Act, claiming the Defense of Marriage Act was a basic denial of her basic human rights and winning her argument at the nation’s highest court, striking down a law that had been overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law by the then president of the United States. That’s the irony. The President of the United States in 1996, the president who signed that bill into the law, was Bill Clinton, who was supposedly, according to USA Today, introducing her to be celebrated at a “Trailblazers” event on MTV. He was supposed to be celebrating her for having overturned the law that he signed into law in 1996. It takes someone like Bill Clinton to be able to pull that off; to be on both sides of the same issue on MTV. 4) 10th Circuit majority opinion views opposition to same-sex marriage as wholly illogical On yesterday’s edition of The Briefing, we talked about another judicial decision. That was the decision at the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver that struck down Utah’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. We covered the issue then, but something of additional interest has come to light. We mentioned yesterday that that’s the first US Court of Appeals to come to this kind of decision and that sets up the likelihood that the issue will arrive at the US Supreme Court as early as this coming fall.   But what brings me back to the issue today is the subsequent coverage. In particular, an article that appeared from the Associated Press; an article the reveals far more than may have been intended. The Associated Press reports:   A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that states must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships, and putting a remarkable legal winning streak across the country one step closer to the US Supreme Court.   The paper continued:   The three-judge panel in Denver ruled two to one that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they want to be wedded to someone of the same-sex.   But then note with great care the words that follow:   The judges added they don’t want to brand as intolerant those who oppose gay marriage, but they said there’s no reasonable objection to the practice.   So the summary here offered by the Associated Press comes down to the fact that the two winning judges on the three-judge panel deciding this issue decided that they didn’t want to call people who oppose same-sex marriage intolerant, but in the very next statement they say there’s no reasonable objection to the practice. In their opinion, the judges actually said:   It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite sex couples.   Now that’s an interesting statement in itself. It actually doesn’t even reach to the actual reason why those who oppose same-sex marriage are opposed to it, but what’s far more interesting is the reading of motivations behind it. That here you have the Associated Press, apparently objectively trying to tell us what’s happening in this story, explaining that the two judges on the winning side of this three-judge panel said that they didn’t want to brand those who oppose same-sex marriage as intolerant, so they came up with something else to say: we’re simply illogical, irrational, on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of reason, on the wrong side of their two-judge majority. 5) State Department event honors woman who opposes existence of marriage Next, as we go into the weekend, I must report on an event that recently took place at the United States State Department, presided over by the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry. We’re indebted to the reportorial website Breitbart for bringing to our attention the fact that this event was held. It was an event celebrating LGBT issues at the United States State Department and the elevation of those issues in American foreign policy under the administration of Barack Obama and under the leadership of Secretary John Kerry. But as Breitbart reports, one of the speakers was journalist and LGBT activist Masha Gessen, who has been an outspoken critic of the Russian government on LGBT issues. She’s written a book about Vladimir Putin, for a time she headed the Moscow office of US Radio Liberty, and she’s been a prolific commentator to the New York Times blogs. Secretary of State John Kerry introduced her by saying:   The government in Moscow may look at Masha as a troublemaker to contend with, but here in the United States, we know that she is a wonderful person, a mother, a journalist, an extraordinary human rights defender, and we’re honored by her presence here.   She was indeed lauded by the United States State Department at this public event as one who symbolizes the kinds of gains that the gay-rights movement has made, not only in the United States, but internationally in recent years. She has moved with her partner and their children to the United States.   But what the State Department did not draw attention to is something else for which Masha Gessen is known. She has not only called for the legalization of same-sex marriage; she has called for the end of marriage altogether. She has said:   I agree that we should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it is a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of marriage is going to change and it should change, and, again, I don’t think it should exist.   So the United States State Department, at an event presided over by the United States Secretary of State, honored someone who has called for the legalization of same-sex marriage as a way of getting to the elimination of marriage altogether, and who makes the argument that it’s only honest for same-sex marriage advocates to make very clear that their position is calling for same-sex marriage only until they can destroy marriage altogether.   The state department also did not draw attention to what Masha Gessen has described in her own words as a complicated family structure: “We have three kids and five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally.” It also notes that her own brother is the father of her second wife’s daughter. I will simply leave that statement where it is and make very clear that our State Department decided to honor this individual in this manner in our name. 6) Summer invaluable opportunity for teenagers to learn important life skills Finally, as the summer season looms before us and the Fourth of July is coming quickly, two articles on teenagers and the summer that are truly important. The first of the articles is by Carey Restino of The Anchorage Daily News. She writes that the summer is too often lost time for families when it comes to their children and especially their teenagers, in terms of learning, and yet she says these children are really not learning things they definitely need to know. She writes:   It seems that in many families, the parents role as a teacher has dimmed somewhat. Sure we’re aware that our children learn a great deal from us, but more and more, our culture expects others to teach our children the basic skills they need for life.   That’s an amazingly profound statement, and I can’t think of many more paragraphs that would have greater importance to parents as we head, with our children and teenagers in tow, into the summer season. And this columnist, who is also a mom, points out that many of these lessons simply aren’t known by children by the time they reach what is supposedly an adulthood. For instance, do they know anything about how to cook? Do they know how to clean a kitchen? Do they know how to clean a bathroom? Do they know how to iron a shirt? Do they know how to do anything in terms of the basic issues of life that parents used to believe were the responsibility of parents to teach their children? She writes in her article about how she’s going to have her children deployed in learning these lessons and she says it’s not just about them learning how to do the work. She says:   If you think for a moment that this endeavor’s going to make my life easier this summer, you’re completely off-base. I know that each of these lessons is going to be as much work for me, if not more, than for them, but this summer is a great opportunity to focus on the job I signed up for—parenting. And hopefully, when they leave home, they won’t be as gobsmacked by the learning curve of life as I was. That’s a gift I’m willing to work hard to give them.   The second article appeared in the personal business column of The New York Times on June 14th. The headline: “If a Teenager Lands a Summer Job, the Value is Lasting.” Even as the jobs report indicates that fewer teenagers than in any recent decade are now employed gainfully this summer, the reality is that research is demonstrating over and over again the wisdom that a teenage summer job has lifelong consequences. Indeed, researchers have demonstrated that teenagers who had some form of gainful employment during the summers of their teenage years earned far more in adulthood than teenagers who did not. A study recently done by the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution said there are good reasons for understanding this. “Research shows those who work in high school have wages 10 to 15 percent higher when they graduate from college.” Note that that comparison is based on wages immediately after graduating from college, not to mention 20 or 30 years out.   One of the interesting insights in this article is that many other things that teenagers are doing, good in themselves, such as summer program, summer school, summer camp, summer learning opportunities, all of these can be important, but as the research makes clear, none of them can play quite as decisive a role in themselves as summer gainful employment. A part of the reason for this was explained by John Challenger, who is an executive officer with a search firm that deals with employment issues. He says:   Real work experience is being displaced by summer and travel programs. A lot of kids are missing out by not learning what working is. They’re also missing the process of job hunting. Part of the experience is developing persistence and the all-important skills of shaking hands, answering questions clearly, and looking someone in the eye.   But, beyond that, for many teenagers, jobs, as The New York Times notes, are much more important than an experience; they’re a necessity. But over the years, lower-level jobs that were once the entryway to teenage employment have been displaced in this economy. But one of the main points made by this New York Times article by Alina Tugend is the fact that if you have a teenager and a bucket of water, you’ve got a business, and if you have a teenager and a lawnmower, you’ve got an industry.   So taking these two articles together, perhaps one of the most important things that parents can do with teenage children this summer is to make sure they are teaching them things they know they need to know. And furthermore, teaching them how to work because they know they need to work, and if not able to find gainful employment, they understand that if you can’t find work, you make work.   And thus we come to the end of the week with a stack of articles and issues yet to be discussed, and that’s just the way it is because today we also come to the end of the 2013-2014 season of The Briefing. I’ll be taking the month of July off and we’ll return with the new season of The Briefing and its daily edition, every day of the work week, beginning on Monday, August 4 of this year.   I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the fact you listen to The Briefing, and I surely hope you find this helpful in terms of your own life, your own thinking, and your own family, your own church as well. But I also want to tell you that since the Hobby Lobby decision is going to be handed down by the Supreme Court on Monday, I anticipate a special edition of The Briefing to be released at some point during the day on Monday. I pray for you and yours a most blessed and God-honoring summer season.   Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to Remember that right now we’re taking questions for the upcoming new season of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Just call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. Remember the special edition of The Briefing to be released on Monday on the Hobby Lobby decision. And, beyond that, I’ll meet you on Monday, August 4, for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Abortion counseling buffer zone law struck down in defense of free speech

Mass. abortion clinic buffer zone law struck down, Boston Globe (Milton J. Valencia and Martin Finucane)

Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zones, Washington Post (Robert Barnes)


2) Separation of powers defended in court in America, not in battlefield

Supreme Court strikes down Obama recess appointments, Politico (Josh Gerstein)

Boehner says to file lawsuit over Obama executive actions, Reuters (David Lawder)

3) Edie Windsor celebrated by Bill Clinton, the president who signed DOMA

For same-sex marriage pioneer Edie Windsor, a very busy year, Richard Wolf (USA Today)

4) 10th Circuit majority opinion views opposition to same-sex marriage as wholly illogical

Federal Appeals Court: Gays Have Right to Marry, Associated Press (Nicholas Riccardi and Brady McCombs)

5) State Department event honors woman who opposes existence of marriage

State Dept. Honors Advocate of Destruction of Marriage, Breitbart (Austin Ruse)

6) Summer invaluable opportunity for teenagers to learn important life skills

 Summer vacation offers
opportunities to teach youth lifelong lessons, Anchorage Daily News (Carey Restino)

If a Teenager Lands a Summer Job, the Value Is Lasting, New York Times (Alina Tugend)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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