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Culture Friday: Unanimous ruling for Sabbath rest


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Unanimous ruling for Sabbath rest

Plus, getting back to judging by the content of one’s character in education

Students at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., June 29 Michael Casey via The Associated Press

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: First up on The World and Everything in It: it's the 30th day of June 2023. Glad to have you along for today's edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning. I'm Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I'm Nick Eicher. It's Culture Friday, and joining us now is John Stonestreet. John is President of the Colson Center and he's Host of the Breakpoint Podcast. John, good morning.


EICHER: Alright, so we're down to just hours now, John, the Supreme Court set an opinions day for today, it appears it's the last, they did that right after handing down yesterday three pretty big cases. So that means by 10 o'clock this morning, Eastern Time, the court should give us a decision in the blockbuster case, the 303 Creative Case, really hoped to have that yesterday, but but the court did give us some cases with worldview implications that we can talk about today. And so let me begin with what the court did yesterday in the case of the postal worker, who did not want to be forced to choose between honoring the Sabbath and keeping his job. And the court in that case was unanimous, nine-nothing to uphold the rights of the letter carrier. Now, I would never predict based on that, that the court would also affirm the First Amendment rights of creative professionals versus LGBT rights. We have to wait and see, but not for very long. But doesn't it give you hope, John, that because the court really does seem to be protective of religious freedom, one can hope that it doesn't require lawyers and money and years of litigation constantly. But what do you say?

STONESTREET: Well, no, actually. The thing about 303 right now that gives me optimism that this will become a blockbuster protection for people of conscience in the corporate space is that it looks likely—or at least plausible—that Justice Alito will be writing the case given the amount of opinions he’s written so far in this term. One thinks that this kind of case will go his direction.

And it’s only right, because the court created this problem, this conflict that Justice Kennedy assured us would never happen if we had same-sex marriage mandated in America and yet, here we are. On these other cases, good for the court for basically upholding this postal worker’s right to honor the Sabbath. The court’s been really clear on religious freedom to that extent, and that has to do with personal conviction and religious institutions’ right to be religious and to order their institutions in religious ways. The courts been super, super clear on that.

I didn’t quite expect the nine-nothing decision on the Sabbath. But there also is this kind of freedom of worship protection that the court has never really faltered on at all. But what has been far less clear is the ability then to take one’s deeply held beliefs into the public square.

EICHER: I do want to talk about the other culture and worldview case, John, which is the one on affirmative action. It was a six to three decision. It said race-based college admissions are unconstitutional, that they violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Our colleague, Mary Reichard pointed us to the end of the opinion, which said nothing prohibits universities from considering someone's discussion of how race affected his life, but there cannot be a box check approach or quota for race. So doesn't this sort of clear up some questions of considering race a positive trait to make up for decades of it being a negative trait versus, say, giving preference to specific individuals who had to overcome specific hurdles in their lives?

STONESTREET: Well, I think a lot of clarity comes from the dissent written by Sotomayor. I believe it basically said that race has long been considered in a negative light, and there was this sense that that will inevitably go on. So therefore, there needed to be the space for race to be considered in a positive light. And that’s precisely what the majority opinion rejected, essentially saying that race is not a negative or positive quality in and of itself.

I think the reason that’s so hard for so many to hear is because of this critical theory mood with which the western world is infected, that we actually have come to think of people in terms of these divisions, these identities. Then, not only do we think of people like that, but we assign moral status based on that.

There’s no question throughout the racialized history of America or other countries that people were judged by the color of their skin negatively. But the answer that Justice Roberts wrote in his majority opinion advises not to use race to judge people positively; people should be judged on what they accomplished. So it’s completely legitimate to say, “my experience growing up, as this particular race, here’s how I dealt with that. Here’s how I overcame that. Here’s what it says about me as a person.” But race in and of itself doesn’t make a moral claim about a person.

I think that that is the most consistent line with what the best ideals of America were. Not the practices, don’t get me wrong, because the practices didn’t hold up to those ideals, either. So anybody who sees race and individuals and America in institutional practice through this critical theory lens will then read this opinion and say, “they’ve gone back to the ‘60s!” I think that has more to do with a critical theory lens.

What Roberts actually said is that, in essence, it’s wrong to make a moral claim about a person based on the color of their skin or the racial group to which they belong. So the whole discussion on this is between the majority opinion and the dissenting opinion, and it just reveals everything and how different the worldview is between the right and the left when it comes to identity.

BROWN: John, so much going on with the Supreme Court in these landmark cases, and we're going to, as Nick said, hear more and more, as you know, the upcoming days, but it's easy for other cultural stories unfolding at the same time to get lost. Here's one of them.

Audio from a Promise Keepers rally back in 1997 in the nation's capital men from around the country, lifting strong voices, they gathered to pray for themselves, their families, and the nation. Now these days, Promise Keepers hosts a series of events called Daring Faith—again, encouraging men to live bolder lives for Jesus. One of the events was scheduled at Belmont University, and it's supposed to happen in September. Belmont is a private Christian College in Nashville. And according to Promise Keepers, Belmont disinvited the group over its response to so-called Pride Month. So it basically, you know, the statement from Promise Keepers said, "We affirm that God made human beings in His image to reflect Him, male and female with equal worth and dignity. There was no mistake in that design." Maybe you heard about this, John, what do you what do you make of it?

STONESTREET: Full disclosure: The CEO and President of Promise Keepers is a good friend of mine. And he’s someone who’s a graduate of our Coulson Fellows Program. He’s been working to rebuild this for quite some time. With regards to that Promise Keepers launch, he’s coming at this from his experience as a police officer, business leader, and committed follower of Christ, watching this in the church and wanting to really address the same issue that plagued the church back when Promise Keepers was founded. The issue then was that we need to know what it means for a man to be a man, and what it means to be a godly man.

A whole lot of society falls into place when we figure that out. I heard back from him pretty quickly about this, and my response was, “hate to tell you this man, but I could have told you that about Belmont back in the 90s.”

I think it tells you a couple of things. Number one is to your parents: Please do not fool yourself that the word “Christian” in a college’s name means that it’s Christian. Often that might refer to history, that might refer to tradition, that might refer to a marketing thing that they don’t actually mean anymore. But there was no question in my mind that they would not tolerate, you know, Promise Keepers.

So my guess about what happened was there was somebody working on the Belmont team who thought this would be good for the university. They themselves are in denial about where Belmont and the faculty and the students and many administrators have been for a long time. It’s just not new. And a lot of universities are, and they have been for a long time. You don’t know that when you go on the campus tour, and the admissions counselor tells you what you want to hear, that you just you got to dig past it. I think your question actually telegraphed something here that’s really important.

The PK statement wasn’t controversial. What PK said was not hateful, was not intolerant, was not bigoted, was not anti-gay—people did not make a statement about you know Dylan Mulvaney and Bud Light or Target and the kids—it literally said what the first two chapters of the Bible says. So you have to ask Belmont (and I always like to when I get a chance when schools come out having Christian on their name and make this sort of claim) at what point are they gonna kick the Bible off your campus.

There’s nothing that PK said that is not in the first two chapters of Genesis, it is virtually identical. Good for PK for being really clear about this, realizing that to accomplish their mission, to help build up Christian men, means you have to know what a Christian man is: You have to know. And that means you have to know what a man is. And this was pretty straightforward.

If you move off of what is really straightforward, biblically, then you’re no longer in a Christian position. PK has been super clear about that from the very beginning. And you know, shame on Belmont for saying yes, in the beginning when we all knew how this was going.

BROWN: Yeah, bottom line parents, do your homework, do your homework. Well, John Stonestreet is president of the Coulson center. He's host of the breakpoint podcasts. And John, it's always great to talk with you. Really appreciate your time, thank you.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

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