It’s useful to scan the faces of the many conservative leaders who are now comparing yesterday’s Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage with the Court’s worst decision in its entire history. That would be the 1857 Dred Scott v Sandford case, in which Dred Scott and his family sought freedom from slavery. The Supreme Court refused to deprive the slaveholder of his “property,” ruling that no one of African descent could be an American citizen or bring suit in federal court, because they are “beings of an inferior order.. so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
So scroll down and see if you see any pattern.
What you see are a lot of white people saying that they’re suffering oppression comparable to slavery because of a “loss” in their “religious liberty.” It all started with Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote in his dissent from the majority ruling:
The Court first applied substantive due process to strike down a statute in Dred Scott v. Sandford [which held that] restricting the institution of slavery violated the implied rights of slaveholders. The Court relied on its own conception of liberty and property in doing so… Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is — unlike the right imagined by the majority — actually spelled out in the Constitution.
Yes, our Chief Justice thinks Christians have a constitutional right to live in a world without gay marriage. He believes loss of that “right” is a judicial affront to religious “liberty” like the 1857 Court’s insistence that enslaved blacks remain owned like animals.
Yesterday was the 158th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s campaign speech opposing the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, in which Lincoln said “the negro is a man… his bondage is cruelly wrong.”
Somehow, GOP presidential candidate and former governor Mike Huckabee actually likened those words to his own rants as a presidential campaigner opposing same-sex marriage:
[The Supreme Court justices] had to reach out into thin air to create a right that simply is not listed in the Constitution… When we say that the Supreme Court has the last word, they had the last word in Dred Scott, in 1857, declaring that black people were property, that black people weren’t fully human. I know of no one that believes that that was a proper decision or that we still should abide by it today. Or that Abraham Lincoln should have just rolled over, put up the white flag of surrender and said, “Hey, that’s the law of the land, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Thank God he didn’t think that Dred Scott was OK.
What kind of twisted logic lets these Christians believe that their desire to deny LGBT rights is in any sense comparable to opposition to slavery? That lets them think they can dare whine about a small dent in their white Christian privilege as a “tragic” loss of liberty just like black enslavement?
Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage had the same theme, while also comparing his work with Martin Luther King’s resistance to injustice:
Brian Brown (Wikimedia Commons)
In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King discussed the moral importance of disobeying unjust laws… This is not the first time that the Supreme Court has issued an immoral and unjust ruling. In 1857, the Court ruled in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford case that African Americans could not become citizens of the United States and determined that the government was powerless to reject slavery… We urge the American people and future presidents to regard today’s decision just as President Abraham Lincoln regarded the Dred Scott ruling…
Is this just a few racially insensitive people? Or is this a widespread belief among white Christian conservatives? You decide…
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami:
In the 19th Century, in the Dred Scott decision, the Court decided that a black man had no rights that a white person had to respect… And now in the 21st Century, the Supreme Court makes another wrong decision. Bad decisions lead to bad consequences and do not “settle” anything. Dred Scott made inevitable a bloody Civil War that cost more lives than any other war in our history and the racism that inspired the Dred Scott decision is still a cancer on America’s soul… This decision redefining marriage will also bring bad consequences.
Michael Sheedy, Executive Director, Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“It’s like the Dred Scott rulings in the 19th century that denied the rights of African-Americans.
Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court:
I think it is just the beginning. I think it’s the beginning just like when the court in 1857 declared that black people were property. It had no right to do that and there was a long turmoil there after.
Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate:
Rick Santorum (via Wikimedia Commons)
… just as they have in cases from Dred Scott to Plessy, the Court has an imperfect track record… I will stand for the preservation of religious liberty and conscience…
Bryan Fischer, American Family Association, host of Focal Point on American Family Radio:
We are now serfs on a plantation that’s being run by cultural elites who wear black robes and use the gavels like the slaveholders of old used to use their whips, to beat us, as social conservatives, into abject submission.
This one is funny/scary: Republican Congressman Steve King knew his pals were all bringing up Dred Scott for some reason, but got it backwards as to why, thinking the decision sought to end slavery and was a bad decision for trying to end slavery, thereby causing the Civil War:
If you look back at the decision such as the Dred Scott decision that was supposed to put an end to slavery, and what we got was a civil war. 600,000 Americans died in that civil war.
Ryan T. Anderson, The Heritage Foundation:
The U.S. Supreme Court has been wrong before, as in the case of Dredd Scott when the court attempted to declare that black people were not persons… Today’s ‘redefinition of marriage’ by the U.S. Supreme Court not only affects the institution of marriage and states’ rights, it also represents a frontal assault on religious liberty and free speech… Our country has recovered before from times of social, legal and political division and I believe we can again. After the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and other times, our country returned to its foundational principles of human dignity deeply rooted in the Christian tradition.
Rep. Louie Gohmert:
““It is a tragic and ominous day for the United States… Our situation evokes the situation noted by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia. Part of Jefferson’s observation is even inscribed inside his D.C. memorial:
‘And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just…’
“Thank God there was a second great awakening or revival in America which fostered and drove an abolitionist movement, and an end to slavery, followed by America’s explosion of individual affluence and world influence.
Seriously, I’m reeling.
This racially offensive trope being pushed by the Chief Justice, prominent religious leaders, and candidates with their expensive pollsters, is clearly set to become a significant theme with America’s white conservative Christians. They should be ashamed for elevating these people and this thinking. It needs to backfire and cost these leaders dearly.