CULTURE DIGEST: Scalia defends interpretation of Constitution
NASHVILLE (BP) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at Princeton University, said some of the most controversial questions in today's culture are among the easiest to solve according to the Constitution.
At Princeton Dec. 10, a freshman from San Francisco identified himself as homosexual and asked Scalia why he equates banning sodomy with banning bestiality and murder. The student was referring to Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down an anti-sodomy law, according to The Daily Princetonian.
"If we cannot have moral feelings about homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against these other things?" Scalia said during a question-and-answer time.
During his lecture, Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the current court, took issue with people who view the Constitution as a "living document."
"It isn't a living document. It's dead, dead, dead, dead," he said.
People who contend the Constitution is changing often argue for a more flexible approach, Scalia said, but their goal is to set policy permanently.
Scalia said he believes that focusing on the text and the original meaning of the Constitution is the best approach to protect the Constitution and democratic ideals, the Princetonian reported. His view, though, is rarely taught in law schools anymore, he said.
"I don't know how we got to this stage," Scalia said, referring to the preponderance of living document adherents.
"At the end of the road is the destruction of the Constitution," Scalia told the students. "Unless you give [the laws] the meaning of those who enacted them, you're destroying democracy."
In comments at the American Enterprise Institute in October, Scalia said some supposedly hard questions are easy to answer by the Constitution.
"The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state," Scalia said.
Scalia's comments at Princeton came just days after the court agreed to take up two cases that could either lead to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide or affirm the rights of legislators and voters to protect traditional marriage.
EXPLORER STILL TRYING TO PROVE NOAHIC FLOOD -- The underwater explorer who found the wrecked Titanic continues to look for evidence consistent with the great Noahic flood, according to news reports.
Robert Ballard, who has been trying for more than a decade to prove the flood and Noah's Ark, discussed his latest explorations in Turkey with ABC's Christiane Amanpour.
"We went in there to look for the flood," Ballard said of his work in Turkey. "Not just a low moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed.... The land that went under stayed under."
ABC reported that Ballard, using advanced robotic technology, is able to explore events from nearly 12,000 ago, when much of the earth was covered in ice. Geologists theorize that the melting ice of that age would have surged through parts of the globe.
Ballard's findings will be revealed in a two-part ABC News special "Back to the Beginning" on consecutive Fridays Dec. 21 and 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern. The special will retrace the Bible from Genesis to Jesus.
Geologists say the rising Mediterranean Sea would have pushed a channel through what is now the Bosporus Strait, submerging the shoreline of the Black Sea in waters rushing about 200 times the volume of Niagara Falls and covering 100,000 square miles.
As early as the 1990s, geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman gathered evidence of a flood in the Middle East region about 7,500 years ago, PBS has reported.
Ballard found evidence in 1999 of a submerged ancient shoreline and in 2011 found a sunken vessel and one of its crew members in the Black Sea, according to ABC. Ballard has enjoyed success as an underwater explorer, having found not only the Titanic but the battleship Bismarck and a U.S. fleet lost off the coast of Guadalcanal in the Pacific, according to news reports.
The Bible records Noah's flood in Genesis 7-8.
OKLA. COURT REJECTS RU 486, ULTRASOUND LAWS -- The Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down two laws, one prohibiting off-label use of abortion drugs and the other mandating that a woman receive an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.
The high court of one of the country's most conservative states upheld lower court rulings in its Dec. 4 invalidations of measures supported by pro-life advocates.
The justices decided both laws violated Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a legal right to abortion but said states could regulate the procedure within certain guidelines.
Pro-life leaders said the Oklahoma Supreme Court misinterpreted the 1992 opinion.
The court "ignores the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly determined that states have an interest in the outset of pregnancy in protecting maternal health, and that regulations aimed at such impose no constitutional violations," said Mailee Smith, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, in a blog post.
Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said, according to the Associated Press, "The ultrasound law does not prohibit abortion. It regulates abortion."
Scott Pruitt, the state's attorney general, said he is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, AP reported.
The law restricting off-label use of abortion drugs required abortion providers to abide by the guidelines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It called for a doctor to examine a woman seeking an abortion before providing her with RU 486 or another drug. It also mandated such a drug be administered in a clinic.
Some providers have instructed women to use RU 486 vaginally, though the FDA approved the drug only for use orally. At least 14 women have died in the United States after taking RU 486, and critics have blamed its "off-label" use in at least some of those cases.
In October, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled an Ohio law regulating RU 486 is not "unconstitutionally vague," is not a violation of a "woman's right to bodily integrity" and does not act as an "undue burden" on a woman's right to abortion.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD ELECTION SPENDING HIGHLY EFFECTIVE -- The country's No. 1 abortion provider received a great return on the money it spent in this year's election.
An analysis by the Sunlight Foundation showed more than 98 percent of Planned Parenthood Action Fund's spending in election races produced the desired result, The Washington Post reported Dec. 5. That made Planned Parenthood No. 1 for effectiveness in the 2012 election cycle.
Planned Parenthood, which spent about $15 million in this year's election, succeeded with a two-part approach, pollsters and strategists told The Post. It used Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's words against him, and it identified about 1 million women voters, mostly in swing states, who were especially open to its message.
"Those were the women that we were going to relentlessly target over and over again between June and November," said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood's executive vice president, The Post reported.
Planned Parenthood used Romney's opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and federal funding of Planned Parenthood to influence those voters. It was part of a dramatic shift by campaigns and outside groups, which spent $39 million on advertising related to abortion, according to The Post.
"There was a huge increase in the number of spots in these issues 2012 versus 2008," said Ken Goldstein, president of the media tracking company Kantar Media, The Post reported. "Overall, the Democrats aired over six times as many spots on abortion as Republicans."
Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Its affiliates reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010.
BELGIUM FAILING TO CONTROL EUTHANASIA AFTER LEGALIZATION -- A lack of control marks euthanasia 10 years after it was legalized in Belgium, according to a new report.
Reported cases of euthanasia in the European country have grown each year, escalating from 235 in 2003 to 1,133 in 2011, according to the report by the European Institute of Bioethics.
The institute pointed to the following among the enforcement problems it found:
-- The Commission for Control and Assessment has acknowledged from its first report its inability to oversee euthanasia cases effectively and has never referred one for prosecution.
-- Nearly half of the 16 people on the commission are members or associates of Belgium's leading right-to-die organization.
-- The commission has in essence "decided not to carry out its mission -- so central to the law -- of verifying the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering."
-- The health care provider performing euthanasia is required to obtain the drugs from a pharmacist, but family members of the person seeking death often do.
These and other flaws have resulted in the "trivialization of euthanasia," according to the report.
Bioethics commentator Wesley Smith said of the report, "Euthanasia activists always promise that the killing will be strictly controlled. That's the sales job. Once euthanasia/assisted suicide become legal and/or culturally accepted, all bets are off. Accept the ideology that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering and the guidelines cease to matter."
Belgium is one of three countries that have legalized euthanasia. The others are Luxembourg and The Netherlands.
The latest report from The Netherlands showed 3,695 reports of euthanasia or assisted suicide in 2011, an increase of more than 550 from the previous year. Euthanasia deaths have grown by 1,575 in the last five years.
FOR DEMOCRATS, ABORTION TRUMPS SENIORITY ON HOUSE COMMITTEE -- The senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee will not lead her party on the panel for the first time in history. Abortion is one of the reasons.
Rep. Nita Lowey of New York -- not Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio -- will become the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee in the next congressional session, Roll Call reported Dec. 4. The House Democratic Steering Committee voted 36-10 for Lowey instead of Kaptur to succeed Rep. Norm Dicks, the Washington congressman who is retiring.
Kaptur has been a committee member for 22 years, but she had a couple of strikes against her, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper:
"She is a consistent opponent of expanding abortion rights and in the past has had a rocky relationship with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D.-Calif."
Timothy Carney, senior political columnist for The Washington Examiner, wrote, "This fits perfectly with what we already know about the Democratic Party: support for legal and subsidized abortion is nearly their only litmus test."
Democrats normally name "the most vociferous defenders of legal abortion and Planned Parenthood subsidies" as leading fundraisers, Carney had written in 2011.
"The Approps ranking member is supposed to be a top fundraiser. A pro-lifer like Kaptur can't play that role in today's Democratic Party," he said Dec. 5.
Actually, Kaptur has not been a reliable pro-life vote in the House. In the last 10 years, her voting record by congressional session has varied from a low of 11 percent to a high of 57 percent, according to the National Right to Life Committee. Lowey, however, has received a score of zero every session during the last decade.
JUDGE INVALIDATES N.C. 'CHOOSE LIFE' LICENSE PLATE -- North Carolina's "Choose Life" auto license plate is unconstitutional because it discriminates based on viewpoint, according to a Dec. 7 decision in federal court.
Judge James Fox ruled in Raleigh the state's "Choose Life" plate is "viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment," the Associated Press reported. The North Carolina legislature approved the license plate in 2011 but refused to support creation of a "Respect Choice" plate. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit challenging the measure.
Fox blocked sale of the "Choose Life" plate, which would benefit a pregnancy care ministry, while the lawsuit was under consideration.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).