Bench Memos

“Handwriting on the Wall”?

There’s little doubt that the Supreme Court’s order today irresponsibly declining to stay the federal-district court order against Alabama’s marriage laws signals that at least five justices have already made up their mind to concoct a constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex. Who needs briefing or oral argument anyway, when you’re just making it up? And why give careful thought before redefining the central social institution of American society in a way that denies the fundamental connection between marriage and responsible procreation and childrearing? Gee, what could go wrong?

I find some dark humor in this USA Today story titled “Handwriting on the wall for gay marriage.” For, as my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague George Weigel explains in this National Affairs essay, the phrase “handwriting on the wall” comes from a story in the Book of Daniel about a feast of King Belshazzar’s. As George sums it up:

Belshazzar’s feast and its ending in the king’s abrupt death is thus a Biblical warning against the lethal effects of blasphemy — the worship of that which is not worthy of worship, which is the negation of worship. In his drunken arrogance, Belshazzar turned sacred vessels intended for true worship into playthings for debauchery, and because of that negation of worship, his claim to sovereignty was annulled. The handwriting on the wall spoke of this. And it spoke truly.  

So, yes, “handwriting on the wall” would seem to capture things quite nicely.

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