Ultimate court sits higher than bench

Published 2:01 am Saturday, October 10, 2009

When the U.S. Supreme Court’s term began the first Monday in October, new Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat on the high court.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the U.S. Supreme Court’s majestic, judicial building. Outside, above the tall columns on the east side of the building, there’s a triangular stone carving. At its center, Moses and the Ten Commandments are portrayed.

Walking into the Supreme Court’s chambers where the cases are heard, the twin tablets with Roman numerals are engraved on the double wooden doors. The same tablets are engraved on the bronze gates of the side exits.

As I sat in the ornate chambers listening to our guide’s lecture, I learned some interesting facts. She pointed out that the nine justices are seated according to the length of time they’ve served on the bench. The Chief Justice sits in the center with four chairs to his left and four to his right.

Just below the 44-foot ceiling, encircling the walls, famous lawgivers are depicted. These historical figures effected the development of our law today, among them Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

Our guide asked us a question that surprised me, “Did you know there’s a court higher than the Supreme Court?” My first thought was, “Is she about to publicly acknowledge God and His supreme authority?”

She went on to describe an unused storage area above the beautiful, ornate ceiling where a regulation basketball court was constructed for court employees to exercise. “Maybe you’d like to know if the justices play,” our guide continued, “No, they just sit on the bench.”

Everyone chuckled at her pun. But her question about the Court above the court reminded me of their ruling in 1973 permitting abortion on demand during the entire nine months of pregnancy, though all human life is created in the image of God.

During a term that usually runs through the end of June, the Court will hear oral arguments typically on just 100 cases and issue opinions on 80 to 90. Fox News reports that one of those upcoming cases involves an ongoing, decade-long legal battle over the Mojave Desert Cross. For the past 75 years, the eight-foot tall cross has stood on a remote part of the Mojave National Preserve as a monument to World War I soldiers.

Another news report describes the old rugged Latin cross as standing on atop a 30-foot-high rock. In 2002, the ACLU filed suit in California, calling it a religious display on federal land, and the cross was ordered to be removed. The U.S. Congress in 2003 transferred one-acre of land surrounding the cross to private ownership. The same California court ruled in 2005 that the land transfer was an attempt to evade the injunction to remove the cross.

Though some people in our country would have us deny our Judeo-Christian heritage, the Bible promises, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). The U.S. Supreme Court, whose building displays Christian symbols, will soon make another monumental decision.