The Magna Carta and Religious Liberty

Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta–considered by many to be the founding document of the concept of the rule of law. But an important aspect of the document’s history is being overlooked: The role the church played in its drafting.

Writing at Breakpoint, Eric Metaxas says,

“With the disagreement threatening to turn into a civil war, the Archbishop of Canterbury, working as an intermediary between the King [of England] and the barons, helped to draft a proposed charter that would settle the dispute. . . .

“Since then, virtually every opponent of despotism and tyranny in the English-speaking world has drawn inspiration from the Magna Carta, which declared, ‘To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, right or justice.’ When the Founding Fathers complained about ‘taxation without representation,’ they were appealing to the Magna Carta.”

Listen to Metaxas’ full commentary below to learn more about this document and what it has to do with liberty today.


A.G. Rutledge Requests Rehearing on Pro-Life Law

Yesterday Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed for a rehearing in a court case that struck part of a 2013 pro-life law.

The law–known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act–was sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) in 2013; it prevents abortions after the twelfth week of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected–except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

The law passed the Arkansas Legislature handily, but was vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe. After legislators voted to override the governor’s veto, the law went into effect, but was challenged as unconstitutional in a lawsuit.

As a result of that lawsuit, federal District Judge Susan Webber Wright struck down much of the law as unconstitutional, and late last May a panel of three federal judges upheld her ruling. The Attorney General’s Office has requested a rehearing of the case before the entire Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A rehearing would provide an opportunity for the federal court to reverse the lower court’s ruling and reinstate a good, pro-life law that protects unborn children and promotes women’s health; the longer a woman waits to have an abortion, the more dangerous abortion becomes.

Arkansas Department of Health data from 2010 – 2014 does not show a single abortion performed in Arkansas due to a medical emergency; the vast majority of abortions are performed on healthy mothers carrying healthy babies. It’s unfortunate abortion has become just another means of birth control. The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act addresses that by specifying the timeframe during which an abortion can occur.

Pulaski County Judge’s Marriage Ruling Comes as No Surprise

Yesterday Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a ruling validating same-sex marriages performed in Arkansas from May 9, 2014, to May 15, 2014.

In layman’s terms, the case has to do with a technicality from Judge Chris Piazza’s same-sex marriage ruling issued on May 9, 2014; in his ruling, Judge Piazza struck Arkansas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but he failed to strike all state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Judge Piazza filed a “correction” to his ruling on May 15 striking those state laws as well. However, by then many same-sex couples had already obtained marriage licenses from the state; the State of Arkansas contends that same-sex marriages performed from May 9 to May 15 are invalid, because they were solemnized before Judge Piazza filed his “correction.”

Yesterday, Judge Wendell Griffen ruled the same-sex marriages performed from May 9 – 15, 2014, were in fact valid despite Judge Piazza’s failure to strike all applicable state laws related to same-sex marriage. While we–and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge–disagree with Judge Griffen’s ruling, it really comes as no surprise.

On May 12, 2014, Judge Wendell Griffen presided over at least one same-sex marriage in the rotunda of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock; pictures of Judge Griffen appeared in the news to prove it. At the time, Judge Griffen clearly believed same-sex marriage was legal in Arkansas, despite the fact some state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage had been left in place by Judge Piazza. In light of that, it’s really no surprise Judge Griffen ruled the way he did.

In fact, in his opinion handed down yesterday Judge Griffen actually went so far as to describe Judge Piazza’s 2014 ruling as “courageous and plainly stated.” If Judge Piazza’s 2014 ruling really was “plainly stated,” I wonder why Judge Piazza had to correct his ruling after the fact; why the Arkansas Supreme Court has taken so many months to review the ruling on appeal; and why addition litigation has been necessary to clarify whether or not the same-sex marriages performed in the immediate aftermath of Judge Piazza’s ruling were actually legal.

The larger questions surrounding same-sex marriage still rest with the Arkansas Supreme Court–which is reviewing an appeal of Judge Piazza’s 2014 ruling–and the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to hand down a decision on the constitutionality of state marriage laws sometime this month.