Simon Says

Do you remember playing the game "Simon Says" as a child? You could do something only if the leader, Simon, said you could. While this is a great game for kids, it’s a terrible way to order a self-governing society. Yet that’s exactly the way many Americans have come to see the role of the courts. For example, the Washington Post recently displayed this banner headline: ‘Judge Allows Virginia Parental Notice Statute to Take Effect.’ Now, since when do we have to wait for a judge’s permission before obeying a law? As Catholic philosopher George Weigel writes in the Catholic Northwest Progress, the Post seems to think a statute passed by the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia and signed by its governor is no law until the grand panjandrums of the federal judiciary have given out their permission slips. "This is democracy?" Weigel asks. No, it is not. For some 40 years, Americans have been prevented from enacting laws, through their elected representatives, dealing with the most important moral issues of the day. Instead, an unelected judiciary has taken on the role of deciding which laws may be passed and which may not. In the process, it has made radical changes in what philosopher John Locke called "the social contract." For example, it was an unelected judiciary that imposed a rigorous secularism on our public institutions. It was an unelected judiciary that gave us abortion-on-demand. And if same-sex marriage and physician-assisted suicide become normative, those will be as the result of court orders as well. In contemporary America, the judiciary is the "Simon" of "Simon Says" and nobody can do anything without its say-so. But the American people didn’t ask nine "Simons" to play "Simon Says" with the Constitution. That’s the point of a manifesto that I and some 40 other Christian leaders have signed, called "We Hold These Truths." If this remarkable experiment in self-government known as America is to survive, we wrote, it must adhere to the truths of the Declaration of Independence—truths based squarely on Christian understanding of liberty. "This Fourth of July," we wrote, "Americans must ask themselves whether they hold them still." We paid special attention "to the role of the courts in the disordering of our liberty." Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, we said, but, "in recent years, power has again and again been wielded, notably by the courts, without the consent of the governed." The usurpation by the courts has done more than weaken democracy. It has weakened traditional restraints against evil embodied in the law—and this has yielded bitter fruit: abortion, crime, drug abuse, pornography, and family disintegration. Any hope of reversing this trend must start with Christian citizens. Please read "We Hold These Truths"; you’ll find offered above. After you’ve read it, share it with your neighbors and Sunday school classes. "Simon Says" may be a great game for kids—but it’s no way to run a democracy.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary