The U.S. Senate assaulted fundamental principles of the Constitution when senators refused to confirm Judge Robert Bork because Bork did not endorse the the views of special interest groups, contends Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Self-centered actions such as this threaten the delicate freedoms espoused in the Constitution, Hatch told an audience of more than 200 celebrating America's Bicentennial Thursday. The senator presented the keynote address at a conference held at the new Utah Law and Justice Center, sponsored by a federal commission traveling the United States.Bork was rejected in October 1987 as a Supreme Court nominee in the most politicized nomination in history.
"Judge Bork shares my views that judges' personal preferences and values should not be part of their constitutional interpretations. He believes in interpreting the Constitution according to the framers' intent.
"He (Bork) spoke the truth. For crass political gain he was defeated."
The senator then issued this warning: "Having the Constitution does us no good if we fail to understand, revere and respect it. Liberty is fragile. We cannot by inheritance retain it; we must love it and even fight for it. Each generation must earn it anew."
Hatch compared the fragility of liberty to the glass broken during a dark moment in history known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), the night of shattered glass.
On Nov. 9, 1938, Adolph Hitler's storm troopers destroyed shops and synagogues of German Jews. Ninety people were killed and 30,000 were sent to concentration camps.
"Human life which you and I hold dear was treated with no more regard than the storefront windows the troopers smashed," he said.
The commemoration of Kristallnacht reminded Hatch of the suffering of the early Mormons who settled Missouri.
In October and November of 1838, Gov. Lilburn Boggs ordered the extermination of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many were killed, and nearly 20,000 lost their homes and were forced into exile.
Reading from the journal of Joseph Young, Hatch recounted the horror of Haun's Mill, Oct. 30, 1838:
"When we arrived at the house of Mr. Haun, we found Mr. Merrick's body lying in the rear of the house, Mr. McBride's in front, literally mangled from head to foot. We were informed that he was shot with his own gun, after he had given it up, and then cut to pieces with a corn cutter.
"The number killed and mortally wounded in this wanton slaughter was 18 or 19."
It was not surprising that the Mormons eventually fled the United States and settled in Utah - a land that no one wanted at that time.
"But quite surprisingly, their faith in the Constitution never wavered. . . . Despite their state-authorized persecution, the Mormons considered the Constitution divinely inspired," said Hatch.
Calling the Constitution a "miracle" document, he said it is responsible for the gradual spreading of liberty throughout the world.
"The genius of the Constitution lies in its intricate and delicate balancing of power. And the beauty of the Constitution lies in its beginning phrase: `We the People,' " Hatch said.