COMMENTARY: A dream of supreme proportions

c. 1996 Religion News Service

(Charles W. Colson, former special counsel to Richard Nixon, served a prison term for his role in the Watergate scandal. He now heads Prison Fellowship International, an evangelical Christian ministry to the imprisoned and their families. Contact Colson via e-mail at 71421.1551(AT)

(RNS)-The hour was late and I was still agitated by yet another Supreme Court decision of which I disapproved. This time it was Romer vs. Evans, which overruled an initiative approved by Colorado voters that would have limited the rights of homosexuals. It seemed to me one more instance in which the democratic process had been rendered null and void by the justices.

As I dozed off, my mind entertained an old dream, one that became increasingly brilliant as the world receded into the mists, one that begins on the front steps of the Supreme Court ..."Front and center!"a great mob chanted, and the nine justices were ushered forward."What gives?"asked Justice O'Connor."We're moving the Court!"roared the crowd."Where to?"asked Justice Stevens."Ottumwa, Iowa!"came the response."Where in the world is Iowa?"asked a bewildered Justice Souter."And how on earth are you going to get the Court from here to there?""That's easy,"said a man wearing a John Deere cap."All of us here have determined that having the Supreme Court moved to Ottumwa is an intimate and personal choice central to our personal dignity and autonomy. Having it there would also help define our own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.""What claptrap is this?"Justice Kennedy asked."It's from your stupid Casey decision,"Justice Scalia said, referring to the wording of the court's majority opinion in an 1992 abortion-rights case-from which he dissented."It's one that will, God be my witness, return polygamy to the continental United States. They've got us, so let's give it the old heave-ho." And so the justices put their hands on the court building, declared the laws of gravity null and void, and up rose the great Court building."Westward Ho!"shouted the mob.

Now, I had always believed that taking the Court out of Washington and setting it down in the land of church suppers and quilting bees would help the justices better understand the people the law is meant to serve. It would, I reasoned, be much more difficult for the justices to trash 200 or so years of American tradition when surrounded by people who actually live and die by that great moral consensus.

Yet I did fear that the American people, who are increasingly estranged from government at all levels, might react poorly to the presence of this cruising edifice.

But I was mistaken.

All along the interstates, huge crowds greeted the glorious caravan. At first, most of the justices stayed inside, their noses pressed against the windows much like tourists looking through a glass-bottomed boat. Indeed, at one point Souter pointed to yet another orange-roofed building and asked,"What is that structure?""That there's a Ho-Jo's,"responded a fellow in a Chicago Cubs cap."And let me suggest that you try the clam strips." In Ohio, a bit of trouble did arise. A bumptious fellow approached with four women in tow and demanded that Justice O'Connor perform a marriage ceremony."My dignity and autonomy demand that you pronounce us man and wives!"he hollered."Told ya,"chuckled Justice Scalia."ANTHO-NEEE!"Justice O'Connor shrieked, but Justice Kennedy had ducked into a broom closet and locked the door.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the dreamy journey occurred at the Iowa state line."Prepare to take on boarders!"Justice Rehnquist announced, and who should appear but Dr. Jack Kevorkian."I just want to insist that the Court affirm the right to assisted suicide when the occasion arises,"he said. The justices were polite enough-until Justice Stevens happened to cough, at which time Kevorkian walked over and handed him a business card."What have our courts wrought?"sputtered Justice Ginsburg, who sent Kevorkian down the stairs with a kick to the pants.

We finally reached our destination, and a great crowd of Iowans gathered before the Court, radiating the patient goodwill of America's heartland."This must be the salt of the earth I've heard so much about,"Souter said with amazement. Then he shouted:"Can anybody tell me if you can get by on $180,000 or so a year around here?" The mayor spoke."We have only two rules for judges: don't hang the innocent and don't overturn the laws that are natural to most of us. Keep that in mind or we'll reassign you as termite inspectors." And so the justices restated the laws of gravity to the Court building, which immediately fell, and great was its fall. America lived happily ever after. Indeed, Justices Ginsburg and Scalia went in halves on a bass boat, and one summer evening Ginsburg could be heard musing aloud as Scalia wrestled an Iowa lunker:"I wonder if that fellow ever married all those women.""If he did,"Scalia responded,"it serves him right."