Sorry Mr. Franklin, We Couldn’t

Wednesday, June 26, AD 2013

I was going to provide an analysis of both of the Supreme Court decisions today related to gay marriage, but instead I will focus on Hollingsworth v. Perry, which was concerned with California’s Prop 8. But first a couple of thoughts about US v. Windsor, the DOMA case. The immediate short-term impact of the case is somewhat limited in scope. Federal benefits will be conferred upon same-sex couples who live in states that recognize their partnership as marriage. The long-term impact, however, is much starker, as will be explained in a moment.

Both Justices Alito and Scalia provide blistering dissents, and they should be read in full. They disagree on a technical though not insignificant point about the standing of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG (and for the record, I tend to side with Alito). First of all, Scalia properly notes that, despite the rhetoric in Kennedy’s opinion, this was not a federalism case, or at least the case was not decided on federalism grounds. In fact, contrary to exhortations of some so-called libertarians on twitter, this case has the ultimate effect of further eroding states’ rights regarding same-sex marriage. Had this case been decided on federalism (10th amendment) grounds, then the outcome would have been possibly justifiable. But the majority’s reliance on 5th and 14th amendment concerns – effectively relying on the absurd legal doctrine of substantive due process – runs completely counter to the federalism argument, and paves the way for future challenges to state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage.

Justice Scalia recognizes this farce for what it is, and reminds the public of the exchange between these two very same Justices ten years ago to the date in Lawrence v. Texas. Then Justice Kennedy assured us all that striking down anti-sodomy laws would not eventually be used as a rationale for upending traditional marriage, and Scalia scoffed at him in the dissent. Well, guess who’s looking prophetic now. Even left-wing pundit David Corn (gleefully, this case) acknowledges Scalia’s prescience. Kennedy, backed up by the obtuse Chief Justice, assures us that nothing in this decision interferes with state decision-making on marriage. Once again Scalia scoffs, and, sadly, at some point in the future he will no doubt be proven right.

As for the Prop 8 case: my what a tangled web. I have been defending Chief Justice Roberts’s decision (joined, I may remind you, by Antonin Scalia along with three of the Court’s leftists) on the grounds that had the case been decided on the merits, it is quite possible that the same 5-4 majority in Windsor would have held Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, and this would have been the Roe v. Wade of gay marriage. Now, I’m not so sure.

Admittedly, I am somewhat conflicted on the ruling on standing. The majority concludes that the petitioners did not have standing because they were not official delegates of the state, and they did not experience any harm due to the appellate court’s ruling decreeing Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. From a  certain point of view, this is a perfectly acceptable legal holding. Scalia made a very good case in his Windsor dissent for a blanket denial of standing to all non-state petitioners in such cases. Scalia is acting fairly consistently, thus that explains why he voted with the majority here.

That said, the Chief Justice’s opinion is very worrisome, and not just from the standpoint of traditional marriage. As Justice Kennedy (!) explained in his dissent (joined in totality by Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor), the petitioners here do, in effect, represent the state. In fact the state constitution all but says that when it comes to ballot initiatives, ordinary citizens are agents of the state. I would go a step further and suggest that Roberts offers up a very constrained view of who the state is. According to his logic, the “state” is nothing more than the Chief Executive and the bureaucracy. From a technical legal standpoint this is fine, but the very point of a ballot initiative is to bypass state officials whom the citizenry at large have decided are not acting in their best interests. I have written before about my concerns (to put it mildly) regarding ballot initiatives, but it is illogical to deny that the ballot initiative process changes the normal dynamics of who has legal standing.

The Chief suggests on page 8 of his opinion that once the proposition was approved and enacted, that petitioners no longer had a role in enactment. But if the executive branch of the government refuses to defend the amendment or statute, that leaves the citizens with no legal recourse.

The petitioners relied on the case of Karcher v. May to argue that they indeed had standing, but Chief Roberts denied that the the ruling there was applicable.

Far from supporting petitioners’ standing, however, Karcher is compelling precedent against it. The legislators in that case intervened in their official capacities as  Speaker and President of the legislature. No one doubts that a State has a cognizable interest “in the continued enforceability” of its laws that is harmed by a judicial decision declaring a state law unconstitutional. Maine v. Taylor, 477 U. S. 131, 137 (1986). To vindicate that interest or any other, a State must be able to designate agents to represent it in federal court.

But in a case revolving around a ballot initiative, haven’t the voters themselves become, in essence, the equivalent of legislators?

Roberts’s reticence to grant standing in this case is understandable, and I can see why Scalia would join the majority. In his Windsor defense, Scalia admirably rails against the idea of an omnipotent judiciary that decrees on all constitutional issues just because it wants to. An overly broad interpretation of who has standing empowers the judiciary. But I think this is a rare case in which judicial deference actually damages the workings of the republican process. For good or ill, Californians have favored a much more directly democratic system, and the Court’s majority fails to factor that into its decision-making. By denying standing to the petitioners, the Court has said that citizens have no real redress should state executives defy their expressed wishes.

Which leads me back to my uncertainty over the rationale over the votes cast in these two cases. I’m in the odd position where I disagree with the person who I think has the cleaner motive, but agree with the person whose motives are perhaps suspect. I have no doubt that if this case had been decided on the merits, Chief Justice Roberts would have voted to uphold Prop 8, while I’m not so certain about Kennedy.  Scalia acted consistently with his overall principles, as did Alito (who would have granted standing to BLAG). Thomas offered no opinion in either case, but I suspect his reasoning would be similar to that of Alito, and so he acted consistently on the standing question as did, quite frankly, Sonia Sotomayor. As for the Court’s three other left-wingers – well, they did what they always did and just voted for the right (in their minds) outcome, reasoning be damned.

No matter the rationale for Roberts’s decision, it has ill portents. If Roberts acted strategically, then he abdicated his responsibility to be an impartial arbiter of the law. If he acted earnestly, well, he was simply wrong. More importantly, we’re stuck in a situation where the actual wishes of a democratic majority are trivial concerns compared to the desires of a handful of unelected judges. No matter how they voted today, this is simply untenable, and there is no end to this judicial tyranny in sight.

 

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5 Responses to Sorry Mr. Franklin, We Couldn’t

  • I think the style of rhetoric in Kennedy’s DOMA decision makes it pretty clear what his opinion is. Unless he puts states’ rights on the absolute highest pedestal, but it seems very weird to declare the issue illegitimate and prejudiced and limit that view to the federal govt.

  • “[T]he Court has said that citizens have no real redress should state executives defy their expressed wishes.” Except to vote them out of office; they can always do that, if they feel strongly enough.

  • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Herewith is the First Amendment. DOMA and Proposition 8 are peaceable assembly. Same sex so-called marriage is not equl Justice because the fraud involved in male brides is mob mentality. Proposition 8 judged by Vaughn Walker, a closet practicing homosexual with a vested interest, without the decency to recuse himself is a fraud. Government perpetuated fraud is tyranny.

    God is Justice. Atheism has no standing in a court of law.

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The Majority Opinion that Became a Dissent

Thursday, June 28, AD 2012

If you had told me before the day started that John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy would have penned differing opinions on the Obamacare case, and that I’d be siding with the latter’s opinion, I would have said that you were nuts. Alas, it appears that John Roberts is the new Anthony Kennedy.

Ed Whelan has speculated that Chief Justice Roberts changed his vote at the last minute, and therefore the dissenting opinion was originally the majority opinion. He has a follow-up post that posits another theory supporting that notion, which also explains how that could be logistically possible. Having now fully digested the dissenting opinion, I am just about 99 percent certain that John Roberts did indeed change his vote, and that the dissenting opinion was the majority opinion until the Chief Justice changed his mind.

Frankly, the dissent just doesn’t read like a dissent at all. As Whelan points out, the dissenting opinion repeatedly alludes to Justice Ginsburg’s opinion as the dissent. In fact, the dissenters barely alludes to the Chief Justice’s opinion at all until the very end. The final couple of pages are a scathing attack on the majority’s opinion, heretofore unmentioned. It certainly seems like the dissenting Justices felt jilted by the Chief Justice, thus the unusually harsh rhetoric of the final few paragraphs of the dissent. Another sign that the dissenters were in the majority comes on the second page:

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36 Responses to The Majority Opinion that Became a Dissent

  • I wonder if Chief Justice Roberts believes that he has secured peace in our time with his decision.

  • This is a brilliant and thoughtful post and I love it. But I couldn’t help but not the double meaning at the spelling here-

    “left at the alter by the Chief Justice”

  • I meant to write NOTE the double meaning!

  • Ha! Good catch anzlyne. That was unintentional, thus I edited the post.

  • Chief Justice Roberts = Neville Chamberlain
    Barack Hussein Obama = Adolf Hitler

    Nothing could be clearer.

  • Oh, but Paul Z., “alter” is perhaps MORE correct.

    😉

  • If Roberts is such a spineless jellyfish, he should not serve on any court, anywhere.

    Honestly, I feel hatred toward the man. And yes, I recognize that that is a terrible sin, and I am praying for the hate to go away. But at the moment, it is difficult for me to feel any other emotion for the man who shoved a knife into the back of the USA today. And when I think that he is a young man and will be Chief Justice until he dies or retires, I feel utter despair for our future (and yes, I know despair is also a sin). It’s funny – I frequently feel anger toward and contempt for Obama, but I don’t hate him. I recognize that he is following his own principles, twisted though they may be. But Roberts – a man who has apparently caved because he couldn’t stand the heat? His legacy? His rightful place will be next to Justices Taney (Dred Scott) and Holmes(the government has a right to sterilize the mentally handicapped because “3 generations of imbeciles are enough.”

    But, hey, on the upside, I’m sure Roberts will get lots of invitations to chi-chi G-town parties now!

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  • On the other hand, by returning the issue to the political sphere, Roberts has put it back where it belongs. Sure, I wanted the mandate struck down so I could spike the ball and gloat…but the reality is that if the mandate had been found unconstitutional then the liberals just would have brought it back under different guises at a later date. Heck, even if struck down you have to figure Obama would continue to implement it by regulatory fiat (DREAM Act, anyone?). Upon reflection, I wish we hadn’t even brought it to the courts – the proper place for this battle is in the court of public opinion. Either we can convince a majority to repeal ObamaCare, or we can’t. If we can, then we’ve won the war – if we can’t, then striking down this particular law would do no long term good.

    Take this, my friends, as a blessing – we are not challenged to work with a will and, with our trust given to God, do what we know is the right thing.

  • Think, for a moment, just how dead gun control is – sure, some court decisions were helpful but, at the end of the day, it was an awakened American people determined to preserve their right to bear arms which made the issue politically toxic…and now the Courts follow the people on the matter. That is how not just Obama Care but all manifestations of socialism must be defeated…

  • I am reminded of the story about a bird that did not fly south for the winter. Stuck in a barnyard, nearly frozen to the ground, accepting fate that nothing was worse and it would die. A cow walked by and dropped a load of “out-put” on the hapless bird. But the dung was warm and there were undigested seeds. The bird was warmed, ate and then started to sing. That was when a barn cat came along and started to dig. Happy to be free the bird sang and stretched. And was promptly killed and consumed by the cat.

    Moral of the story, not everyone that craps on you is your enemy, not everyone that gets you out of s@#% is your friend, and if you are buried and happy, keep quiet about it.

    I do not believe that Chief Justice Roberts is our “enemy” nor do I think he is another Chamberlain. It was left to the voters to remedy the action of this Act of Congress. Otherwise from now until the end of the USA there will be the constant court battles to undo what was done by a prior administration.

    It can be done, through the ballot box and our elected Representatives, not from appointed judges that many of whom owe more allegiance to a political ideology than to justice.

  • Ah, yours is the calmer, wiser take on things, Mr. Noonan. I was so bitterly angry today and felt so betrayed….I pray you are right.

    I am a Burkean conservative, and as such, am frequently disgusted with Republicans professing to hate big government and yet voting for big government as soon as they get nice offices in DC. I hope for and fully expect Romney and a GOP Congress to strike down Obamacare. If they don’t, well, I will be done with the GOP. We will end our days as slaves to the Almighty State and there is nothing the little people like me can do about it.

    A few months ago, in confession, a priest reminded me to put not my trust in kings – or politicians, or hopped up lawyers (which is what Roberts is)….Yes, he was right.

  • BTW, it takes a full 10 minutes before I can download TAC and probably another 5 before I can access the comments section. I have showered and blown-dried my hair in the morning- and then I return to my computer and find TAC is still not downloaded. I find it the slowest site in the Christian world 🙂 It is the number one reason why I rarely comment here- does anybody else have similiar difficulties?

  • I did worry about Roberts as I’ve been reading how he doesn’t want his court to look too political but I didn’t think he would actually go this far. It was like he was reaching for something to uphold this law & he found it in taxes. I’ve lost total respect for this man. We need healthcare reform but not this one. I’m a moderate conservative but I was very angry & I’m totally disliking Roberts right now as he changed America as we see it. Obama is changing this country & I won’t even recognize it if he remains president. I’m just sad.

  • Mark, it isn’t up to the Court to decide issues based on the politics of the situation. Roberts’ attempt to play John Marshall and get the Court out of a political jam was unnecessary. What exactly would have been the fallout if the Court struck down Obamacare? President Obama and the Democrats would have complained. So what? A majority of the population would have supported the outcome, and even if a majority did not that is irrelevant. As the dissenters correctly pointed out, the Chief Justice’s attempt to the get the Court out of politics only entangled it further. In the end, the Court made law. How is that an example of the Court returning the issue back to the political sphere. With this decision the Court became part of the political sphere.

    All that being said, I agree with what others have said in terms of dialing back our emotions. We are not in Nazi Germany, and the tanks aren’t going to start rolling into our Churches. This is a terrible defeat for the rule of law, and I think also a worrying sign that we’re still two votes away from repealing Roe. But we need to take it down a notch.

  • Donna, I don’t have any problems, but you are not the only person to notice that. We’ll look into it.

  • Indeed. Additionally I view this as a Pyrrhric victory for Obama, as this decision will be a millstone around his neck during the remainder of the campaign. Too many conservatives become disheartened too easily when there is every reason to think that this decision is a Godsend politically.

  • Don, you’re ever the optimist, which I admire. Of course, I always see a half-full glass. The rosy reaction is like finding good news in a recession by reading a headline: “Mafia forced to lay off 6 judges”

  • Another thing that irks me about the rationalization of this decision, as seen in Charles Krautahammer’s column:

    Obamacare is now essentially upheld. There’s only one way it can be overturned. The same way it was passed — elect a new president and a new Congress. That’s undoubtedly what Roberts is saying: Your job, not mine. I won’t make it easy for you.

    This is akin to George Bush avoiding the question of the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold and letting the Courts decide. All three branches of the government have the equal authority and obligation to decide upon the constitutionality of legislation before them. It is an abrogation of duty, not a sign of political pragmatism, to simply punt the matter away.

  • I try not to be a pessimist or an optimist when it comes to politics Joe but to call ’em like I see ’em. Many conservatives were saying that the game was up when Obama got elected in 2008. 2010 demonstrated how out of touch that view was. American political history is a series of reactions and counter-reactions. Obama went too far to the Left, and he reaped a political whirlwind in 2010 and the same is in store this November.

  • I agree with Donald. The President has just been made a liar, at least on the subject of a tax increase (which was a large part of the objection to the ACA in the first place…who is going to bear the cost?). I saw an ABC News blog link this morning to the interview I which he absolutely rejected the notion that the individual mandate was a tax. Guess Mr. Constitutional Law missed that class.

    No, I think we need to give this a few days to unfold. The analyses I’ve read aside, I believe Justice Roberts may have given those who oppose the law exactly what they need to fit it… He avoided giving the President. White martyrdom on the subject, and he exposed the law for what it is: a massive tax increase on those least able to afford it.

  • TAC does load slowly – probably a side-effect of the litany of links on the side.

    Dick Morris is saying the same thing Krauthammer says, which will probably be the theme of many variations in weeks to come. The November’s gonna be a slugfest. Hopefully Holder’s out of the SecState chair so we don’t have Black Panther goon squads threatening polling places.

    Question – Supposing a GOP quash and concomitant numerical ability, what’s the chance/point/P&L for an attempted Constitutional amendment expressly forbidding Congress to tax non-activity? I would not know how to word it properly, but, could or should such a thing be considered?

  • Good article from Jonah Goldberg today. Ignore the misleading headline – he really takes Roberts to the woodshed.

    what’s the chance/point/P&L for an attempted Constitutional amendment expressly forbidding Congress to tax non-activity?

    Somewhere between slim and none. The GOP will almost certainly have legislative majorities in both Houses of Congress, but not enough to get such an amendment through.

  • “Politics and Culture from a Catholic Perspective?” I don’t think so. I am Catholic, but this blog ‘s authors and commenters certainly do not speak for me or, I suspect, for a majority of Catholics. Alhough I would have preferred a single-payer system, I agree with the purpose and intent of the ACA, and applaud the Supreme Court’s action. There will be no tax assessed against anyone if people who have enough income to pay federal income taxes do the individually and socially responsible thing and buy health insurance. The tax is imposed only on those who do not, and for whose healthcare either health providers or the rest of us end up paying.

  • Paul:

    If yesterday you were “just about 99 percent certain that John Roberts did indeed change his vote,” the following excerpts from yesterday’s dissents should make you just about 100 percent certain. Make note of the reference to “Chief Justice Roberts” in Justice Ginsburg’s dissent and “we” in the joint dissent:

    From Justice Ginsburg’s dissent:

    In failing to explain why the individual mandate threatens our constitutional order, THE CHIEF JUSTICE disserves future courts.

    From the joint dissent:

    The dissent claims that we “fai[l] to explain why the individual mandate threatens our constitutional order.” Ante, at 35. But we have done so. It threatens that order because it gives such an expansive meaning to the Commerce Clause that all private conduct (including failure to act) becomes subject to federal control, effectively destroying
    the Constitution’s division of governmental powers. Thus the dissent, on the theories proposed for the validity of the Mandate, would alter the accepted constitutional relation between the individual and the National Government.

    For what it’s worth, I’m 100% certain the Chief Justice switched sides at the last minute, and I’m substantially certain he did so on the misplaced belief he was preserving the integrity of the Court by protecting it against further attacks of politicizing the judicial process. By switching at the last minute, he also gave insufficient time to what became the joint dissent to dismantle his holding that “commerce clause regulation of inactivity is unconstitutional but regulation by taxation of inactivity is constitutional” or his similarly contradictory position that, on the one hand, the penalty-for-inaction “tax” is not a direct tax because it is not akin to a Capitation which is easily susceptible to apportionment or a tax on personal property or real estate, but, on the other hand, we shouldn’t be worried that the government has just now been given the power to tax inactivity because the power to tax inactivity has been around from the founding as evidenced by . . . of course, the Capitation or poll tax which applies merely for being a citizen. I imagine with a little advance notice Justice Scalia could have put a few more barbs into the joint dissent or dissented separately.

  • I am Catholic, but this blog ‘s authors and commenters certainly do not speak for me or, I suspect, for a majority of Catholics.

    While I’m sure you have your finger on the pulse of the Catholic community at large, we’ll continue to express our opinions as our Catholic faith informs us to do.

    There will be no tax assessed against anyone if people who have enough income to pay federal income taxes do the individually and socially responsible thing and buy health insurance.

    Ah, the compassionate left in action. Nobody will be punished so long as everybody does what we demand that they do in the name of social justice. There is nothing particularly “Catholic” about such an attitude, but I’m sure you will go on believing that you are more Catholic than the rest.

    Fine then.

  • Hank: Good catch, and more evidence that Roberts did indeed change his mind, and fairly late in the game at that. And I agree fully with your take. Clearly Scalia and the rest were caught off guard, as evidenced by the the relative lack of attention the dissent paid to the Chief Justice’s opinion until the very end of the dissent. I’m sure Scalia would have torn into Roberts more than he did for his double-talk on the tax had he had sufficient time – note he only addresses the government as being sophists, and not the majority of the Court.

  • Paul,

    Good points but now there are two things:

    1. Obama and the Democrats have to run with this horrendously unpopular law still the law of the land.

    2. Obama and the Democrats can’t point to the Evil, Wicked, Nasty, Republican Supreme Court as the source of blame for what went wrong.

    Obama carries the ObamaCare millstone around his neck in to November and the Courts are out of the political fray. I actually kind of like this outcome.

  • Donna,

    A great calmness came over me as I took in the decision – all is well and its all going to be for the best. And, yes, TAC does load slowly.

  • yes mark of norwich “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”

  • W F Aiken

    Would you regard a levy, confined to uncultivated land, as a tax or a penalty?

  • Would you regard a levy, confined to uncultivated land, as a tax or a penalty?

    At least that levy would be attached to property ownership; not to nothing, not to non-action. I am not saying it is a good thing, but at least there might be some reason behind it.

  • I don’t think the levy you mentioned is just.

  • “I don’t think the levy you mentioned is just.”

    Nor do I, but would it be a tax or a penalty?

  • God did not want His Chosen People to be governed by a king. God wanted the Israelite nation to be a nation of sovereign persons, ruled and governed by the Supreme Sovereign Being, disciplined by LOVE. Still, Israel insisted. God relented and gave them Saul, then David.
    George Washington had served two terms as President of the United States. When Washington refused a third term as president, the people wanted to crown him king. Washington absolutely refused. George Washington was truly disciplined by LOVE, a sovereign. As a sovereign, George Washington exemplified the true meaning of sovereignty for each and every person and our nation.
    Justice is predicated on intent. As the personification of Divine Justice, the perfect Justice of God, The Supreme Court for the United States of America is empowered by Divine Justice, to root out all corruption, all falsehood, all malevolence, any evil that would threaten the Liberty and the common good of each and every individual person, every citizen, every state and nation, for whom the Justices have taken an oath to preserve FREEDOM, through the United States Constitution.
    CJ John Roberts statement that it is not the Supreme Court’s job to correct our mistakes and /or crimes is simply Roberts reneging on his oath. Swallowed by atheism and secular humanism, Roberts aids and abets the establishment of these disordered aberrations as religion through which the FREEDOM of religion might be practiced by the sovereign persons who happen to be citizens, in spite of the fact that these aberrations have been thrown off by the plaintiffs, violate the Ninth Amendment, (the Ninth Amendment states that persons have rights not enumerated in the Constitution) and deny the freedom of conscience, the human being’s immortal soul, the human being’s rational soul. Without a rational soul man becomes a beast, a rapacious beast or a subject, a member of a herd to be driven and corralled. Man has already witnessed the violence and been subjected to inhumanities un-thought of several decades ago. To this John Roberts adds his imprimatur. “It’s not my job”
    Obamacare cannot be dealt with because it is not a law. Obamacare is tyranny, coercion and fraud, the establishment of a God-less society. Obamacare will have no new generation, only a new generation of flatliners.

  • Mary De Voe

    There is an inscription in the Chapelle Expiatoire in Paris, built by the Catholic community as an act of reparation for the murder of the Royal Family “in diebus illis non erat rex in Israhel sed unusquisque quod sibi rectum videbatur hoc faciebat.” – In those days, there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6)

    In fact, the phrase, “there was no king in Israel” recurs four times in Judges(17:6, 18:1, 19:1 & 21:25) and each time it goes on to describe some disaster or act of wickedness.

The Red Mass and Cardinal DiNardos Pro-Life Homily

Monday, October 5, AD 2009

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, was the chief celebrant at the annual Red Mass Cardinal DiNardo Sotomayoryesterday at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle.

The Red Mass is celebrated annually at the Washington, D.C. Cathedral and hosted by the John Carroll Society, a group of Washington area legal professionals.  The Mass is normally for for judges, attorneys, law school professors, students, and government officials.  The Mass requests guidance from the Holy Ghost for all who seek justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on what Catholics believe is the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession.

The Red Mass is so-called from the red vestments traditionally worn in symbolism of the tongues of fire that descended on the Apostles.  The most significant difference between the Red Mass and a traditional Mass is that the focuses of prayer and blessings concentrate on the leadership roles of those present.  Guidance from the Holy Ghost is asked to be bestowed on the congregants. Other blessings that are commonly requested to prevail in the minds, offices, and court rooms are Divine strength, wisdom, truth, and justice.

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