And the Congress said: Lo! Thou mayest display the commandments of the lord our god, because we ain't havin' no truck with this freedom of religion stuff because we don't actually believe in the Constitution anyway. We wouldst require it not only for Congress but for all halls of government, schools, private institutions and homes everywhere, but we don't think we could quite get away with that one. But we thinkest that it makes a lovely political issue in the Bible Belt. And Lo! Congress are assholes.
(Article below reproduced in full because the Birmingham News tends to expire its articles quickly.)
Ten Commandments bill introduced (Birmingham News/al.com, 10/23/03): A copy of the Ten Commandments would be displayed in the U.S. Capitol under a bill introduced Tuesday in Congress by members from Alabama and Florida. The bill, if approved by the House and Senate, would not dictate the size or type of display, only that the architect of the Capitol place an "appropriate" marker somewhere in the historic building.
People who support the government displaying the commandments have been lobbying the issue for weeks, inspired by the confrontation in Montgomery over a granite monument suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had installed. Hundreds rallied at the Capitol earlier this month asking Congress to officially recognize the role of the Ten Commandments in American law. "The Ten Commandments represent a charge to individuals to raise their sights and reminds them of a higher moral code," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., the bill's chief sponsor. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said Wednesday that displaying the commandments in the U.S. Capitol would set an example for state capitols. "I don't think this is something our founding fathers would have a problem with," said Aderholt, a cosponsor of the bill.
Because it is a concurrent resolution, Stearns' one-page proposal would not require the president's signature to be enforced. The House and Senate in 1997 and 1998 endorsed the idea of displaying the Ten Commandments in the Capitol, but the new bill would require it be done. Advocates have said they would raise money to pay for the display. But critics concerned that displaying the commandments blurs the line between church and state have opposed the idea and said the Judeo-Christian document could offend people of other religions.
A similar proposal Stearns introduced in February, calling for the display in the House and Senate chambers, has yet to receive a committee hearing. A bill Aderholt introduced in May to insulate government displays of the Ten Commandments from court challenge has gained 106 cosponsors but has not been given a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
Sigh. Just ... sigh.
I hope someone in the Congress has the sense to lock these things up in the Judiciary Committee forever. But I'm very much afraid that they won't. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing, this:
Hostettler fights judicial rulings (Courier and Press, Sept 23, 2003): U.S. Rep. John Hostettler is continuing his battle against what he calls erroneous judicial decisions and said he is prepared to engage new legislative weapons if necessary. Hostettler, who in July successfully fought for the passage of two amendments that would bar federal funds from being used to enforce court decisions about the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments, said he is prepared to use legislative measures that would limit jurisdictional authority. Just as the courts have the right to put checks and balances on the other two branches of government, Hostettler argues, Congress has the right to check and balance the judiciary. The Congress, he explained, has created lower courts within the judiciary, such as the 11th Circuit Court in 1981. Citing Articles 1 and 3 of the Constitution, Indiana's 8th District Republican congressman said Congress could eliminate and merge federal courts - something it has done over the years. It also has the power to limit federal court jurisdiction, remove judges, set pay, and even determine where the courts meet.
So Congress has declared that it will not allow the government to be used to enforce court rulings. Congress apparently no longer really believes in the rule of law, if that means that government will be required to enforce unpopular rulings. One wonders how long it will be before this pernicious attitude spreads beyond the currently limited issues of the Pledge and the Commandments. (Of course, it could backfire in interesting ways. The courts could always declare that Congress was not only incorrect in making these rules -- which they indisputably are, and I don't imagine they would stand any sort of court challenge -- but that Congress itself was in contempt of court. That could lead to all sorts of interesting complications, since Congress would, of course, retaliate by declaring any such ruling in contempt of Congress.)
Elsewhere, the rest of the country continues to agree that we just don't need this fardling freedom of religion thing.
- Despite legal decisions from all over the country that such things are unconstitutional, an Indiana courthouse is trying to keep its commandments display;
- a Georgia country commission doesn't give a good goddamn that such displays are illegal and originally made no bones about the blatantly religious reasons they wished to display the commandments;
- the Casper, Wyoming, city goverment has scheduled a special meeting on October 28 to deal with the particularly nasty mess they've created for themselves;
- and Tennessee loses its collective mind, one county at a time: The idea comes from Greene County in East Tennessee, where the commission unanimously passed a resolution called ''A Proclamation Supporting the Recognition of God as the Foundation of Our National Heritage.'' Greene County Mayor Roger D. Jones has since sent out the resolution to the other 94 counties in Tennessee.
Ah, life in these United States. Ain't it grand?Posted by iain at October 23, 2003 12:28 PM