Protecting our freedom of religion: Congress has a golden opportunity to prevent the Supreme Court and all other federal courts from ruling on acknowledgement-of-God issues.
Later, a federal court ordered Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the building housing the Alabama Supreme Court chambers. The monument was removed from the rotunda--and Judge Moore was subsequently removed from office.
These miscarriages of justice would have been prevented by a bill now pending before both houses of Congress. The bill, known as the Constitution Restoration Act, has eight cosponsors in the Senate (where the bill number is S. 520) and 40 in the House (H.R. 1070).
Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution gives Congress power to provide "exceptions to and regulation of" the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Moreover, since all other federal courts are created by acts of Congress, their jurisdictions are subject to congressional control. S. 520 and H.R. 1070 deny to the Supreme Court jurisdiction to hear appeals involving the "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government," by any level of government or by any agent thereof.
The First Amendment to the Constitution has two provisions regarding religious liberty. It prohibits Congress from establishing any denomination as an official national religion. It also guarantees the personal, individual liberty of the free exercise of religion. Through a series of court decisions, these provisions have morphed into a prohibition of the mention of God or anything that "endorses" religion by any official in any level of government. It is a blatant distortion of the First Amendment. Again, the ACLU was behind these decisions. That organization was founded in 1920 by Roger Baldwin and others. Baldwin was an avowed socialist, whose stated goal was to destroy Christianity and capitalism. Other organizations in league with the ACLU in these efforts are People for the American Way and the National Education Association.
S. 520 and H.R. 1070 also provide that "in interpreting the Constitution ..., a [federal] court may not rely upon" foreign law. The process of interpreting the Constitution involves applying the words of that document to a set of facts in the case before a court. It also involves examining and generally following earlier decisions which had the same constitutional provisions and fact patterns similar to those in the case before the court. Foreign law has no place in the process. The laws and court decisions of other countries are peculiar to their legal systems and their cultures. Reliance upon foreign law to interpret the Constitution is a practice fraught with pitfalls and opportunities for distortions and mistakes. It has no place in constitutional jurisprudence. S. 520 and H.R. 1070 also limit the jurisdictions of lower federal courts, as well as the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
Although events have awakened Congress to its powers to limit the jurisdictions of federal courts, S. 520 and H.R. 1070 do not have a high priority on the congressional docket. To highlight the urgency of the matter, the Louisiana state legislature passed a resolution last November urging Congress to enact S. 520 and H.R. 1070. The Louisiana resolution finds that "the federal judiciary has overstepped its constitutional boundaries and ruled against the acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty and government by local and state officers and other state institutions, including state schools." Last month, in Idaho, the state Republican Central Committee passed a resolution asking the Idaho state legislature to support a similar resolution, and also asking Congress directly to support S. 520 and H.R. 1070.
One of the stalwarts in trimming the liberties taken by federal courts is former Congressman William E. Dannemeyer (R-Calif.). He is heading a national effort to pass the bills. He told THE NEW AMERICAN that 87 percent of House Republicans and only 14 percent of House Democrats support passage of H.R. 1070. He opines that the House Democrats have abandoned their own constituency on the issue, noting that polls have shown public support for the bills at 75 percent.
Unfortunately, many good Americans who want to protect the acknowledgement of God in the public square are still unfamiliar with, or don't fully comprehend the reach and power of, Congress' Art. III, Sec. 2 ability to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the court. For example, many religious Americans still support a proposed constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in public schools. This is a bad idea, even though the intent is noble. The Constitution is not the source of the problem; the Supreme Court is. The Constitution does not need to be changed. The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the jurisdictions of all inferior federal courts are what need changing. S. 520 and H.R. 1070 provide a complete remedy. They need to be passed, and in this case, the Constitution should be left untouched.
Dannemeyer declares that, typically, members of Congress are so inundated with legislative proposals that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." The Senate is the challenge, he observes. Specifically, Senate leaders Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) need to make passage of S. 520 a high priority. They need to be contacted in person, by e-mail, U.S. mail, or voice mail and urged to get on board. Dannemeyer stated, "Now is the first time since 1955 that both Houses of Congress and the president are supportive of the concepts behind these bills. Their passage must be of the highest priority in restoring constitutional government."
Great movements, great adjustments in the distribution of powers between the three branches of government can have small beginnings. The bills before Congress hold the potential to begin badly needed realignments of power between Congress and the federal judiciary. Senators and House members must be contacted and urged to support the respective versions of the bills pending in their houses of Congress. State legislators need to be contacted to introduce and support resolutions urging Congress to pass the Constitution Restoration Act.
Mr. Detweiler is a constitutional lawyer and former assistant attorney general for the state of Idaho.
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|Title Annotation:||CONSTITUTION CORNER|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Feb 6, 2006|
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