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Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

A “SCREW YOU” TO PHIL HARE, THE CONSTITUTION-HATIN’ MAN

Posted by Andrew Roman on May 3, 2010

Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL)

You may recall that Phil Hare, Democrat Congressman from Illinois, recently made national news by saying he wasn’t concerned with the Constitution when it came to the health care reform debate (i.e., the implementation of Obamacare). “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this, to be honest,” the dashing and well-spoken Mr. Hare said with a camera rolling, “I care more about the people that are dying everyday who don’t have health care.”

To hear it from Hare (and his single-payer-loving chums), the streets are littered with the rotting corpses of Americans who couldn’t find an emergency room compassionate enough to spare a Tylenol or band-aid. Fat cat insurance moguls, along with assorted Klansmen and Republicans, confer over charts and maps almost daily, deciding who will be lucky enough to receive the tiniest morsels of health care and who will be denied.

You’ll recall that a colleague of Mr. Hare’s from Florida – the angry and always nauseating Alan Grayson – said it was a modern day Holocaust.

Just to be clear, Mr. Hare … everyone in America has access to health care – including illegal aliens. The debate is about health insurance – but I digress.

After Hare made it perfectly clear that he was beyond worrying about such trivialities and annoyances as the United States Constitution, you may also recall that the man holding the camera – blogger Adam Sharp –  followed up by asking him, “You care more about that than the US Constitution that you swore to uphold?”

Hare replied, “I believe that it says we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

It was then pointed out to Hare that those words are not in the Constitution, but, rather, in the Declaration of Independence, to which the master parrier, Mr. Hare, retorted, “It doesn’t matter to me.”

I’ll have to confirm this, but, if I recall correctly, the “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” clause of the Constitution is right after the “Emanations and Penumbras” section – which comes right after the “Separation of Church and State” clause. (Does that mean that in Mr. Hare’s world, abortion is undeniably illegal? After all, there is right to “life” is in his version of the Constitution.)

I digress again …

Running against Phil “The Constitution Doesn’t Matter” Hare in Illinois’ 17th district is Bobby Schilling.

A billboard has gone up in East Moline, Illinois – at 19th Street & 37th Avenue, to be precise – in response to Mr. Hare’s anti-Constitution language, sponsored by veterans who support Mr. Schilling’s bid for Congress.

It is the Roman Around Picture of the Day:

The Constitution matters to a lot of us.

Well done.

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Thanks to Gateway Pundit, via Weasel Zippers.

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TARGETING INTERNS – WHO THE HELL DOES THIS PRESIDENT THINK HE IS?

Posted by Andrew Roman on April 9, 2010

Unbelievable.

(Actually, quite believable).

There is ostensibly nothing – absolutely nothing – the current administration will not endeavor to involve itself in (except competent national security). Perhaps a better way to state it is that this administration believes nothing should be beyond the reach (and direct influence) of government.

Nothing.

With an audacity remeniscent of a chorus of crunching jackboots slowly approaching from just over the hill, Obamacrats – the same folks that recently turned over the student loan system to the federal government simply because they felt like it – is on a no-holds-barred course of seizing and controlling as much of the private sector as it possibly can.

I am well aware of how that sounds, but I assure you, this is not paranoia.

These are not radical right-wing talking points.

If you want radicals, just look to the White House and Capitol Hill.

America has never seen anything quite like the way this administration operates. The will of the people be damned, and to hell with the Constitution, never has a President ever attempted, in such a short amount of time and in such a brazenly agenda-driven anti-American way (yes, anti-American), to imbue the heavy hand of government in everything possible. Not like this. The President, in fact, seems to have made it his central focus to thrash whatever maxims of American liberty repulse him (which, being a disciple of Saul Alinsky, means just about everything). He’s doing so with a deaf ear and an iron mallet of relentless leftism – the master overseer of the largest, most intrusive and controlling government monster ever to occupy this part of the North American continent.

This is just the latest episode of “Power To the State!”

It seems that Bammy and Crew have decided that they are not happy with the concept of the unpaid internship. In fact, the Labor Department is now looking into the legality of having someone serve as an intern, without pay, at any for-profit enterprise in the United States; and if the President gets his way, these private sector unpaid internships – meaning free-market, free-enterprise agreements made between private business owners and willing individuals (almost always college students looking to gain critical experience as well as college credits) – will go the way of betamax machines, rotary telephones and (eventually) American liberty itself.

From Fox Nation:

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy Leppink, deputy administrator of the department’s wage and hour division, according to a story in the New York Times.

It’s easy to view the action as the inevitable mischief of Democrats, irritating but not fatal. Such an attitude, however, overlooks what a blow this policy can represent to young people trying to establish careers.

Back in our parents’ or grandparents’ days, interns were mostly thought of as physicians-in-training. Eventually, an internship came to mean an initial training experience, perhaps unpaid, for people on the cusp of entering the workforce. This stepping stone to a hoped-for paid job became commonplace in many industries and a rite of passage for the college set, especially Ivy Leaguers.

These temporary positions became popular partly due to prosperity. During the past half century, many U.S. college students enjoyed the luxury of trying out different fields whereas previous generations had to make career choices quickly.

In other words, the Chief Executive of the United States is telling (nay, dictating to) this nation’s young people – America’s future, I’ve heard the President call them – that they will no longer have the option (the right to choose, you might say) of volunteering his or her time with a privately-owned, free market enterprise. The point of such internships, of course, is to afford prospective interns the opportunity to gain vital experience that will, in turn, make them productive and valuable assets in the work force. Yet, the President of the United States has decided, by whim and whisper, that he will put the kibosh on a system of learning, training and invaluable networking that has helped sustain the very existence of America’s free-market system by literally helping to provide for its future in the best and most efficient way possible.

Not that Barack Obama is particularly enamored with free enterprise.

Incidentally, one needn’t receive money to be “paid.” Experience is often a more valuable commodity in the work force at that early stage of a person’s professional life. Unpaid internships are wonderfully important resume fillers. Bosses look for things like that.

The real question is: How in the world is doing away with unpaid internships good for America? How does eliminating such a thing benefit this country’s young people looking to prepare for their futures?

This is simply unbelievable.

(I keep saying that. Actually, it’s very believable).

Mr. President, these are individual choices made by free Americans! Stay the hell out of it!

Erick Erickson at Red State points out, if Obama gets his way, young people will still have the option to volunteer with the government.

Phew!

If you want to work as a Congressional or White House intern, for Organizing for America, or any other non-profit, they’ll let you do it. But if you want to actually work for a business that produces goods and services in the free market? You’re screwed as is the business. And guess what? Existing workers will be spread more thinly and college kids will wait longer and longer for jobs.

My next question (in a long list of thousands) would be to ask whether or not this policy applies to non-profit organizations as well. Would these new anti-intern laws pertain to left-wing “community organizing” groups, too? Or will some enterprising Capitol Hill Democrat try to devise a workaround of some sort to allow the likes of ACORN (or whatever it’s called now) to indoctrinate – er, take on interns?

Or is this just a blatant, in-your-face, no-need-to-cloak-it assault on the free-market system?

Honestly, there can be no other purpose here than to intentionally hamstring free enterprise.

The President of the United States does not – repeat, does not – have the authority to curtail rights guaranteed to the people of the United States in the Constitution – namely, the freedom of assembly (and, by extension and definition, the freedom of association). How is it possible for the Chief Executive to say that it will be against the law for me, or anyone, to volunteer my time anywhere I damn well please (assuming that institution is not engaging in illegal activity)?  Do I not have the right to charge an individual or company for my services, if I so choose? And if I decide to charge nothing for those services, do I not have that right as well?

These are choices that I make, as an individual.

This has nothing to do with the President, Congress, the government, the cleaning lady or anyone other than the privately owned enterprise that wants to have an intern, and the individual who wishes to be an intern.

No one is being taken advantage of, no one is being cheated, no deception of any kind is taking place.

We leave that to the government.

 

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Posted in Big Government, Constitution, Dumb Liberals, leftism, Liberalism, Nanny State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WE’LL SUE CONGRESS, SAYS IDAHO GOV

Posted by Andrew Roman on March 18, 2010

This is more like it.

This is the kind of thing that gets us pro-Constitution types singing around the campfire. This is the type of thing that’ll get Obamacrats screeching about us gun-and-God-clinging bigots even more than they already have. In a sense, one could think of this as a kind of legislative tea party – a push back at the soft tyrants running the show in Washington.

Yes, the gesture is largely a symbolic one, but it does matter – except to Democrats, of course.

Thirty-seven states are in line to follow what Idaho did yesterday.

John Miller of the Associated Press writes:

Idaho took the lead in a growing, nationwide fight against health care overhaul Wednesday when its governor became the first to sign a measure requiring the state attorney general to sue the federal government if residents are forced to buy health insurance.

Constitutional law experts say the movement is mostly symbolic because federal laws supersede those of the states.

But the state measures reflect a growing frustration with President President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

With Washington closing in on a deal in the months-long battle over health care overhaul, Republican state lawmakers opposed to the measure are stepping up opposition.

(Idaho Governor C. L. “Butch”) Otter, a Republican, said he believes any future lawsuit from Idaho has a legitimate shot of winning, despite what the naysayers say.

“The ivory tower folks will tell you, ‘No, they’re not going anywhere,’ ” he told reporters. “But I’ll tell you what, you get 36 states, that’s a critical mass. That’s a constitutional mass.”

“A constitutional mass,” as Otter calls it – the overwhelming rejection by the American people of this unprecedented encroachment of the federal government on their liberties – is a very good thing, even if it is symbolic; although I’d like to believe that genuine legal action actually could be taken in some form should ObamaCare become the scourge of the land.

Still, the rejection of ObamaCare from every sector of American life is unquestionable … and fascinating to watch.

It’s as if the Body American is reacting instinctively – intuitively – dispatching antibodies to fight the infection of government-run health care. The irony, however, is that the ones reacting without thinking – the ones who are on ideological auto-pilot – are the Democrats.

They are not hearing the American people.

They don’t care what we think.

They’ve told us we will know all about the bill after its been passed. They have tried to sidestep and rework every rule, and still cannot – and will not – accept that they do not have the votes to get it done.  They are even attempting a measure that would enable the Senate version of the bill to pass the House without a vote ever having to be taken there – something that would have summoned the lynch mobs had Republicans ever dreamed of doing such a thing.

When the rules get in the way, they change them.

When the people get in the way, they stomp on them.

The funny thing is, the Constititutional process is working, and it pisses off Obamacrats. Thus, they effectively urinate on the Constitution and call it Miracle-Gro.

Just as America rejects ObamaCare, Dems reject Americans, as Congressman Dennis Kucinich proved yesterday, when he admitted that he took his cues on how to vote on the bill from his wife and friends – not his constituency.

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SCORE ONE FOR THE “FREE EXERCISE THEREOF”

Posted by Andrew Roman on March 2, 2010

offensive banner one

Three years ago, San Diego school teacher, Brad Johnson, was informed that two banners he had displayed on his classroom wall – one that hung for twenty-five years and another for seventeen years – had to come down.  

Apparently, they were suddenly offending students.  

For all those years, they simply hung there, as they always had , without incident, without complaint. There wasn’t even a hint that their American patriotic references to God were an affront to anyone.  

Then, school administrators told him that he was violating the principles of Separation of Church and State. They told Mr. Johnson that his banners were “an impermissible attempt to make a Judeo-Christian statement to his students.”   

They had to come down, they demanded.  

His First Amendment rights had limitations, they argued.  

The school’s principal had final say on what went up on the classroom walls, they said.  

One banner, with its four phrases – In God We Trust, One Nation Under God, God Bless America and God Shed His Grace On Thee – had no business in a classroom. The other, quoting directly from the Declaration of Independence, might insult Muslims, Johnson was told.  

Johnson decided he would sue.  

A year later, in September, 2008, Judge Roger T. Benitez, said Johnson had the right to do so.  

He did.  

From Warner Todd Huston’s Pluribus Form blog, September, 2008:  

In a blistering 23-page decision, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez rejected the district’s motion as legally faulty and blasted its “brash” attempt to take down the banners. The jurist noted that the district allowed other teachers to put up posters with Buddhist and Islamic messages, posters of rock bands including Nirvana and the Clash, and Tibetan prayer rugs… Johnson’s banners, Benitez wrote, were patriotic expressions deeply rooted in American history.  

Last Friday – seventeen months after Judge Benitez ruled that Johnson had the right to sue – he ruled that the Poway Unified School District of San Diego, CA, violated Johnson’s constitutional rights.  

Score one for the Constitution and the good guys.  

From the Thomas More Law Center, who represented Johnson:  

offensive banner 2

That school officials banned Johnson’s patriotic displays while permitting other teachers to display personal posters and banners promoting partisan political issues such as gay rights and environmental causes, including global warming, played a crucial role in the Judge’s decision.  

These displays included: a 35 to 40 foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha; a poster with the lyrics from John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” which starts off, Imagine there’s no Heaven; a poster with Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins;” a poster of Muslim leader Malcolm X, and a poster of Buddhist leader Dali Lama.  

Judge Benitez’s 32-page opinion was strongly worded and critical of the Poway school districts aversion to mentioning God: “[The school district officials] apparently fear their students are incapable of dealing with diverse viewpoints that include God’s place in American history and culture. . . . That God places prominently in our Nation’s history does not create an Establishment Clause violation requiring curettage and disinfectant for Johnson’s public high school classroom walls. It is a matter of historical fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God.”   

If an educator is permitted to post an ex-Beatle’s vision of a Godless world, then certainly one should be permitted to allow historical slogans dating back two centuries that acknowledge this nation’s religious heritage. If Tibetan prayer flags are allowed to be put on display, then a quote referencing God taken from this nation’s founding document seems perfectly reasonable. 

The “Free Exercise Thereof” portion of the First Amendment isn’t an anti-Christianity clause.  

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HUGE H/T to Eric at the great Vocal Minority blog.

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I GET THOSE TWO DOCUMENTS MIXED UP

Posted by Andrew Roman on January 29, 2010

Admittedly, I can be a bit demanding. In my everyday work, I expect a certain amount of competence from co-workers and associates while I always try and go above and beyond the call of duty for them and my customers. While I continually strive for professional excellence, I understand that as human beings we are all wont to make mistakes, misspeak, misinterpret and just flat out come across as dumb. It’s the way God created us – flawed, with the ability to make choices.

So be it.

However, there are basic standards in every field of endeavor – elementary prerequisites that a society-at-large can reasonably expect of those in a given field to possess. For instance, one would expect a physician to know basic biology, or a car mechanic to know how a crankshaft works, or an accountant to know how to use a spreadsheet. These are not unreasonable expectations. Likewise, my clients have reasonable professional expectations of me.

In the world of American politics, my expectations are almost nonexistent. For example, I do not expect liberals to make sense. I do not expect them to summon the tenets of common sense to make policy decisions. I never expect them to ask “what happens next?” I cannot be disappointed by them. And I certainly don’t expect them to interpret the Constitution correctly.

But it is not unreasonable to expect the President of the United States – who takes the oath to defend the Constitution – to know what is or isn’t in it. It seems even more reasonable to expect the Chief Executive to be familiar with the Constitution’s contents, given that he was a “constitutional lawyer” at the University of Chicago. (Note the quotation marks).

During his State of the Union address, President Obama made the claim the America finds its unity in its “incredible diversity.” I haven’t a clue what he means by that. That is not the same thing as E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one – which, definitionally, attributes America’s “unity” to its value system, not its makeup. It is wonderful that people from all corners of the globe come here … but they come because of America’s values, not because of their desire to transplant what they left behind here.

I digress.

On Wednesday evening, the President said:

We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal….

Indeed, all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The problem is that these poignant words are not found in the Constitution.

They come from the Declaration of Independence.

And no one at the Obamacratic round table – speech writer, advisor, yesman or lackey – caught it. No one.

I don’t recall the mainstream media bringing it up in their post-Bammy Chat analysis on Wednesday night.

As Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit put it: “And this is the same guy who lectured the Supreme Court moments later in the same speech.”

Bingo.

It harkens back a couple of months when MSNBC blunderdoodle Rachel Maddow said it was the Declaration of Independence that had a preamble, not the Constitution.

The “All Men Are Created Equal” clause in the Constitution can be found just after the “Separation of Church And State” clause, just before the “Thou Shalt Not Be Offended” passage.

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THIRTEEN AGs SAY “NOT SO FAST” – LET’S TALK CONSTITUTION

Posted by Andrew Roman on December 31, 2009

One can predict some of the words and phrases Obamacrats will use: obstructionists, partisans, ideologues, Obama-haters, so on.

No soothsayers needed. Pretty standard stuff.

Defenders of the Constitution will be attacked as corporate marionettes, accused of bending over for insurance companies and pharmaceutical interests. Republicans in general will be (and have been) accused of viciously and callously standing in the way of fundamental human decency by endorsing what will undoubtedly lead to the deaths of billions and billions of Americans. The bodies of the uninsured will litter the streets of the United States as heartless right-wing fat cats step around their rotting corpses, laughing the sinister laugh of the victorious, as they visit their own doctors where all the real medicine is kept.

Left-wing blogs will explode with mendacious outrage and rice-pudding indignation. The words “Nazi,” and “corporate shill” and “desperate” (among others) will soak up enormous amounts of bandwidth as pajama-clad basement-dwelling blogosphere leftocrats rat-a-tat away, condemning the patriots who fight to bury Obamacare by standing up for the Constitution.

It’s what so many of us who have questioned the absurd claims of ObamaCare have been waiting for. It’s what so many of us who have questioned the constitutionality of it all have been hoping would come to fruition.

It’s a very good first step.

As many as thirteen state Attorney Generals – all Republicans – have said that the Nebraska sweetheart deal won by Senator Ben Nelson in exchange for his support of this health-care reform monstrosity is unconstitutional and must be removed from the bill.

From the Associated Press, via Fox News:

Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday.

“We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,” South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“As chief legal officers of our states we are contemplating a legal challenge to this provision and we ask you to take action to render this challenge unnecessary by striking that provision,” they wrote.

There is also a great deal to explore regarding the constitutionality of mandating citizens to purchase a free-market service or good – in this case, health insurance – from a private entity, as presecribed in the bill.

One thing at a time, though.

The letter was signed by top prosecutors in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington state. All are Republicans, and McMaster and the attorneys general of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania are running for governor in their respective states.

Last week, McMaster said he was leading several other attorneys general in an inquiry into the constitutionality of the estimated $100 million deal he has dubbed the “Cornhusker Kickback.”

Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint of South Carolina raised questions about the legislation, which they said was amended to win Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson’s support.

“Because this provision has serious implications for the country and the future of our nation’s legislative process, we urge you to take appropriate steps to protect the Constitution and the rights of the citizens of our nation,” the attorneys general wrote.

Here’s the funny part … House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina called the letter was “a political ploy.”

Damn right it is.

“This threat stinks of partisan politics,” he said in a statement. “If Henry McMaster wants to write federal law he should run for Congress not governor.”

If it stinks, I like the smell. I hope it comes out in a candle.

I can’t even begin to tell you how comical it is to hear a Democrat decry “partisan politics.” What on earth could be more partisan than having a holdout Senator or two vote for a bill not on its own merits, but as a result of party-unifying bribery? (Is anybody in there, Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu?)

Surely Mr. Clyburn is aware that all Senate Democrats voted for the bill. By definition, isn’t that partisan politics?

Clarity, please.

Clyburn needs to think before he speaks. He snidely remarks that South Carolina Attorney General McMaster should run for Congress if he wants to “write federal law.”

Clever.

Perhaps Clyburn ought to think about actually representing the people – you know,do his job – if he wants to remain in Congress.

At last look, nearly six in ten Americans don’t want this bill passed.

Nice work, Pubs. Don’t let up.

See what happens when they actually set their minds to something?

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DAVID FRUM – GOOD GOD, MAN, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Posted by Andrew Roman on December 28, 2009

Frum = dumb?

On Christmas Day, while most Americans were celebrating the holiday with their loved ones, columnist David Frum – so-called conservative – had an article published at The Week Online that probably would have served him better had it gone unnoticed. It was his attempt to explain why Obamacare is, in fact, constitutional, despite assertions by some Republicans (Senators Jim DeMint and John Ensign, specifically) that it is not.

I derive no great pleasure in pointing out how embarrassing Frum is on this issue, or how stupid he makes himself sound. I get no kick out of saying how ill-informed and weak this article is, or how laughable he makes himself out to be in the name of “conservatism.” It doesn’t do my heart any good to highlight his intellectual vapidity.

Frankly, I happen to believe passage of this bill would be unconstitutional, but that is not my over-arching point here. Rather, this is about the carelessness of Frum’s assertions and his egregious misstating of facts. This is about an opinion piece from a so-called “conservative” perspective so badly done, it would almost have to be a parody. It’s about a poorly constructed, terribly presented, ill-conceived joke of an article coming from someone who should have stayed away from his word processor last week.

I’ll focus on two small passages.

Frum writes:

DeMint’s and Ensign’s argument against the constitutionality of the Obama-Reid health reform rests upon the ancient theory of enumerated powers. Under this theory, Congress may do only what the Constitution specifically authorizes Congress to do. Since (for example) the Constitution speaks only of a Supreme Court, Congress has no power to create lower federal courts. Since the Constitution does not mention a national bank, Congress may not charter banks.

To begin with, the Constitution does grant Congress the power to create lower federal courts – in the plainest of English (Article III, Section I):

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

This is one of those “gotcha” moments that is so obvious, so conspicuous, so void of any challenge in counter-arguing his allegation, that it isn’t even fun to take the time to point it out.

Not exactly hidden in the eminations and penumbras, is it?

As far as the Constitution not mentioning a national bank, Frum is absolutely right. In fact, Thomas Jefferson took what would today be called the “strict constructionist’s” position in opposing Alexander Hamilton’s initiative of establishing the First Bank of the United States. Hamilton argued that the “Necessary and Proper Clause” of the Constitution authorized the federal government to execute already existing powers enumerated in the Constitution – taxation, in this case – and thus, allowed for the establishment of the bank (later upheld in McCulloch v. Maryland -1819).

But what Constitutional passage authorizes the federal government to compel its citizens to purchase health insurance?

What already enumerated power grants the federal government such authority?

Where in the Constitution can it even be suggested that Congress shall have the power (enumerated or implied) to force citizens to purchase anything?

A fair question, no?

And as far as Frum’s “ancient theory of enumerated powers” remark is concerned, I must ask … is it possible for one person to be as blatantly wrong as he is arrogant? Does the word “stupid” fit?

Did Frum put any thought into his piece at all?

While no one can deny that a “limited powers” argument – at least in terms of the Framers’ interpretation – is a difficult one to make in today’s day and age of endless entitlements and endless bureacracy, how can he contend with a straight face that enumerated powers are an “ancient theory?”

Are there no boundaries then on what Congress may do? Is there no whim or agenda beyond restraint?

If Congress can, essentially, do whatever it damn well pleases, as Frum’s argument seems to suggest – even under the authority of the “Necessary and Proper Clause”  – what would be the point of acknowledging enumerated powers to begin with?

Why recognizee them at all? Why not just make it up as they go along?

Mr. Frum seems to believe that today’s conservative should just roll over and concede that ever-expanding government is a foregone conclusion. It’s just a matter of pushing back a little every now and then to keep things honest. Those antiquated “limited government” principles are quaint and all, but they have no relevance today.

He also writes:

The federal government already requires every American to purchase health insurance. That’s what Medicare does. The difference now is that everyone will be required to buy a private plan to cover them up to age 65 in addition to the government-run plan they are compelled to buy to cover them after 65.

This may be the most embarrassing paragraph of all.

Let’s be clear … Medicare is a tax. American citizens who earn income via wages are required to pay this tax. The money collected from this tax is intended to be returned in the form of government benefits (i.e., Medicare). That’s how it is set up to function. Simple really.

ObamaCare, by contrast, makes it illegal not to purchase a free-market good from a private entity. It literally requires one to buy something or else be punished. The fines from such a punishment would then be collected as a tax. Jail time is a possibility, too.

How in the world is that constitutional?

Congress has never mandated that its citizens purchase anything at any time.

There is no precedent.

Recall that President Franklin Roosevelt tried to initially peddle Social Security as a compulsory insurance plan. It didn’t fly. Eventually, it was sold as a mandatory tax.

But even Alexander Hamilton did not believe that Congress’ charge to “provide for the … general welfare” gave it the power to do as it saw fit. He actually sounded much like Jefferson and Madison on the matter when authoring his Federalist essays. While he believed the First Bank of the United States was a constitutional venture because it was necessary in the federal government’s function to “collect taxes” as enumerated in Article I, Section VIII, he still took a very narrow view of providing for the “general welfare” – far different than today’s big-government, liberty-crushing Obamacrats see it.

In arguing against the Bill of Rights in Federalist 84, for example, Hamilton wrote:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous.

They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power. They might urge with a semblance of reason, that the Constitution ought not to be charged with the absurdity of providing against the abuse of an authority which was not given, and that the provision against restraining the liberty of the press afforded a clear implication, that a power to prescribe proper regulations concerning it was intended to be vested in the national government.

This may serve as a specimen of the numerous handles which would be given to the doctrine of constructive powers, by the indulgence of an injudicious zeal for bills of rights.

These sound like the opinions of a man who would, today, be called a “strict constructionist” – even though he was a Federalist (the opposition party of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans).

To Frum, the thoughts and interpretations of the “ancient ones” – those who who were actually there at the Constitution’s creation – have little relevance today.

Kind of like Frum in the arena of ideas.

 

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UNCONSTITUTIONAL? MAYBE, MAYBE …

Posted by Andrew Roman on December 22, 2009

Senator Lindsey Graham

Zip, at the great Weasel Zippers blog, wrote precisely what I was thinking about South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “For once I can wholeheartedly agree with Graham.”

It does sound funny to say, I admit.

To be fair, Graham was quite good – great, in fact – in questioning Attorney General Eric Holder not too long ago about President Obama’s decision (and make no mistake about it, it was Obama’s decision) to try the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in civilian court.

Obviously, it isn’t unheard of that Graham would say something that makes sense. It just doesn’t happen as often as it should.

For instance, on Sunday, he was definitely on his game when he said that the agreements reached with various Senators leading up to the passage of Harry Reid’s  “manager’s amendment” was the result of “seedy Chicago politics.”

Spot on.

Today, Graham was even better.

Earlier, Graham said that the deal given to the State of Nebraska in exchange for Ben Nelson’s support of ObamaCare (or ReidCare, if you prefer) may be Constitutionally unsound.

Susan Jones, Senior Editor at CSN News writes:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is blasting the deal Democrats made with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in exchange for Nelson’s vote to advance the health care bill.

In exchange for Nelson’s critical 60th vote to cut off debate early Monday morning, Sen. Harry Reid agreed that the federal government would pick up 100 percent of the tab for the planned Medicaid expansion in Nebraska – forever.

“Legally, I think other states can make a constitutional challenge,” Graham said in an appearance on Fox & Friends Tuesday morning.

Instead of negotiating in public, there was a back-room deal, Graham said. “It goes sort of like this,” Graham said, imitating Democratic leaders:

“What do you need, Ben, for this last vote? Well, I tell you what, Medicaid’s expanding under this bill for everybody in the country…Ben, what would happen if we let Nebraska expand their Medicaid enrollment and the federal government pay for it?’”

“Done!’” Graham said, imitating Ben Nelson.

Graham recited a list of things that are not fair about the Democrats’ health care bill – including the unfairness of giving a special deal to the people of Nebraska to get one senator’s vote “and not share that deal with the rest of the country.”

One can make the argument – and a damn good one – that Ben Nelson’s sweetheart buy-out does not pass the constitutional smell taste. The notion that one state should be singled out for non-emergency preferential treatment under a federal law (unlike disaster relief after a hurricane, for example) at the expense of other states might prompt some sort of constitutional challenge. In effect, the feds would be commanding other states to foot Nebraska’s bill for Medicaid. It might be enough to get some eagle-eyed constitutionalists wondering if such a thing doesn’t violate the tenth amendment. Maybe even the fourteenth.

Earlier today, on his talk radio program, Dennis Prager was speaking with Martin Gross, bestselling New York Times author of such books as “National Suicide: How Washington is Destroying the American Dream” and “The Government Racket: Washington Waste From A to Z”:

Gross: [The federal government is} now telling the states that they have to pay for Nebraska. All the Republicans have to do is have an emergency call of the Supreme Court and point out that it’s a “crisis,” and have the Court, within a week, give a decision. And the Court – unless they’re illiterate in a judicial sense – they’re going to say it’s unconstitutional to get Nebraska off the hook when you have a health care bill.

And the Republicans should do it very rapidly, get a decision, and the bill will be dead, because it is plainly unconstitutional. It violates the federal and state compacts of the Tenth Amendment.

Prager: I will pose this question to Senator Kyle tomorrow.

Gross: Good. Good. Good.

Prager: have you posed this to any Republicans in office?

Gross: This is the first time I’ve mentioned it.

Prager: With all your knowledge, you do not know of a precedent of a federal bill – a congressional bill – that isolated a state?

Gross: Never before in history. They’re giving [Louisiana Senator Mary] Landrieu the $300 billion because of the disaster in New Orleans. That might pass or it might not pass. But the Nebraska thing is a pure anti-Constitutional violation of the Tenth Amendment which specifies federal and state opportunities and obligations. You cannot take from New York and Connecticut and give it to Nebraska – not only for an emergency period – this is forever.

Another point of constitutionality could be in the fact that this bill requires people to purchase health insurance. Earlier today, Nevada Senator John Ensign said, “”I don’t believe Congress has the legal or moral authority to force this mandate on its citizens.”

And while there is obviously nothing in the Constitution requiring American citizens to purchase anything, ObamaCare proponents will fall back on the old stand-by of citing the Commerce Clause as its reason for annexing 16% of the American economy.  (You knew that was coming).

What doesn’t the Commerce Clause cover in lib-world? It is the justification for everything leftocrats feel they need to be in control of for the betterment of the nation. It gets more of a workout than Tiger Woods’ wood. (Golf club, I mean).

And for those who like to use the requirement of automobile insurance as a means of validating mandatory health care, the comparison is painfully flawed. First, the main purpose of auto insurance is not – repeat not – to make sure drivers themselves are covered. It’s to make sure that other drivers are covered in the event of an accident. Second, auto insurance is only required if one chooses to drive. Third, auto insurance is not a federal issue. It is a state issue.

Assuming that a health care bill eventually does become law – after what will be, at the very minimum, a whole lot of screamin and yelling between House and Senate Dems – and these constitutional challenges do, indeed, make it to the Supreme Court, it becomes abundantly clear why it is absolutely necessary to elect the right people to the Presidency (literally and figuratively).

It is the Chief Executive who appoints justices to the Supreme Court.

If, for instance, the moderate John McCain would have won the election last November, and the question of this health care law’s constitutionality came before the Supreme Court with an appointee of his as David Souter’s replacement – a strict constructionist – the bill would almost certainly face the death it deserves … which it may anyway.

There is hardly a Presidential legacy more enduring than whom he appoints to the Supreme Court – except maybe that of government run health care.

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ACLU: A CHURCH IS NO PLACE FOR THAT

Posted by Andrew Roman on November 19, 2009

Inside the First Cathedral of Bloomfield

When the American Civil Liberties Union issues a warning, you can be sure of two things: one, that liberty itself is about to come under assault in some context, and two, that a whole lot of powerful, highly-paid, hot-shot attorneys looking for a slot on Rachel Maddow’s show are going to disfigure the Constitution in the name of whatever their latest crusade is.

Like starving buzzards – or Al Sharpton – they sit coiled and ready, just out of eye sight, waiting for a one tasty morsel of what they perceive as incivility to hit the floor before swooping in.

When they do, it is a spectacular sight to behold.

The ferocity with which they infiltrate and operate is unmatched. Liberty-loving people scatter like field mice while a few bitter bellyachers do whatever is necessary to make sure everyone is allotted their fair share of misery in the name of equality. These jack-booted deliverers of lawsuits and Godlessness come in the name of justice to level playing fields and protect people from civil rights violations.

They’re amazing – like microwave ovens, or the Wonder Twins.

And so it is that the ACLU – which is neither civil nor interested in protecting liberties – has warned the Enfield, Connecticut school board that it had better rethink its decision to hold graduation ceremonies in a church … or else.

From WTNH-TV:

The ACLU of Connecticut is warning the Enfield school board to stop holding graduation ceremonies at a Bloomfield megachurch, claiming the graduates and their families are unconstitutionally being subjected to religious messages.

The ACLU, the national ACLU’s Freedom of Religion and Belief Project, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sent a letter Wednesday to the attorney for the Enfield Public Schools. They’re threatening to sue if the district doesn’t change the graduation location.
A message left seeking with the Enfield superintendent of schools was not immediately returned.

David McGuire, an ACLU attorney, says ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Ernico Fermi High School have been held for several years at The First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

My first instinct, of course, was to comment on the ridiculously paranoid contention by the ever-acrimonious “Separation of Church and State” set that visitors who have come to attend graduation ceremonies will be subjected to anything other than tedious speeches from wordy over-achievers simply by entering a building where religious services take place. How exactly? What “constitutional” protections are being violated? What “civil rights” are being infringed upon? These are not religious ceremonies. No one is being made to convert.

Indeed, I was well prepared to unleash my reasoned arguments on what sounded like a typical, liberty-squashing, secularism-über-alles ACLU power play.

However, the story is apparently missing some key elements that I am happy to convey here for the first time.

In the past, all graduating students and their guests, upon entry into the megachurch, were handed crucifixes and told to press them tight against their chests with their right hands. (Each crucifix was treated with a powerful psychtropic solution that was released into the body upon contact). Every patron was promptly handed a card that read “We are all Christians now” while an usher discretely administered small doses of electric current to each visitor’s left temple. At the same time as this, a sound recording with a menacing voice repeating the phrase, “Jesus is your master” filled the beautifully decorated lobby while gift baskets stuffed with Paul of Tarsus raspberry-filled chocolate figurines were handed out. After the strip searches and inoculations were completed, all were re-clothed appropriately and led into the sanctuary where “Obey Jesus” buttons were affixed to each shroud. Patrons were then seated as they were made to repeat the phrase, “Church and State, Forever Great!” two-hundred times.

Diplomas were eventually handed out to the children, but not before electronic “baptism” chips were implanted into the necks of all attendees and “Loyalty to Jesus” oaths were signed by everyone.

That changes everything.

What would we do without the ACLU?

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HOW’S THAT PREAMBLE GO?

Posted by Andrew Roman on November 5, 2009

senator burris

Interviewing Senator Burris (D-Ill)

The problem with the Constitution, aside from it being a document of negative liberties, is that in order for it to be applied correctly to today’s ever-changing, ever-transforming America, it requires learned men and women to put it all in context for us. The Constitution, ever-breathing and ever-flexible, can only make sense if the most nuanced among continue to negotiate their way through the emanations and penumbras of its two-century old text and explain to the rest of us what it really means.

One may liken the Constitution to a mansion – or castle – with an abundance of secret passages and hidden rooms in which one may potentially find lots of hidden treasures. In those terms, one can begin to understand the basis of the liberal relationship with that document.

It lives.

Sometimes, however, mere interpretation isn’t enough. There are times when actual words are cited from the Constitution that, somehow, managed to elude over two-hundred years of scholarly review and casual perusal.

It’s convenient, not unlike finding a twenty-dollar bill outside of the Off-Track-Betting place.

Barack Obama’s Senate replacement in Illinois, Roland Burris, is apparently one of those men with the unusual talent to see things that aren’t there.

Not dead people, but words.

Burris must never have watched School House Rock with his children when he was a younger man. My guess is he’s probably not revisited the Constitution in many years.

Curiously, his version of the Preamble contains more words than the one I know.

Nicholas Ballasy, video reporter from CNS News, writes:

When asked by CNSNews.com what specific part of the Constitution authorizes Congress to mandate that individuals must purchase health insurance, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) pointed to the part of the Constitution that he says authorizes the federal government “to provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.” In fact, the word “health” appears nowhere in the Constitution.

“Well, that’s under certainly the laws of the–protect the health, welfare of the country,” said Burris. “That’s under the Constitution. We’re not even dealing with any constitutionality here. Should we move in that direction? What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.”

Wait, it gets better.

James O’Connor, Burris’s communications director, later told CNSNews.com that although the word “health” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, the senator was referring to the Preamble of the Constitution which says the following:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Burris’s comment “indicates his belief that the term ‘general welfare’ can be interpreted to include the health and well-being of American citizens, and health care in general,” said O’Connor.

Under such an interpretation, the federal government would, thus, have the power to do whatever the hell it felt like doing in the name of promoting the “general welfare.”

First of all, the Preamble, in and of itself, carries no legal weight. It neither grants nor limits the power of the federal government. Rather, it exists to state the purpose of the document to follow. At the time of the Constitution’s creation, the Preamble was, quite literally, an afterthought.

But even if, in Senator Burris’ world of pliable interpretations and magical authorizations, the Constitution’s Preamble had substantive legal significance, the phrase “general welfare” does not mean that the federal government is obliged, either legally or morally, to provide healthcare to its citizens. It does not mean “welfare” in the sense that we have come to know it – namely, government entitlements.

Far from it.

It simply means that unless something applies to everyone, instead of to specific segments of the population or special interest groups (i.e., the uninsured), it is not within the federal government’s authority to involve itself. The term “general” means that it applies to the whole group, rather than individual subgroups.

It does the heart good to know that our elected officials are so in tune with the document they are there to “support and defend.”

(Yes, it is part of a Senator’s oath).

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MORE FIRST AMENDMENT MUSINGS – A FOLLOW UP

Posted by Andrew Roman on August 9, 2009

Establishment Clause

Since posting my piece First Amendmant Musings” on Thursday, I’ve received some marvelously thoughtful e-mails and commentary. Thanks so much to everyone. (Please feel free to post your thoughts publicly on the blog.  E-mails are nice, but I do not post comments that come via e-mail). I especially wish to thank Doug Indeap who posted a most attentive, reasoned and well-written response. (Please read it).

My fear in posting the original article was that the discussion might evolve into yet another argument about the existence of God. While it is, indeed, a discussion I revel in engaging in (for what is more profound than contemplating the existence of God?), it was not the point of “First Amendment Musings,” nor did I wish it to be. Rather, I wanted to make the historical case for religiosity being an accepted (some would say necessary) influence and component to an effectively functioning – yes, secular –  government. The irony is, it is the secular nature of the Constitution enables the United States to continue to be the most religious nation  in the free world. I submit that The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as written and understood by the Framers of the Constitution, simply does not require, nor call for, religion to be sequestered from government function.

In today’s era of ever-expanding federal government – and the slow correlative corrosion of personal liberties – the “separation of church and state” debate isn’t simply a matter of making a definitional distinction between that which is considered the “public square” and that which falls under the awning of “government.”

For one, government has become more and more intrusive in the lives of Americans over the course of time. Thus, those elements that have historically been outside the realm of government control have shifted – and continue to shift – into their ever-annexing clutches (health care, the automobile industry, the banking industry). The idea that religion – specifically the free exercise thereof – is somehow immune from the metastasizing influence of the federal government is naive. The Supreme Court already has twisted the Establishment Clause far from the Framers’ intent – from validating the so-called erection of the Jeffersonian wall separating government and religion, to the removal of prayer in public schools, to the ongoing battles to make the Pledge of Allegiance (with its reference to God) unconstitutional.

Second, the concept of separating “church and state” – a phrase I find particularly obnoxious – has evolved disjointedly into an unfounded belief that the banishing of all things religious from public settings, such as city parks, town squares, government buildings and city streets is (or can be found to be) constitutionally sound.

“Separationists” and sympathetic organizations (such as the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation) allege that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is being violated when, for instance, a nativity scene is put up on the grounds of a city hall; or when students participate in Easter plays at school; or when the tablets displaying the Ten Commandments are visible at a county court house; or when public prayers are conducted at high school football games. Indeed, each year, stories from across the country tell of “offended” people who demand that Christmas lights be taken down from the neighborhood playground, or that decorations along streets be removed because of some phantom violation of the Establishment Clause.

These are things that are happening regularly in this country – and they are entirely inconsistent with the Founders’ understanding of religion, its role in society, and their vision of keeping the federal government from meddling with religious liberties.

It isn’t clear exactly how such aforementioned activities translate into a Congressional establishment of religion or an infringement of the free exercise thereof, but clearly, a century and a half of pre-Hugo Black originalist interpretations of the First Amendment didn’t prevent ardent “separationists” from pursuing their “separation of church and state” agendas.

And that is really what sits at the heart of this entire discussion – the fallacious “separation of church and state” arguments, all based on one misinterpreted private letter written by one man who wasn’t even in the country when the content of the First Amendment was originally debated and created.

Justice Hugo Black

Justice Hugo Black

The idea of such a thing – a constitutionally judicious argument for the “separation of church and state” based on a phrase pilfered from a Thomas Jefferson letter – is a concocted notion that has been nurtured and normalized thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s “incorporation” of the Establishment Clause in the 1947 Everson vs Board of Education case – that is, the Supreme Court’s application of the Establishment Clause directly to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As originally intended and applied by those who wrote the First Amendment, the modern view of the Establishment Clause – born with that case – is almost unrecognizable.

Whereas the Establishment Clause was originally designed to protect the states, Everson vs Board of Education effectively took power away from the sovereign states – and thus delivered a blow to federalism itself. In other words, all federal “church and state” cases were to be exercised against state laws.

Justice Hugo Black, writing for a 5-4 majority, adopted the position that government shall not be touched by or tainted by religion in any way, nor will the business of government be conducted under its influence. In using the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause to apply the Establishment Clause to the states, the Founders’ original intent was forever altered.

Black wrote:

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

Even if one subscribes to the idea of the First Amendment erecting a wall between church and state, the notion that the wall is to be “impregnable” is spun from whole cloth, without an iota of corroborating history or tradition.

The Framers wanted to make certain that the new federal government did not infringe on the growing religious freedom and tolerance taking root across much of the young nation. Despite popular modern day rhetoric to the contrary, they did not wish to ensure that religion was without influence on government at all costs. In truth, there is much from the era of the founding that indicates that the vast majority of Framers supported religion because it helped to foster a more virtuous population, something that was deemed crucial for a free society to function successfully.

Take, for instance, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, reenacted by the First Congress:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.

Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in the 1985 case Wallace v Jaffree, argued:

The Establishment Clause did not require government neutrality between religion and irreleigion, nor did it prohibit the Federal Government from providing nondiscriminitory aid to religion. There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the Framers intended to build a “wall of separation’ that was constitutionalized in Everson.

Indeed, the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed that there existed one law for all men, the Law of our Creator – the Natural Law on which the Founders built this nation. As talk show host and constitutional attorney Mark Levin writes in his book Liberty and Tyranny:

In 1776, when representatives of the colonies signed the Declaration, they did so for the first time as representatives of states and as part of a loose confederation. The designation of the colonies as states did not erase the long histories and traditions of the former colonies. Many continued to promote religion with taxes and land grants. Some states required officials to affirm their allegiance to a particular religion or religious sect by way of an oath, although this practice was dropped a few decades after the founding. And some states continued to discriminate against certain religions. But when they bound themselves to the Declaration’s principles, they bound themselves to, among other things, religious liberty. It is little understood that the Declaration was a declaration of political and religious liberty.

The Declaration’s most famous passage reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

While the Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land, it is quintessential in understanding and establishing the foundation of principles on which the United States of America was constructed. And because any and all discussions of the Constitution (adopted eleven years after the Declaration), and the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights (added four years after that), can only be properly scrutinized if the intent of the Founders is taken into consideration, the Declaration of Independence, with its “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” is critical to that task.

The Founders’ believed that rights could not be bestowed by men upon other men – and thus they could not be taken away by other men; these rights, they affirmed, can only come from God.

Thus, in crafting the Constitution, the Framers were very specific in the words they chose.

It is in their meaning of the words that the interpretation of the Constitution is best rooted.

James Madison said:

Father of the Constitution, James Madison

Father of the Constitution, James Madison

I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers.

If the meaning of the text be sought in the changeable meaning of the words composing it, it is evident that the shapes and attributes of the Government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject.

What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense. And that the language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founders, will I believe appear to all unbiased Enquirers into the history of its origin and adoption.

 

Indeed, the majority of the Framers were opposed to the establishment a national church for fear that it would threaten the free exercise of religion and take away powers rightfully assigned to the sovereign states.

That is the key – and it is most relevant.

Interestingly enough, the Establishment Clause actually served to protect established state churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina and Maryland at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Antithetical to today’s conventional wisdom, the men of that generation thought it perfectly acceptable for religion to play an influential role on how government conducted itself.

As Michael Medved writes in his book The 10 Big Lies About America:

In his first inaugural address George Washington declared his ‘first official act” his “fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe” that He might bless the new government.

In his farewell address, President Washington said, “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese writes, “There is nothing in the drafting history of the First Amendment that contradicts Washington’s understanding of the appropriate relationship between government and religion.”

In his book The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, Meese details the evolution of the Establishment Clause:

In the First Congress, the committee proposal in the House read, “no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.” But some evinced concern that the phrase might put in doubt the legitimacy of some of the states’ own religious establishments.

James Madison believed modifying the phrasing to prohibit a “national religion” would be sufficient to allay that concern and would make clear that the new government was not to impinge on the rights of conscience by establishing a governmental connection to a church.

Representative Samuel Livermore of New Hampshire suggested that “Congress shall make no laws touching religion or the rights of conscience.”

The House finally settled on this language: “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of Conscience be infringed.”

The Senate preferred the formula “Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion,” which likely would have permitted direct financial support to a sect.

In the end, the conference between the House and the Senate agreed on the current version: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The addition of the word “respecting” is significant.

It prohibits Congress from legislating either to establish a national religion or to disestablish a state religion.

Meese goes on to quote Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor at Harvard – considered one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the country – who wrote, “A growing body of evidence suggests that the Framers principally intended the Establishment of Religion Clause to perform two functions: to protect state religious establishments from national displacement, and to prevent the national government from aiding some, but not all, religions.”

The unrelenting separationists of today, with the help of mass media, the entertainment industry, and the post-Hugo Black thinkocracy, have harvested such influence and power in the culture – beyond the basic intention of keeping government religion-free – that religion is increasingly perceived as best removed altogether from public influence. Such thinking would have been implausible to the founding generation – even Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The idea that Christian services actually took place in the Capitol Building at one time – and attended regularly by such “deists” as Thomas Jefferson – would probably surprise a great deal of people. That many of the men who participated in drafting the First Amendment also attended these religious services in the federal Capitol Building is, too, deliciously ironic.

Michael Medved writes:

In Ten Tortured Words, an invaluable book on the Establishment Clause, Stephen Mansfield writes: “For all of that generation, the understanding was certain that the states were permitted to establish religion or support religion as aggressively as the people allowed.” President Jefferson explicitly shared that viewpoint, expressed in a public address of March 1805: “In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.”

Sadly, it has become increasingly acceptable over the course of the last half-century to view religion as a largely private matter meant to yield minimal impact on the culture at large. For many, that’s what the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has come to mean. Even the City of Los Angeles, under pressure from fervent separationists, acquiesced to their demands and removed a cross from its city seal, despite the fact that religion played a major role in the city’s founding. (“City of Angels”).

If, for instance, public schools allot a minute each morning for students to pray if they so choose, how exactly is that inconsistent with the First Amendment? Has the federal government mandated that the student is required to believe in God? Has a theocracy been established? Has the student been required to change his religious affiliation (if he has any), or even pray at all?

Of course not.

The fact that such actions offend some or make others feel unsettled may be unfortunate, but it is irrelevant to the constitutionality of those actions in regard to the Establishment Clause. If being offended was a sound criterion for prohibiting an action, the entire constitution could be found unconstitutional. The fact is, people are offended all the time by government actions. That does not make the action unconstitutional.

The Framers made sure that the Constitution created a secular federal government with limited powers and very specific restrictions –  including prohibiting the creation of a national religion. Time has seen the Framers’ intent turned into what is now a seemingly natural and obvious antagonism between religion and government.

It is a sad reality with no historical basis.

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FIRST AMENDMENT MUSINGS

Posted by Andrew Roman on August 6, 2009

first amendment

<Isn't it amazing what a work-out our First Amendment gets? Three commas, two semi-colons and a single period help to separate and punctuate the forty-five words that comprise it. Of those forty-five, none seem to foster such cultural disconnect from the Founder’s intent nearly as much as the first sixteen do. Plain, unambiguous and rock-solid as they appear to be to a two-dimensional originalist like myself, the “big sixteen” are apparently far more malleable than I’d ever realized, laden with nuance and intricacies that even the Founding Fathers were too short-sighted to recognize.

Having been through the first sixteen words of the first amendment hundreds of times, I’ve often wondered if I might ever see what others see in them. I’ve speculated that if I perhaps read carefully enough and concentrate intently, I might unearth something buried within, perhaps discovering something masterfully woven into the text I hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to crack that elusive third dimension and continue to come up with nothing other than what the Founders wrote:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Simpleton that I am, I find nothing indistinct. To me, the phrase “establishment of religion” means designating one specific faith as the official religion of the land and calling it something like the “Church of the United States.”

Fortunately, this will never come to pass, nor could it.

All of this seems fairly straightforward, yet “the big sixteen” have inexplicably been twisted by those charged with interpreting and caring for them into somehow meaning that no religious designation of any kind shall be acknowledged, referenced, mentioned or disseminated in any place considered a public setting or forum within the United States, lest it be considered to have been “established” by the federal government. I look across this great country – from Los Angeles, California to rural Kentucky – and see a sad and frightening trend. I see a religious heritage being stripped and banished from the public square by those who have managed to discover things in those sixteen words that simply aren’t there, reinterpreting them to the point where they are actually abolishing the “free exercise thereof.”

A palpable question is: Since when is displaying a religious symbol or acknowledging a religion publicly the same as establishing a religion?

First, the obvious point … that one sentence in a private letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Connecticut religious group should, nearly a century-and-a-half after the fact, be the unembellished foundation for the trite, belabored, utilitarian argument for a “wall of separation between church and state” is laughable.

Of course, Jefferson was a slave-holder, so his credibility takes an immediate hit on any issues inconsistent with modern liberalism.

Jefferson’s one-time use of the term in a personal letter was actually written as an attempt at finding common ground with the Baptist community, of which he was not a member. In hoping to ease their concerns, and responding to spreading rumors that a national religion was close to being established (the Congregationalists), Jefferson chose to employ the language and style spoken by Roger Williams, a well-known Baptist preacher, to make his point. Williams had said:

“When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself.”

Jefferson thus wrote:

“I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Second, and most important, even if people like Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington were not openly religious people and did not wear their faith on their sleeves (whatever that faith may have been), it only lends more strength and credence to the countless writings put forth by almost all of the Founding Fathers that without religion and God in everyday life, virtue and morality cannot exist. For instance if, for the sake of argument, Jefferson was an openly acknowledged agnostic (and he certainly wasn’t), the First Amendment is even that much more relevant and the vision and wisdom of the Founding Fathers that much more obvious.

It isn’t. That’s the dirty little secret. I know these sorts of things tend to frighten clacking yackers of modern liberalism – more so than, say, the threat of Islamo-fascist terrorism – but they needn’t worry.
Melting glaciers, second-hand smoke and fatty cooking oil will devastate the planet before Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the Illuminati are afforded the opportunity to successfully institute a federally mandated religion.

It’ll be close, though.

JeffersonThe oft-alluded to “separation of church and state” clause exists nowhere in the federal Constitution. (This should be a booming “well, duh” factoid by now). Thomas Jefferson’s use of the term in a personal letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802 – eleven years after the Bill of Rights was ratified – and regularly cited by modern secularists and anti-constitutionalists (a phrase coined by talk-show host Mark Levin, I believe) as the smoking gun to the Founding Fathers’ endorsement of removing God from the public square, was actually written by Jefferson as an attempt at finding common ground with the Baptist community, of which he was not a member.

Jefferson’s well-selected – and appropriate – words were meant as an assurance to the Danbury Baptists that there would never be an officially state-sanctioned religion for the United States of America.

So then, what exactly do the first sixteen words of the first amendment – the “big sixteen” – really mean?

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” said that the first amendment was worded as it was because “the people feared one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.” 

Note the word “sect.” It helps to illustrate a dirty little secret that may come as a surprise to the enlightened. The vast majority of the American population at the time of the founding was not only religious but also Christian. (There, I said it!) And comprising that overwhelming majority were many different Christian denominations – or “sects.” Thus, as Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, one of the founders of Harvard Law School and considered “the foremost of American legal writers,” wrote:

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.”

The Founders, in writing the establishment clause, were actually prohibiting the exclusivity of one Christian sect from becoming the national sect – not keeping religion altogether out of the public square. Read the words of North Carolina Governor Johnston during his state’s convention to discuss ratification of the Constitution. It lends wonderful insight into the national mindset regarding the ratification debate. He said:

“The people of Massachusetts and Connecticut are mostly Presbyterians. In every other state, the people are divided into a great number of sects. In Rhode Island, the tenets of the Baptists, I believe, prevail. In New York, they are divided very much: the most numerous are the Episcopalians and the Baptists. In New Jersey, they are as much divided as we are. In Pennsylvania, if any sect prevails more than others, it is that of the Quakers. In Maryland, the Episcopalians are most numerous, though there are other sects. In Virginia, there are many sects; you all know what their religious sentiments are. So in all the Southern States they differ; as also in New Hampshire. I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will see there is no cause of fear that any one religion shall be exclusively established.”

Quite obviously, there was never an intention to remove God from public view – only the desire to keep God in plain view without having to fear any sort of reprisal from the government.

Justice Joseph Story also wrote:

“We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment [in the First Amendment] to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution).”

Despite this, in 1947’s landmark case Everson v. Board of Education, the First Amendment was treated to a new, restrictive interpretation, reviving and subjecting the “separation of church and state” syntax to a twentieth century makeover. Thanks to Justice Hugo Black, the following words essentially paved the way for all subsequent restrictions placed on public religiosity.

Wrote Black:

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

I don’t even own a black robe, and I am saying categorically that he could not have been more wrong.

bill of rightsThe First Amendment “erects” nothing. Rather, it limits what Congress can do – namely, prohibiting the establishment of a state religion. It also prohibits Congress from restricting the free exercising of one’s religion, whatever it may be.

It’s certainly true that neither Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists or the writings of Joseph Story constitute law. Nor do the elucidations of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the Federalist Papers. The Constitution itself – in its succinct brilliance – is indeed the law of the land, and anything else is ultimately fodder for think tanks, opinion columns and debating societies. But to whom else should we turn to help explicate the meaning of the Constitution? To whom should the judiciary turn to in helping to determine the Constitutionality of disputes? Isn’t it invaluable to understand exactly what the founders intended when they composed the Constitution as well as the interpretations of their contemporaries? Aren’t their expositions and thoughts regarding the very document they created (of which there is an enormous wealth available) absolutely crucial to any interpretation of the Constitution? Isn’t it essential to put it all in proper context?

And isn’t it clear that the creators of the Constitution did not ever mean to vanquish religion from public life?
There.

Some research for you.

Can we agree that the old cliché “freedom OF religion is not freedom FROM religion” is entirely consistent with the Founder’s concept of America?
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Posted in Constitution, First Amendment, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A MOVEMENT, HE SAYS

Posted by Andrew Roman on July 28, 2009

Nebraska State Senator Bill Avery

Nebraska State Senator Bill Avery

Go Nebraska!

There are too many who conveniently forget (or are simply ignorant to the fact) that thirteen sovereign states gave birth to the federal government, not the other way around. The original thirteen states were not arbitrary divisions created by a national governing body to accommodate the fledgling plans of the Founding Fathers. Rather, what were in essence thirteen little nations came together over two centuries ago to create a system of government built on the nation’s founding document – the Declaration of Independence – that would secure the blessings of liberty as well as recognize and respect the sovereignty of each of those unique states. Thus, each of the thirteen states would be able to maintain its character and independence without the fear of a far reaching too-powerful central government meddling in its affairs.

There can be no doubt that the states would not have ratified the Constitution otherwise.

That system – federalism – as spelled out in the Constitution, would create a government with specifically enumerated powers, limited in its influence over the sovereign states, yet with just enough power to be effective as a governing body over a single nation.

Ingenious, really.

The first ten amendments to that Constitution detail the limitations of that federal government in respect to the liberty of the people.

There is no ambiguity in the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

It’s a fairly simple premise.

So what on God’s green earth does this have to do with Nebraska?

Martha Stoddard of the Omaha WORLD-HERALD BUREAU writes:

At least three Nebraska lawmakers want to send a message to the federal government:

Butt out of state business.

Next year they will see if a majority of their colleagues agrees.

The senators are working on resolutions asserting Nebraska’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.

Nebraska wouldn’t try to secede from the union under their proposals but would go on record objecting to federal laws that they say go beyond constitutional authority.

“My goal here is to shine light on the fact that the federal government is overstepping its bounds,” said State Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln. “We would be making a statement on behalf of Nebraska.”

As Stoddard points out in her article, such an action would be predictably dismissed by critics as silly symbolism or political posturing.

Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton

Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton

Typical of today’s liberal is to ignore the substance of any given debate – particularly when the facts are against them – and respond instinctively with ad-hominem attacks and knee-jerk aggression, complete with character-assasinating “ist” labels and game-breaking “isms” as a means of keeping up. Because leftists largely formulate public policy as an extension of their emotions, it is archetypical to mask their inability to be substantive by summoning the indignation of the constituency. Thus, if words like “racism” and “sexism” can somehow worm their way into the discussion, the playing field is not only level again, but the game has actually tipped decidedly in favor of the leftist. After all, once one of the no-no “isms” are thrown out there and attached to one of those short-sided “strict constructionist” types, the contest is all but over.

Sprinkle in a few choice words and phrases like “civil rights,” “equality” and “segregation” and victory is assured.

Take State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln who, according to Stoddard, said the Nebraska proposals sound disturbingly similar to the states’ rights arguments made in defense of racial segregation and laws blocking blacks from voting.

“The history of this movement is rife with racism in the name of states’ rights,” he said. “I’m not saying that the people making the case now are racist, but I don’t think Nebraska needs to be getting in bed with these kinds of resolutions.”

See how efficiently it is done? Without saying it, he said it. It is tactic that has become second-nature to leftocrats across the board.

Today’s liberal could find a way to spark a heated race debate over a bowl of oatmeal.

Avery made it perfectly clear that he was not – repeat not – calling anyone a racist.

No, of course not.

It was the furthest thing from his mind. Yet, somehow – with the ease of a beggar holding out his hand, or President Obama apologizing for the evil deeds of America – Avery managed to squeeze it in, just to remind everyone that he didn’t think that way, but that others might.

And please note Avery’s use of the word “movement.”

To Avery, the concept of “state’s rights” is not a Constitutional one. Rather, it is a “movement” – perhaps like the anti-nuclear movement, or a “Save the White-Nosed Monkey Squirrel” movement – outside of the mainstream, fostered by wackos, synonymous with racism. To him (and many like him), if one happens to believe in what the Founding Fathers created here – in the original intent of the Constitution – then one is caught up in a “movement.”

What does that make the Constitutional Convention of 1787? A sit-in? 

Is the Declaration of Independence a well punctuated “gripe list?”

It’s impossible to make this stuff up and have it sound believable.

But that’s what modern liberalism is all about … to make the implausible, the unsustainable, the undoable, the unworkable, the unsuccessful and the unthinkable a reality.

Oh yes, and one other thing … State Senator Tony Fulton, who prompted Avery to make his “racial” remarks by pointing out that the federal government was overstepping its bounds in Nebraska, is a man of Asain descent.

Avery, a college professor, is white.

Isn’t the irony delicious?

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Posted in American History, Conservatism, Constitution, History, politics, Racism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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