Sunday, June 19, 2005

Thou Shalt Not Enforce the 1st Amendment

In January of this year a federal court ruled that Gibson County, Indiana's courthouse lawn display of the Decalogue was in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Not content to permit the judiciary such latitude, U.S. Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind) decided to take the issue to Congress. This week, he succeded in attaching an amendment to a House appropriations bill that would prohibit federal funds from being used to enforce the ruling.

The New York Times, in an editorial yesterday, called on the Senate to excise the offensive provision:
Since the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison in 1803, it has been clearly established that the courts have the ultimate power to interpret the Constitution. But right-wing ideologues, unhappy with some of the courts' rulings, have begun to question this principle as part of a broader war on the federal judiciary. The amendment that passed this week reflected an effort to use Congress's power to stop the courts from standing up for the First Amendment and other constitutional principles.
According to an Associated Press story appearing in the Indianapolis Star, even Mr. Hostettler's local constituents are loathe to support his latest crusade:
Gibson County officials have distanced themselves from Hostettler, saying there was never any intent to defy the federal court order, which could prompt U.S. marshals to descend on the city to remove it instead.

“We’re law-abiding people,” said Jerry Stilwell, the Princeton attorney who defended the county in a lawsuit seeking the monument’s removal. “Whether we like the ruling or not is irrelevant.”
We probably have less than a week until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on two Ten Commandments display cases - depending on the reception given that opinion we might see more creative legislative attempts to eviscerate our Constitution.

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