Monthly Archives: May 2010

Stevens on Separation of Religion and Government

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has compiled some noteworthy quotations from the opinions of retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on the topic of religion-government separation.

That topic is one of the main reasons I’ll miss having Justice Stevens on the Court. In 1878 the Supreme Court quoted with approval a statement in a letter penned by Thomas Jefferson that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause set up “a wall of separation between church and State.” Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1878). Lofty rhetoric notwithstanding, the Supreme Court has never interpreted the Establishment Clause as actually requiring strict separation or anything even close to strict separation.  In one landmark case, the Court quoted Jefferson’s letter then promptly held that a state statute and local board of education resolution that  combined to authorize the use  of public funds to transport children to and from Catholic schools was A-OK. Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).

Stevens is the closest thing to a strict separationist the Court has ever had. A favorite example of mine (one that didn’t make AU’s list) comes from City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997). At issue in that case was the constitutionality of a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), passed in 1993 in response to a1990 Supreme Court ruling that many considered an overly narrow and restrictive view of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

The Supreme Court ruling was narrowly based. The majority in Flores held that RFRA was unconstitutional as applied to state and local governments because Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment – the power by which Congress purported to render RFRA applicable to those entities – didn’t extend quite so far.

Justice Stevens wrote a very short but much broader-based concurring opinion in which he concluded that RFRA “is a ‘law respecting an establishment of religion’ that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.” His rationale:

If the historic landmark on the hill in Boerne happened to be a museum or an art gallery owned by an atheist, it would not be eligible for an exemption from the city ordinances that forbid an enlargement of the structure. Because the landmark is owned by the Catholic Church, it is claimed that RFRA gives its owner a federal statutory entitlement to an exemption from a generally applicable, neutral civil law. Whether the Church would actually prevail under the statute or not, the statute has provided the Church with a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain. This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion, is forbidden by the First Amendment.

We may never have another  Supreme Court justice who favored  separation as thoroughly as Stevens does.

Advertisements

Small-Penised TSA Employee Jailed

Having a minuscule schlong is not an arrestable offense AFAIK, but criminal assault is.

A 44-year-old Transportation Safety Administration employee by the name of Rolando Negrin was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly beating up a co-worker. The perp worked as a screener at Miami International Airport. During a training session awhile back, he passed through one of those newfangled whole-body imaging machines, which apparently revealed a rather small schween.

The man’s co-workers have been giving him the business about the size of his dick ever since, and by Wednesday he’d apparently had enough. He’s accused of beating one of the alleged harassers with … um … a baton.

So in very short order this guy has gone from being the butt of jokes among TSA employees working Concourse J at Miami International Airport to being the butt of jokes among everyone, everywhere. Way to go, champ.

Birfer Hijinx

I saw  this on t3h intart00bsz yesterday and have been laughing pretty much nonstop ever since. Seems that a gaggle of angry, old, bald-headed white men united under the banner of something called American Grand Jury are really, really upset that Barack Obama is President of the United States. These folks are birfers (the term “birthers” is insufficiently derisive IMO), people who believe for whatever reason that Obama is not a natural born Citizen of the U.S. and thus ineligible to serve as president.

These guys are also “self-declared constitutional experts” looking to have a grand jury indict Obama for treason. It’s not going particularly well:

First, a Tennessee man was arrested after walking into his local county courthouse to try to effect a citizen’s arrest of a grand jury foreman who had refused to investigate President Obama’s legitimacy to serve — an encounter partially caught on video. That enraged one Georgia-based member of the far-right OathKeepers group. Responding to a call from an extremist leader, he drove to Tennessee with an AK-47 in a bid to get his comrade released — only to wind up getting arrested himself.

Entertainingly enough, the guy they were looking to arrest is the foreman of s state grand jury. The problem, apparently, is the foreman’s failure to have Obama investigated for treason, a federal crime. For constitutional law experts, these fellows don’t seem to understand federalism very well.

Also, what’s with all this carriage of commie weaponry? They certainly don’t make patridiots like they used to.

Having a black man serve as president has been illuminating on multiple levels. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that such a thing could happen at all, but it certainly has brought out the crazies in droves.

Incompetence: The New Expertise

So then, it seems that CNN is using Bush administration FEMA Director Michael “Heckuva Job, Brownie” Brown as an expert commentator! That’s right, it’s the very same Michael Brown who set records for stupidity and incompetence during the Hurricane Katrina disaster that may never be equaled.

Brown thinks that “[t]hey want a crisis like this, so that they can use a crisis like this to shut down offshore and gas drilling[.]” “They,” of course, refers to the Obama administration.

It’s a damn good thing we have a monolithically liberal mainstream media in this country. Were it otherwise, idiot right wing whackadoos like Michael Brown might end up as expert commentators on CNN and such.

It’s Kagan

It’s not official yet, but insiders are saying that Elena Kagan, a Harvard lawprof currently serving as the U.S. Solicitor General, is President Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  The move is entirely expected, since Kagan has been the frontrunner since Stevens announced his retirement.

It remains to be seen whether Kagan’s comment that the Senate confirmation process has become a “vapid  and hollow charade” will come back to bite her on the ass.  I suppose she could just say that she was speaking not of the process but rather of Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose bona-fides as a vapid and hollow charade are beyond question.

Sen. Sessions tells us what we Americans want in a Supreme Court justice here. Turns out that what we really want is someone “committed to the text of the Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers” instead of “an activist who will shed a judge’s neutral, constitutional role to push a progressive policy agenda.”

We’re also “looking for judges in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts, not Justice John Paul Stevens.” That’s good to know. Until reading that, I might have believed that I’d prefer a principled conservative jurist to a political hack. Silly me.

Nummy Num — Chocolate Milk!

Let it never be said that Republicans have a monopoly on flaming idiocy. Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) flew over the massive oil spill in Gulf of Mexico this weekend and declared it “not as bad as I thought.” In fact, the spill kinda looks like “chocolate milk” and t’ain’t no big deal because it’s breaking up all by itself.

Whew, that’s a relief!

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the well at issue continues dumping 200,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf and the spill has tripled in size over the past  three days.

Az. Governor: If You Love Terrorism So Much, Why Don’t You Marry It?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer took to Fox News the other day to offer a totally unassailable rationale for her decision to sign that overtly racist legislation:

“You know Arizona has been under terrorist attacks, if you will, with all of this illegal immigration that has been taking place on our very, very porous border,” Brewer said.

There you have it. Those poverty-stricken Mexicans risking life and limb crossing the border in hope of finding something that resembles a better life? Terrorist invaders is what they are.

As our old friend Illusory Tenant correctly points out, the U.S. Constitution places the job of protecting states from invasion squarely in the hands of Congress. The Justice Department, private attorneys, civil rights organizations and any others that might ultimately challenge the law in court would no doubt have figured out that angle on their own. Even so, it was awfully decent of Gov. Brewer to draw a big red circle around it.

Va. AG Goes All John Ashcroft on State Seal

The seal of the state of Virginia is really dumb looking. Its most prominent feature is a cartoon drawing of a lady standing triumphantly with one foot on the chest of an apparently lifeless gent lying on the floor. Both characters are dressed in something that looks like ancient Roman garb, and the drawing strongly suggests that the triumphant lady beat the lifeless gent to death with a gargantuan dildo during a role-play that got a little out of hand.

Trouble is, the cartoon lady’s toga has shifted to reveal a cartoon hooter. That doesn’t sit well with Ken Cuccinelli, the Ol’ Dominion’s current Attorney General. Like John Ashcroft before him, Mr. Cuccinelli has taken it upon himself to impose Christian decency upon slutty artwork. The AG has had new lapel pins issued for his staff. The new pins feature the same magnificently idiotic cartoon, but with the triumphant lady’s formerly exposed hooter covered up. A side-by-side comparison of the old and new lapel pins is available here.

You might recall Mr. Cuccinelli as one of the Republican state attorneys general who filed suit in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of recent federal health care reform legislation. The Florida litigation, which involved thirteen attorneys general, was apparently too anonymous for Cuccinelli, who filed his own separate lawsuit in a Virgina federal court.

Filing separately makes for better grandstanding, don’tcha know, and grandstanding is important when you ask a court to override the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.

Sic Semper Tyrannis indeed.