Tag Archives: First Amendment

Trump digs in against accusation of racism

“If you’re not happy here, then you can leave.”

There you have it. That’s the view of the president of the United States of those who have the temerity to criticize government policy, who seek radical change, who believe the government needs to do a better job for all Americans.

Donald Trump has doubled down on his racist Twitter rant against four congresswoman who have been highly critical of the government.

They are Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanne Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. What do these women have in common? They are women “of color.” That’s it. Oh, they also are all U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in this country; the fourth congresswoman, Omar, is a naturalized citizen.

Trump said they all could return to where they came from and fix the problems there. That, I submit, is one more testament to the stupidity that the president exhibits with shocking regularity.

I’ll make one final point: This nation was founded by dissenters. Its very first constitutional amendment speaks directly to the rights of citizens to seek “redress” from their government.

Trump doesn’t get that. He needs to read the U.S. Constitution. He needs to come to grips with its meaning and the philosophy that led to its ratification as the governing framework for this great nation.

Founders didn’t get it perfectly right … but they came close

I feel this need to come to the defense of our Founding Fathers over the work they did to create a “more perfect Union.”

The very words of the document they crafted to form the framework of our government — “more perfect Union” — recognize that the founders knew they hadn’t reached perfection.

I’ll tell you this: They came pretty close to it.

Accordingly, I also believe the founders would be horrified at how the political winds are blowing these days and, for that matter, have blown for some time. They would disapprove mightily of a president who seeks to usurp legislative authority by blocking Congress’s oversight responsibilities. They would bristle at the influence being exerted on our national election by foreign powers and the president’s seeming acceptance of it.

The founders would not like one bit the introduction of religion into our political debate, the notion being argued by many that this is a “Christian nation,” and who are horrified at officeholders who swear an oath to defend the Constitution by placing their hand on a holy book other than the Bible.

Our founders knew of the circumstances that brought their ancestors to this land in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were fleeing religious persecution. They did not want their government telling them how to worship. So, the founders ensured that the Constitution they would write would state specifically that Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion and that citizens were free to worship — or not worship — as they saw fit.

They wrote language into one of the articles that declared no office seeker should be held to a “religious test.”

Yes, the founders argued mightily as they crafted the Constitution over whether it should contain any reference to religion. The document refers to the “Creator” and officeholders swear to “God” to defend and protect the Constitution.

It is the secular nature of the Constitution, though, that protects us against the imposition of radical religious doctrine in our government — be it radical Christian, radical Muslim or radical anything.

The Constitution as it was ratified initially did have some serious flaws. It didn’t allow women to vote. It failed to outlaw the enslavement of human beings. It didn’t allow for the direct election of senators by citizens.

In the years since then, though, the descendants of those great men saw fit to improve the Constitution by fixing those egregious errors.

But the Constitution has held up over the course of 230 years. The separation of powers lined out in the document have kept the president in check. The Constitution has enabled Congress to rise up against abuses of power by the executive branch through impeachment. Indeed, we just might be on the verge of seeing yet another congressional uprising.

We have survived constitutional crises. We have done so because, as Gerald Rudolph Ford said upon ascending to the presidency in a time of monumental crisis that forced the resignation of his immediate predecessor, “Our Constitution works.”

Flag-burning ban … it’s back!

I am both not surprised but still amazed that this issue keeps coming back. Donald J. “Panderer in Chief” Trump says he is “all in” on a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit flag-burning as a form of political protest.

Oh, boy. Here we go. Again!

Trump put a Twitter message out this weekend that said he supports a “strong BAN on burning our American flag. A no brainer.”

He is backing a proposed amendment pushed by Republican U.S. Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Where can I possibly begin on this matter? Let me try this gambit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly already that flag-burning to make a political statement is protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free political speech. Even high court judicial conservatives, such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, have upheld the principle of keeping the First Amendment unfettered. According to the Washington Post, Scalia once said he’d prefer to jail “every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag. But I am not king.” He has joined SCOTUS majorities in upholding the action as a form of political speech.

I am one who cherishes what the flag symbolizes, which is the right to make an a** of oneself, which is what flag-burning does to anyone who burns a flag as a form of criticism of government policy. I have maintained for as long as I can remember that such an act does not win converts to a point of view. It only enrages Americans who — such as myself — who have gone to war under that flag and who love their country … even with its warts.

Banning the act of flag-burning doesn’t do a damn thing but please those who somehow equate a piece of cloth with the doctrine it represents. The flag is merely a symbol of something greater, which is individual liberty — which includes the rights of citizens to act stupidly.

But the president of the United States doesn’t see it that way. He chooses to hug the flag to make some kind of goofy showbiz point.

Judge suspended for popping off about POTUS

Talk about filling me with terribly mixed feelings!

I just have heard that the Utah Supreme Court has suspended a trial judge for six months — without pay! — for speaking ill of Donald Trump on social media and in the courtroom.

Judge Michael Kwan has bee popping off for some time about the president. He has posted Facebook messages and has said things in court that have disparaged the president.

A part of me happens to agree with the judge, that Trump is so very worthy of criticism.

However . . .

Not from a member of the judiciary who takes an oath to behave himself with dignity and to exercise utmost judicial decorum while serving the public. Judge Kwan has violated his oath.

According to NBC.com: Three days after the 2016 election, Kwan wrote on Facebook, “Think I’ll go to the shelter to adopt a cat before the President-Elect grabs them all” — a reference to the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump was heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without consent.

That’s a bit of a knee-slapper. It’s also not in keeping with the dignity of the court that Judge Kwan serves.

I’ve been yammering and yapping about Donald Trump’s lack of decorum as president of the United States. Fairness compels me to insist the same of those who hold dignified public offices that are ostensibly supposed to be out of reach of partisan politics.

NBC.com also reportsAlmost a month after Trump’s inauguration, Kwan said “welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover” and questioned whether Congressional Republicans would be “the American Reichstag,” this time referring to the political body of Nazi Germany.

Judge Kwan defended his online commentary by stating that he had a First Amendment right to share his views about elected officials’ political and social stances, calling it “constitutionally protected speech” and describing his statements as “social commentary or humor.”

Yes, the judge has a First Amendment right. His role as a trial judge, though, demands that he exercise the temperament worthy of the office he occupies.

Judge Kwan has failed.

‘Church/state separation’ surely is included in the Constitution

While the president of the United States renews his boast about how he has brought “Merry Christmas” back into fashion during the holy holiday, I am reminded yet again of a phony argument that many on the far right continue to use about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

A former colleague of mine at the Amarillo Globe-News was fond of saying how the Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state.” His argument, preposterous as it sounds, was that if the Constitution doesn’t state it declaratively then such “separation” does not exist.

I sought on more than one occasion to counsel him that the Constitution does not need to make an overt statement to stand on a principle.

The First Amendment says that Congress “shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. Right there, in plain English, is the separation of church and state argument.

I mention it because Donald Trump continues to extol the virtues of Christian belief in a nation comprising people of many religious faiths. It’s laughable that this president, given his sickening personal history, would even venture into that briar patch . . . but he does.

He told the nation just the other day that since he became president, people are saying “God” in public again, as if they ever stopped saying the word. Then he talked yet again about how business owners are instructing employees to wish customers “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season. That, by golly, is the way it should be, according to the president.

I need to remind those who read this blog who might be disposed to side with Trump on this matter that the Constitution is as clear as it can possibly be on the matter of religion.

The government does not require people to worship any deity. None. It declares that the absence of a state religion means that citizens are free to worship as they wish — or not worship at all, if that is their choice.

Church/state separation is a reality in our nation’s governing document. On that score — and, yes, they missed the mark on a few matters in the creation of this great nation — the founders got it exactly right.

POTUS to block ‘fake news’ outlets? No can do

Oh, please, Mr. President. You cannot do what you are threatening to do.

Just because the Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, has decided that Fox News is too much in bed with you and your administration and has ruled that Fox cannot host any Democratic primary debates this coming year, you cannot invoke the power of your high office to retaliate.

Really, Mr. President? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids that kind of interference from the government in the affairs of a free press. Really. It’s in there, Mr. President.

Tom Perez’s gambit falls outside the constitutional prohibition of such activity, given that the Constitution doesn’t even mention political parties.

What you are threatening to do, sir, flies directly in the face of what the founders intended when they provided specific protections for a private enterprise known as the “free press.” It’s the only such protection written into the Constitution. You would do well to read it, grasp what it means and stop this idiotic tit-for-tat game you’re playing with the media.

But I get that it plays well with your base. They love the grandstanding, the posturing, the hyperbole. They think you’re “telling it like it is.”

Actually, Mr. President, you’re telling it like you believe it is. Since your true believers agree with you, that’s all that matters to you.

Settle down, sir. Just stop that idiotic relationship with Fox News. Stop calling Sean Hannity and asking him for policy advice. He doesn’t know enough about the real world to give you any counsel that’s worth a damn as it is.

No ‘retribution,’ Mr. President; it’s not possible

How many times does one have to tell you, Mr. President, that you are not a monarch, or a dictator? You cannot bring “retribution” against a comedy show made famous by its parodies of powerful people.

But there you go again, threatening “Saturday Night Live” because it decided to spoof you yet again.

“SNL” trotted Alec Baldwin out to do that hilarious send-up of you and you just cannot stand being ridiculed. C’mon, Mr. President! Get a grip.

The comedy show has been doing this to presidents since 1975, when Chevy Chase poked fun at President Ford. It hasn’t stopped. They’ve all gotten the treatment. Not a single predecessor of yours has threatened “SNL” with any kind of political or legal payback.

And do I need to remind you once more, Mr. President, about that First Amendment matter? You truly need to read it, try to understand what it protects. It guarantees the right to worship as we please; it protects the press from government intervention; it says we can protest the government. It also says we can criticize the government without facing “retribution” from the government we are criticizing.

Your tweet about “SNL” was typically idiotic. As a reminder, you wrote:

Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

Total Republican hit jobs? They “get away” with it the way “SNL” poked fun at Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama. Those Democrats didn’t bitch constantly about “SNL.” For that matter, neither did the Republican presidents who had to take the heat, too.

I am tiring of repeating myself, Mr. President. Still, it bears repeating that you need to understand that positions of power invite this kind of treatment from the entertainment industry and the media. You are the most powerful man in the country, Mr. President.

You can act like it simply by stopping these mindless, brainless and feckless threats against a TV comedy show.

Study the Bible in church, not public schools

Hold on a second! Donald J. Trump now says he supports the notion of allowing public school students to study the Bible. He endorses the idea of students learning about the history of the Judeo-Christian holy book.

Let’s put the brakes on that one.

The founders created a secular document to govern the United States of America. The very first clause in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes a rule that Congress “shall make no law” that creates a state religion.

Legal scholars and courts have interpreted that to mean that government agencies — and that includes public schools — must avoid traveling down the slipperiest of slopes by allowing religious study in tax-supported schools.

So what is the president trying to do? My best guess is that he believes that the U.S. Supreme Court — which includes two justices he has appointed — would rule in favor of Bible study in public schools if the issue ever to reach the highest court on appeal.

Trump wrote this on Twitter: Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Legislators in six states are proposing Bible study in public schools. I guess it’s some sort of move to return “prayer in school,” which the Supreme Court rule in the early 1960s violates the First Amendment’s implied separation of church and state.

There’s a place for everything in this world of ours. I believe firmly that the place to study the Bible is in a house of worship. We should make our public schools the place where students can learn about math, science, civics, humanities, theater . . . and the whole host of curricula that teach them about their earthly world.

I’ll just offer this notion as well: If we are going to study the Bible in public school, do we then allow the study of works read by our non-Judeo Christian citizens?

That’s what I mean by the “slipperiest of slopes.”

Actually, Mr. POTUS, it’s all ‘legal’

Donald J. Trump continues to fly off the rails with his ongoing assault on the media.

Here is what he posted this morning on Twitter: A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?

If you can past the mangled syntax of this tweet, I’ll provide a simple explanation of why the president — as usual — is dead wrong.

Mr. President, it’s all “legal.” It’s protected by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says the government cannot interfere with what a “free press” reports. It says media freedom shall not be “abridged.”

How in the world do the courts rule on the accuracy of media reports? There is no defamation here. There is no slander. No libel.

I get that the president is uncomfortable with the tone of much of the media coverage.

One more time — but most certainly not the final time: It goes with the territory, Mr. President. The media are on duty to do precisely what they are doing at this moment. They are seeking to hold you and your administration accountable for your actions, your rhetoric and the myriad promises you make.

Yes, there is a church-state ‘separation’

A former colleague of mine used to insist that because the United States Constitution doesn’t contain the phrase “separation of church and state” that the concept somehow is not relevant.

Well, I would remind him that the First Amendment about a prohibition against writing laws that establish a state religion implies the separation graphically.

Enter the new man nominated to become the U.S. attorney general, William Barr. He has declared his skepticism about the “secular” state the founders created in the late 18th century. He wants to invoke “God’s law” when enforcing the laws of the land.

I am going to presume he means the laws of the Christian God. But what about the laws of all the other gods that Americans worship? The Islamic god, the Jewish god, the Hindu god, the Buddhist god, the Shinto god? Do they matter? Of course they do! Or at least they should.

Except the founders created a Constitution that say there should be no law passed “with respect” to a particular religion. It stipulates there should be “no religious test” for anyone seeking public office.

The words “Christian,” “Christianity” or “Jesus Christ” are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor does it mention “Jewish” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist” or “Hindu.”

So, to the AG-designate, I merely want to urge him to stick to enforcing the laws of the land, as enacted by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the courts.