Tag Archives: US Constitution

No doubt about it: U.S. is ‘secular nation’

An interesting argument has surfaced over the discussion about the use of Scripture to justify the separating of children from their parents as they enter the United States illegally.

It comes from the newspaper where I used to work, the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News.

Here’s the editorial with the title, “The Spiritual Double Standard.” 

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently cited Romans 13 to justify the policy of yanking kids from their parents along our southern border and housing them separately. It also seems to suggest that the United States might not be a “secular nation.”

Actually, the United States most certainly is a secular nation. Of that there can be no serious debate.

The founders intended to craft a governing document that is free of religious requirements. Their ancestors came to this world fleeing religious persecution. Right? Yes!

The editorial seems also to suggest that critics of the AG are targeting Christians. Hmm. I don’t believe that’s the case. The founders didn’t even mention Christianity in crafting the U.S. Constitution. The Amarillo Globe-News opined: This is becoming a common tactic of many of those who support open borders – attempting to shame Christians by pointing out how federal immigration laws are not in line with Christian teachings about how to treat your neighbors, immigrants, etc.

The secular nature of our government is not aimed at Christians. It excludes any religious litmus test for government. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … you name it.

The G-N also suggests that secularists shouldn’t use Scripture to debunk the AG’s citing of the New Testament to justify the policy.

Fine, except that if the attorney general is going to bring it up first, then it is totally fair for critics to use the Bible to rebut what they believe is his misdirected justification.

The G-N notes, “As the saying goes, you can’t have it both ways.”

Actually, in this instance, I believe you can.

Trump is violating his oath of office

Donald J. Trump took an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution and to protect our system of government from those who would seek to pervert it.

The Russians sought to pervert that government and our electoral process. The FBI got wind of it in real time during the 2016 presidential election and sought to use a confidential informant to get to the bottom of it.

Donald Trump’s response? He now accuses the FBI of “spying” on his campaign. He has lashed out at the FBI for doing its job, for seeking to do the very thing Trump’s oath called on him to do — which is to protect us against foreign interference.

The president has tossed that oath aside. He doesn’t give a damn about it! He doesn’t care that the Russians interfered in 2016 and are likely doing so in 2018; they well might try again in 2020.

Trump’s assertions and allegations against the FBI are virtually unprecedented in presidential history. Imagine for just a moment any president making up conspiracies. How should we react to the notion that our head of state is so dismissive of the FBI that he would put a confidential informant in jeopardy by referring to him as a “spy” empowered by the FBI to do political damage to his campaign?

The president is violating his oath. He is putting this country in the path of potentially grave peril.

Trump is proving a point I have sought to make since he announced his presidential campaign: He is categorically unfit for the office to which he was elected.

Teachers aren’t ‘militia’

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s juxtaposition of “teachers” with “militia” got me thinking a bit today.

So, I looked up the term “militia.” Here is what I found:

A military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency; a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities, typically in opposition to a regular army; all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.

This morning, Patrick — a conservative Republican — said on ABC News’s “This Week” that “teachers are part of a well-run militia.”

Actually, the way I read the definition that I found, they are nothing of the kind. They aren’t military, or paramilitary.

Patrick’s statement was in response to questions about the Santa Fe High School massacre that killed 10 people — eight of whom were students. Patrick wants school teachers to be armed. That is a wrong-headed answer to the scourge of gun violence in our public schools.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment speaks of a “well-regulated militia.” I cannot find — no matter how hard I look — any link whatsoever between the founders’ intent in crafting that clause to the idea that militia includes public school teachers.

Teachers are hired to educate. They aren’t hired to take up arms, even in an emergency. We “regulate” militias because we ask our military reservists, for example, to perform functions for which they are trained. Do we train teachers to set up perimeters around our schools and then stand guard with loaded weapons?

No. Teachers enter their profession exclusively to be positive influences on our children, to educate and occasionally nurture them.

So, let’s stop this loose talk about arming teachers. And for crying out loud, let’s also implore at least one high-profile Texas politician — Lt. Gov. Patrick — to stop equating teachers with militia.

‘Our teachers are part of that well-run militia’

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to put guns in our teachers’ hands.

He thinks a well-armed teacher could have stopped the shooter from slaughtering those 10 victims in Santa Fe, Texas, the other day.

Sure thing, Mr. Patrick. Or … a heat-packing educator could have missed the shooter and wounded — or killed! — other students or fellow educators.

Patrick told ABC News’s “This Week” that teachers “are part of that well-run militia” spelled out in the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Sigh …

In truth, the amendment refers to a “well-regulated militia.” My own view is that teachers are tasked exclusively to educate children; they are not asked to provide armed response to violence in the classroom or in the halls, or the cafeteria or the gymnasium or the school yard.

This notion of arming teachers keeps getting revived every time a gunman opens fire in our public schools. There has been so much of it these days we have become numb — or so it seems — to the news that keeps erupting.

Patrick did say something that rings true while he was on TV this morning: “We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games which now outsell movies and music.”

Yes, this is a societal issue that needs careful examination. However, none of that will be solved merely by putting more guns into our public schools.

Feds have no say in marriage? Um, yes, they do!

The issue of marriage came up as a side issue in an editorial published by a Texas newspaper. I feel the need to set the record straight about what rights the federal government has in determining marriage.

The Amarillo Globe-News said this, among other things, in discussing states’ rights on sports betting and a recent Supreme Court ruling on that subject: The federal government has no right to define marriage in any way, shape or form. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court sees fit to define marriage for the entire nation. Again – no state’s rights here.

The AGN is seeking to ascertain where states’ rights are relevant and where federal authority supersedes them.

Read the editorial here.

Back to the point: The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the U.S. Constitution — the document that governs the entire nation — has a clause that requires all citizens to have “equal protection under the law.” That was the basis of its ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 our states.

This isn’t a deeply held secret ruling concocted in some star chamber by a majority of the Supreme Court justices. The law is clear. Marriage becomes a federal issue if someone chooses to seek a legal remedy that they believe violates one of the key provisions of the Constitution.

Equal protection is such a key provision. Thus, when a segment of our population is denied the right to marry whoever they love, then the federal judiciary has an obligation to set the record straight.

States have no right, therefore, under the federal Constitution, to deny any American their guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Are we clear now? Good!

Oklahoma governor going out with ‘a bang’ … so to speak

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is a lame duck chief exec who appears to have discovered the joy of not having to face special interest groups as she tries to get re-elected.

Gov. Fallin, a Republican, vetoed a bill that came to her desk that would have allowed Oklahomans to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, meaning they needed no training of any sort to pack heat amongst the rest of us.

Good … for … her!

The only stipulation in the bill she vetoed that was worth a damn was that the heat packers couldn’t have been convicted felons.

To no one’s surprise, the National Rifle Association is mad as hell at Fallin, who is term-limited from seeking another term as governor. The NRA pledges to help elect the next governor who, the organization hopes, will allow this ridiculous piece of legislation to become law.

But do you know who’s happy about it, aside from rank-and-file citizens who opposed this monstrosity? Law enforcement officers! The cops didn’t want Fallin to sign the bill. State and local police associations urged Fallin to keep her signature off the legislation. She listened to them.

Their fears were well-founded. They just believe that concealed carry opportunities must come with some reasonable restrictions. Passing a rudimentary test after taking a basic course on firearms safety hardly constitutes a ham-fisted limitation on the rights of folks to “keep and bear arms.”

And to think the Legislature wanted to remove event that rule. Good grief.

Again … you go, Gov. Fallin!

Federal courts aren’t ‘political’? Guess again

The nation’s founders had the right idea when they created a Constitution that called for lifetime appointments of federal judges.

Part of their intent was to take politics out of the judicial system. Sadly, that intent has been lost. It’s gone. The federal bench is, um, highly political.

Case in point: U.S. Senate Republicans today filled a federal judgeship they kept empty for the past six years during the Obama administration. They voted 49-46 — along party lines — to seat Michael Brennan on the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals. President Obama had nominated Victoria Nourse to that bench in 2010, but it was held up by Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (pictured above), who exercised a Senate rule that allows a home-state senator to block anyone he or she chooses; Nourse pulled her nomination in 2012.

Indeed, one of the consequences of our federal elections is the federal judiciary and who gets seated. Presidential elections are particularly consequential in that regard. Presidents have the power to set judicial courses for generations through their appointment powers. You’d better believe, too, that politics matters when the Senate considers who to confirm or reject when they exercise their “advise and consent” authority.

Are the federal courts more political than, say, state courts? Hardly. In Texas, we elect judges on partisan ballots. Judicial philosophy or legal credentials take a back seat to which party under which the candidate is running, or so it appears at times in Texas.

The founders sought when they were creating a new nation to deliver a system of justice that would be free of political pressure. I only wish their dream would have come true. More than two centuries later, we hear laypeople/politicians second-guessing judicial rulings — especially when they lack any base of knowledge of the law upon judges make their decision.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way when the nation’s founders were building a nation “of laws, not of men.”

How do more guns make us safer?

I have been thinking for the past few days about my friend Martin, a journalist in Germany. He’s a family man with three young children.

Martin and I have had some stimulating talks over the years about U.S. politics and government. He knows this country far better than I know his native Germany.

I mention Martin today as the National Rifle Association is having its annual meeting in Dallas, which when you think about it is the perfect venue for the NRA, given that most Texans are flat-out, all-in supportive of the NRA’s political agenda.

Martin cannot grasp the notion that the NRA keeps pitching, which is — essentially — that more guns make us safer. He and I have talked about the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment. I have sought to explain the difficulty in amending an amendment in this country.

Germany has much stricter rules on gun ownership than we do. Martin buys into the German government’s view that the best way to prevent gun violence is to take guns away. It’s a simple proposition, as he sees it … although do not refer to my friend as “simplistic.” He is serious, intelligent and well-educated, as is his wife.

Although my friend and I disagree on the value on the Second Amendment to our national fabric — he thinks we ought to repeal it, while I do not — I do support his notion that more guns do not make us safer. More guns only exacerbate the crisis that has produced this plague of gun violence.

Accordingly, I continue to believe — the NRA’s view on the subject notwithstanding — that we can find a way to legislate tougher controls on gun purchases without emasculating the Second Amendment’s guarantee that the right to “keep and bear shall not be infringed.”

As for the NRA meeting in Dallas, I am quite certain that Donald J. Trump — who’s going to speak at the event — will warn the gun enthusiasts that if Democrats take control of Congress this year, “they’re going to take your guns away.”

Earth to The Donald: Democrats have controlled Congress and the presidency before. The guns haven’t gone anywhere.

Wolf controversy overshadows media’s good work

It’s a shame that a foul-mouthed comedian’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner has overshadowed much of what the crowd was there to do.

They came to honor those who work in the media, who cover the news and report to the public the happenings of the federal government, its elected officials and appointed staff.

The media are not, in the words of Donald J. Trump — who skipped the dinner for the second consecutive year — the “enemy of the American people.” Far from it. They are the protectors of transparency, accountability and government integrity.

Many media outlets were honored. CNN, for example, received a high honor for its work reporting on the dossier that emerged revealing potential connections between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government operatives seeking to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

The correspondents dinner focus should be on those individuals and organizations. Instead, we’re arguing from coast to coast over whether comedian Michelle Wolf crossed the line of decency in her scathing criticism of the president and his senior staff members.

For the record … she did.

The media, though, are doing the job the U.S. Constitution empowers them to do — without government interference, bullying, intimidation or threats.

I hope to be done with the Michelle Wolf travesty.

The media that are reporting on the presidency and the rest of the government will continue to earn my undying pride and praise when they do well.

Federal courts: not really politics free

The federal judiciary is supposed to be free of political pressure.

But is it? Really? Oh, I tend to think not.

I find myself looking at federal court rulings a bit differently these days. For instance, the D.C. federal judge who ruled that the Trump administration must keep honoring the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program is an interesting fellow.

Judge John Bates is a President George W. Bush appointee. Thus, I tend to take his decision a bit more seriously than I would if he were appointed by President Barack Obama. Why? Because he upheld an Obama administration decision to create DACA in the first place. DACA, by the way, is the rule that protects U.S. residents who were brought here illegally by their parents; they’re called “Dreamers” because they are pursuing the “American Dream.” Get it?

The founders set up a federal judiciary that was supposed to be free of political pressure. It really isn’t. The judges who get these lifetime appointments are nonetheless examined carefully by people such as me and others who look for political reasons to endorse or condemn whatever ruling they hand down.

That is not to say that they base their decisions according to what others might say about them. Indeed, several Supreme Court justices over the years have veered sharply away from the course the presidents who nominated them hoped they would travel. And they get their share of condemnation from those who want them to adhere to the presidents’ political leanings.

But … they are political appointees. Make no mistake about it.