Constitution Restoration Act of 2005
March 29, 2005 1:34 PM   Subscribe

"...God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." The re-introduction of this bill on March 3rd seemed to have been hardly noticed. It was first brought up last year by Senator Richard Shelby, Rep. Robert Aderholt, and Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore. I wonder if section 201 of the CRA will affect Article VI, Sect. 2. (born of, the 2004 thread (s))
posted by john (47 comments total)
"We have retired god from politics. We have found that man is the only source of political power, and that the governed should govern."
-Robert Green Inersoll,
July 4, 1876

That's the opening quote of Freethinkers, Susan Jacoby's book on the history of American secularism.
posted by antimarx at 2:06 PM on March 29, 2005

Also known as the Constitution Sodomization Act of 2005.
posted by BobFrapples at 2:14 PM on March 29, 2005

There's a good article about it, linked at the end of the text:"New Dominionist Bill Limits the Supreme Court's Jurisdiction"

Commenting the Texas Republican Party platform opposition to the decriminalization of sodomy: "Sodomy, it should be noted is applicable to all human sexuality, heterosexual or homosexual, including “blow jobs.” One cannot help wondering if the Texan Republicans, who oppose the decriminalization of sodomy, would arrest members of their own party."
posted by nkyad at 2:15 PM on March 29, 2005

Tiny little men who worship a tiny little God: to hell with the lot of them.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2005

Are there any (standing, constitutionally sound) laws that explicitly limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction? (I mean, this sounds unconstitutional on the face of it, no? Doesn't it seem like only a constitutional amendment should be able to do something like this?)
posted by nobody at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2005

"Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official personal capacity), by reason of that element's or officer's acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

This reads to me like I can't sue (at least at the Supreme court level) any form of US government, even say, an off-duty police officer.

I'm not sure how this is restoring the constitution. It sounds like it's setting up the country for tyranny.
posted by goatfish at 2:22 PM on March 29, 2005

You all have escape plans, right?

posted by showmethecalvino at 2:25 PM on March 29, 2005

Why wouldn't the court just declare this law unconstitutional?
posted by null terminated at 2:27 PM on March 29, 2005

This gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

About my dual US-EU citizenship.
posted by fshgrl at 2:33 PM on March 29, 2005

goatfish, the Supreme Court only hears appeals anyway (am I wrong about this?). What this bill does is stop these potential cases from elevating from state courts into the federal level (including federal appeals courts) -- hence its first descriptive paragraph: "A BILL / To limit the jurisdiction of Federal courts in certain cases and promote federalism." What confuses me then is this: can federal officials or the federal government be indicted in a State court?
posted by nobody at 2:37 PM on March 29, 2005

In interpreting and applying the Constitution of the United States, a court of the United States may not rely upon any constitution, law, administrative rule, Executive order, directive, policy, judicial decision, or any other action of any foreign state or international organization or agency, other than the constitutional law and English common law.

Interesting that English common law would continue to have force. I doubt these clowns are aware that "English common law" continues to mean "the current common law of the nation of England" as well as "the common law inherited from England by its former colonies". For instance, the status of Donoghue v Stevenson [1932], the case of the snail in the ginger beer that established the concept of product liability, is ambiguous under this stupid, stupid statute.

I would not be surprised to see the moron majority of the Republican Party guffaw with glee at the prospect of removing product liability from the law, but still, if that's their latest ignominy they wish to inflict on the people of the USA, they would need to say so explicitly in legislation.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:40 PM on March 29, 2005

once, i would have been with the group that says "where are the exits," but i have been upset with myself for that attitude. now, i want to fight back against this beady-eyed tyranny. i used to belong to a religion that taught that the solutions would not be found in politics. i am angry about that, too. i have become involved in local grassroots movements, with the aim of taking back america from the god-ists.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:51 PM on March 29, 2005

The United States constitution does not mention the word "God". The chief reason for this is that God does not exist.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2005

Nobody, you are wrong about that:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

Null terminated: Of course they can. And Congress can continue to pass unconstitutional laws and the Executive can continue to enforce them. In the end, no one can really stop them except the electorate. And if they choose not to, well, then. Goverment you deserve, eh?
posted by jlub at 2:54 PM on March 29, 2005

the Supreme Court only hears appeals anyway (am I wrong about this?).

They hear some original cases, but nothing you'd give a damn about. The only category of these cases that almost matter is when one state sues another -- NY and NJ quibble over who owns what islands near NYC, VA and MD quibble over fishing rights in Chesapeake Bay. There's other stuff that matters even less.

Are there any (standing, constitutionally sound) laws that explicitly limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction?

The Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction is set by Congress by ordinary law, not by the Constitution itself.

Can Congress take away jurisdiction because they don't like the decisions? IANAL, but my understanding from talking to L's is that the general consensus is "probably not," but that there are not-crazy experts who think it's probably kosher.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:56 PM on March 29, 2005

You all have escape plans, right?
I was here before this particular bunch of mobsters took over and, after they're in prison for life, I plan to be here still.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:57 PM on March 29, 2005

Congress can strip courts of jurisdiction. Congress has the ability to define the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. Art. 3, section 2 states that Congress can make exceptions as to what appellate jurisdiction the Court can have. What it can't do is strip the constitutionally defined original jurisdiction. So, technically, Congress can remove an entire area from the Court's jurisdiction. Congress can say, "Courts are no longer allowed to hear appeals regarding the applicability of the federal minimum wage" and no federal appellate court could rule about the constitutionality of the federal minimum wage. It's called jurisdiction stripping.

Though it a politically and precedentially stupid move, it is completely constitutional.
posted by dios at 3:04 PM on March 29, 2005

What it can't do is strip the constitutionally defined original jurisdiction

I don't get it. Surely the original jurisdiction would have included what this law would remove...
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:17 PM on March 29, 2005

(Thanks, jlub and ROU_Xenophobe).
posted by nobody at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2005

I listened to this on NPR Saturday, and from what I understood is that Congress can do pretty much whatever they want to the federal courts since they created them. I didn't think they could do anything to the Supreme Court since that is a seperation of powers issue. In your example, dios, yes they could do that to the Federal Appellate court system, but I didn't think they can do that to the Supreme Court. They could, in fact, say that the 9th circuit cannot rule, but allow the other circuits to do so.
posted by Eekacat at 3:21 PM on March 29, 2005

P-G: Original jurisdiction is over cases which are brought directly in the Supreme Court, as opposed to appellate jurisdiciton, which is over appeals from lower courts. Article III, Section 2 gives the Supreme court original jurisdiction over "cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party...." The Constitution does not give Congress the authority to create exceptions to the Court's original jurisdiction. In the other categories of cases listed in Article III, the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, and Congress can make exceptions to that jurisdiction.

Eekacat: dios is likely correct. Congress could indeed identify a category of cases and eliminate the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over those cases. There is an argument, however, that the Constitution gives Congress the power to create only "inferior" courts, and as such, those courts must be subject to the supervisory authority of the Supreme court. If that's true, the appellate jurisdiction of the Court would have to at least include all cases over which the lower "inferior" courts had original or appellate jurisdiction. This is all speculation, of course.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:31 PM on March 29, 2005

The Supreme Court's Original jursidiction is defined in the Constitution and is the only thing that can't be stripped. It includes, "Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party." It is very limited.

Any other case can be stripped from any federal court, except the ones defined as original jurisdiction there (maritime and admirlaty, state to state, etc).

In fact, as the Constitution is drafted, one *could* argue that Congress could completely eliminate the judiciary with the exception of the Original Jurisdiction in the Supreme Court. Art. III, s. 1 gives the power to create (and thus, destroy) the federal courts. So we could, hypothetically, have a judiciary of just a Supreme Court which hears only the disputes defined above.
posted by dios at 3:35 PM on March 29, 2005

monju: interesting link, thanks. I will check it out tomorrow, as it is time to run home for the day.
posted by dios at 3:36 PM on March 29, 2005

Hey! Let's get rid of the Federal judiciary (or at least the courts who are disloyal) and then pass this little gem. Waddaysay? Just for giggles?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:50 PM on March 29, 2005

Then FDR would still be president today, albeit in some sort of persistant vegitative state.
posted by Freen at 4:09 PM on March 29, 2005

Good luck getting the Supremes to agree with a law eviscerating their power. Without their assent, this law goes nowhere. This is nothing more than grandstanding.
posted by caddis at 4:14 PM on March 29, 2005

Though it a politically and precedentially stupid move, it is completely constitutional.
posted by dios at 6:04 PM EST

Looks like pretty much a sure thing for the current majority to do then, eh? Schiavo that puppy into law Mr. Alabama Idiot Senator!
posted by nofundy at 4:23 PM on March 29, 2005

Prediction: The Terry Schiavo madness will be the high water mark of wingnut, evangelical legislative madness such as this.
posted by Toecutter at 5:16 PM on March 29, 2005

I'm very glad that I earmarked this article that pointed to the Treaty of Tripoli as being the clear evidence of secularity in both the thinking of our forefathers and in the founding of this country.

I love Jefferson when it comes to these matters:

The Founding Fathers were not religious men, and they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "a wall of separation between church and state." John Adams opined that if they were not restrained by legal measures, Puritans--the fundamentalists of their day--would "whip and crop, and pillory and roast." The historical epoch had afforded these men ample opportunity to observe the corruption to which established priesthoods were liable, as well as "the impious presumption of legislators and rulers," as Jefferson wrote, "civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time."

I want my country back.
posted by id at 5:26 PM on March 29, 2005

Don't they introduce a lot of stupid bills every year?
posted by graventy at 5:29 PM on March 29, 2005

Prediction: Terry Schiavo will be elected President of the US in 2008. And, oddly, will do a better job than her predecessor. Her running mate will be a former Senator and South Carolinian carrot.
posted by tkchrist at 5:30 PM on March 29, 2005

I disagree; the law would be unconstitutional. Indeed, I'd go on a limb and say the vote would be 8-1, with only Thomas dissenting.

The Constitution does not stand alone. We have "foundational law" that informs the history and development of our system of laws. Article III was written for a reason. The text is not arbitrary, and it cannot be interpreted so as to destroy its own purpose. Jurisdiction stripping is a form of checks and balances, and as soon as it's abused, there is no more balance.

United States v. Will, 449 U.S. 200 (1980) is instructive. A group of federal judges sued the government after Congress decided to stop appropriating cost-of-living adjustments for judges. The judges claimed that because of inflation, the pay freeze violated the constitutional requirement that their salary not be diminished while in office. Trouble is, who would hear this case? Federal law provides that a judge who has a financial interest in the outcome of a case must recuse himself from it - and this applies at all levels, from district to circuit court to the Supreme Court. The entire federal bench was thus legally ineligible, meaning that the plaintiffs could never pursue a remedy for their constitutional injuries. What to do? In Will, the common law "rule of necessity" trumped the statute, and the Supreme Court held that despite their obvious conflict of interest, they had no choice but to set the bias aside and hear the case because there was simply no other option available. In other words, the Congressional enactment - perfectly constitutional on its face - was rendered unconstitutional as applied to the compensation lawsuit, precisely because a countervailing interest, the right of a plaintiff to seek relief for constitutional injury, would have been compromised by rote adherence to the law.

The Rule of Necessity is unwritten, preconstitutional, and a "common law" rule in a system of federal jurisprudence where there is supposed to be no common law. It's precisely an "activist" methodology and an activist result. But the decision was unanimous, and clearly correct - it shows deference to our principles as well as our words. This is legal reasoning, folks, the kind of thing that the courts, not Congress, does.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2005

Title II of the bill doesn't seem like such a terrible idea, but how can they enforce Title I if they don't specify which God is being referred to?
posted by clockzero at 5:42 PM on March 29, 2005

My congressman, Virgil Goode (R-VA, sensible on some topics, but a sap-brained loony on others) is a co-sponsor of this one. Thankfully, it will never get out of committee, even in the current Congressional session.
posted by Creosote at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2005

Hmm, didn't notice the first part was an amendment. Basicaly, the SCOTUS would not have the legal ability to hear cases that involve the government's love of god.

In fact, I belive this law would have prevented SCOTUS from ruling on the 9th circuit court decision about "Under god" in the pledge and would have had to have let it stand.
posted by delmoi at 6:49 PM on March 29, 2005

So if this bill passes, couldn't you also ban fundie lunatics from the civil service, and they couldn't take it to the Supremes? I mean, it doesn't sound like it defines who takes which side.
posted by gimonca at 7:42 PM on March 29, 2005

I'm very glad that I earmarked this article that pointed to the Treaty of Tripoli as being the clear evidence of secularity in both the thinking of our forefathers and in the founding of this country.

Oh, dear God. Will this myth never die?

To cite the Treaty of Tripoli as conclusive proof of the secularity of the founding fathers requires you to ignore contemporary treaties like the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783, which opens with: "In the name of the most Holy and undivided Trinity." The point, I think, is that treaties are diplomatic documents designed to serve diplomatic purposes: when dealing with Christian nations, we're a Christian nation; when dealing with Muslim nations, we're not inherently opposed to Islam.

The Founding Fathers were not religious men

Based on their signed statements of faith, it is estimated that 28 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were Episcopalians, 8 were Presbyterians, 7 were Congregationalists, 2 were Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodist, 2 Roman Catholic, and 3 were deist. Only one religious preference (for James McClung) is unknown to historians. Given the honor and ethics of the day, it is highly unlikely that men such as Washington would have signed statements of faith which they did not believe in.

they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "a wall of separation between church and state."

I do not think those words mean what you think they mean. President Jefferson, for example, signed into law on three separate occasions federal land grants promoting the proselytization of the native American Indians. He also specifically requested that the treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians fund the erection of a Catholic Mission and the support of a Priest for seven years. He also noted in his "Notes on Virginia" in 1781 that the liberties we had fought so hard to win in the Revolutionary War probably could be supported without a widespread belief in God. Jefferson, if ressurected today, would not recognize the modern conception of the "separation between church and state", so we should stop pretending it was his idea.

That whole article is a bald polemic, cherry-picking the most favorable arguments and forgetting to mention inconvenient facts. Bah.
posted by gd779 at 7:52 PM on March 29, 2005

What gd779 said. For my [rather long-winded] take on the founders and freedom from establishment, see this rambling comment.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:11 PM on March 29, 2005

...the liberties we had fought so hard to win in the Revolutionary War probably could not be supported without a widespread belief in God

Whoops. That's an inconvenient place to forget a word, isn't it?
posted by gd779 at 8:23 PM on March 29, 2005

gd779 misunderstands: they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson's words, 'a wall of separation between church and state.'

"I do not think those words mean what you think they mean."

Well, the phrase comes from a letter by Jefferson to Baptists who were very very worried that an Established Church would continue the persecution of the Baptist and other Non-Conforming Churches that had occurred in England and the Massachusetts Bay colony.

That is, the "wall of separation" was, ironically enough, requested by the forebears of today's Evangelical churches, to protect them from government dictating sacred belief.

How far those churches have come -- Jesus must love them so very very much -- that, thanks to Mr. Jefferson's Wall of Separation, they were spared oppression and able to flourish until they could themselves become the oppressors.
posted by orthogonality at 8:32 PM on March 29, 2005

Personally, I have my own ideas about religion and the Founding Fathers. And frankly, why should it matter, anyway? Has the human race made no progress in the 200+ years since then? Have we not learned anything more? Can anyone deny that, in those times, there were things one simply could not say regarding religion?

The State must not control religion, and religion must not be allowed to control the State. The State exists at the sufferance of the people, for service to the people, at the expense of the people. Neither god nor goddess is involved in this construct called 'government'.

Any religious group demanding action from government by reason of their religiosity should be mocked and shunned as enemies of the people. Any such group is seeking to introduce FORCE into the issue of religion. The Founding Fathers were well aware of the ugliness that brings.
posted by Goofyy at 4:48 AM on March 30, 2005

BY a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates, within the Republican Party and beyond. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party. ...
The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement. ...
--NYT Editorial today, by John Danforth
posted by amberglow at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2005

And yet more proof that the USA is falling apart.

My god, people, you've got to get your shit together before you're forced to take extreme measures to regain your freedoms, your rights, your democracy!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2005

Man... anyway to get that Danforth editorial without registering at NYT?
posted by BobFrapples at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2005

Yeah, just search in Google news for the title.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:56 AM on March 30, 2005

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