July 03, 2005

Supremes Give Bi-polar Ruling on Commandments

The two rulings over the public display of the Ten Commandments have everyone staggering with uncertain, unclear, and obtuse logic. You know that they ruled 5-4 in each of two cases allowing one display to remain but another display must be removed.
Stephen Breyer—the swing vote in each case—demonstrated eye-rolling reasoning when he said that the difference in the two cases was one of intent. In the Texas case, the motive was clearly secular but in the Kentucky case the display was religious.
This is even more troubling than the ambiguous rulings themselves. For now, as Breyer asserted, “motives must be secular.” Apparently, now, one of the new qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land is the ability to have ESP. How else does a judge discern motive?
It is also problematic in that the role of the court is not to assess covert intent, or obscure, personal desire by second-guessing and imposing ideas on the heart and soul of the accused. Rather the court is to assess the legality of a situation based on firmly established law with precedent clarifying, where necessary, the law in question. In this case, the asserted rule that government is to be “neutral” concerning all things religious.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing with perspicuity, in the Texas case argued against the notion of governmental neutrality towards religion. He wrote, the court has never barred "any and all government preference for religion over irreligion'' as long as it uses no coercion and shows no preference for a particular religion.
Silly Rehnquist—he always goes back to original intent and centuries old practices of the rule of law. Justice Antonin Scalia's dissented vigorously in the Kentucky case, accusing the majority of hostility to religion and an ignorance of history and tradition. Goofy conservatives; they always get so wrapped around the axle of common sense and historical fact.
Whatever you believe about this issue, one thing is certain and that is that no one is certain now what this all means except that a lot of people are confused about what it and is not legally acceptable. As one story recorded it, “Analysts were left scratching their heads.” I’ll say. What a fiasco.


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