public property

Let's Have A Referenda On Ten Commandments

Clearly, the Ten Commandments bother people. There are some that Americans seem to be ok with, others not so much. In Giles County, where the Ten Commandments were displayed in the "public" schools for a time, the debate over God's Top 10 is raging once again. Heaven forbid our kids be influenced by "though shalt not steal." The Supreme Court has split the baby, so to speak, on the issue. According to the anointed nine, if the motive for the display of the Commandments (on "public property") is secular, it's constitutional. If, however, the motive is "religious," cue the wreaking ball. It is up to judges to determine the motive. (Clearly that's what the Founders were shooting for).

Enter federal Judge Michael Urbanski. He's trying to get to the bottom of Giles County's motive, and has indicated that he's very, very worried that the display of the Ten Commandments might be motivated by, gasp, religion. So, he's come up with a unique suggestion.

Just display the six "non-religious" Commandments. Seriously.

If only Moses had thought of that first, imagine the trouble we could have avoided.

But then again, we're not doing so well with the "bottom six" are we? It seems that lots of Americans are pretty offended by the whole "don't commit adultery" thing. So here's my suggestion:

Let's put the Ten Commandments to a vote. Put all ten on the ballot, but you only get to keep five. The top five vote-getters stay, the bottom five, well, too bad. After all God, we know better than You about these things. Times have changed. We're, well, progressive. Your silly rules are just so oppressive.

Besides, we don't want some activist federal judge to decide which of the Commandments are still useful. That simply goes too far. We're Americans. We live in a democracy. Let's do what we do — put it to a vote.

May the best five win!

Hey, it's no worse an idea than Judge Urbanski's.

Your Constitutional Protections At Stake Tomorrow

The pace of the General Assembly moves very fast, especially during the short session when committee hearings are compressed into a shorter period. Just this morning we were notified that four important proposed constitutional amendments, passed last week by the House, already are scheduled for tomorrow morning in a Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee. Usually, there is at least a day or two respite and time to regroup right before or after "crossover," but the pipeline is full of bills and the legislation continues to flow. We need your urgent help to contact members of the sub-committee and ask them to vote for these important constitutional protections. Only four votes stand in the way killing these highly popular and needed measures without the full debate of the Senate, much less the full committee. So, your action is needed now.

HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), would safeguard your tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.

HJ 539, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spotsylvania), is another important safeguard to your hard-earned tax dollars. It would require a three-fifths super majority vote of the General Assembly to raise state taxes and the same super majority for your city, town or county governing body to raise local taxes.

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), would protect Virginians' right of religious expression by allowing prayer and the recognition of religious beliefs, heritage and traditions on public property, including public schools. This will safeguard from court action, for example, students who offer prayers at school assemblies.

HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) would allow the General Assembly to provide for loans and grants to, or on behalf of, candidates for the military chaplaincy who attend in-state nonprofit institutions of higher education whose primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education.

Urgent action is needed since the sub-committee meets tomorrow! If these resolutions die in sub-committee, the opportunity to incorporate them into the Virginia Constitution will be set back three more years. Contact the members and ask they vote for HJ 615, HJ 539, HJ 593 and HJ 614 tomorrow morning in Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee.

Big Week For Religious Liberty! (Or, Kaine And Stevens Cut From The Same Cloth)

Just two days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 decision to uphold the display of a Cross on a World War I Mojave Desert memorial on what had been public property (once a national park, the land now is owned privately, yet a lower court ruled the Cross still could not be displayed.) In its majority opinion, the court stated:

The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm.

The timing of the decision couldn't have been more fitting — the same day, Governor Bob McDonnell reversed the Kaine administration's discriminatory prayer policy that prohibited Virginia State Police chaplains from praying at public events according to their faith.

Religious liberty 2, ACLU 0!

This recent Supreme Court case, Salazar v. Buono, reversed the decision from a California lower court that ordered the removal of a Cross placed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Mojave National Preserve in 1934 as a memorial to World War I soldiers (see California Catholic Daily). The circumstances surrounding the case, however, are far from simple.

The disagreement began in 1999 when a retired National Park Service employee sued saying that the Cross on public property constituted an unconstitutional establishment of religion. A federal court agreed and ordered that the Cross be removed. The decision was appealed and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court (the nation's most left-wing court) upheld lower court's decision. However, in 2003, before the Cross could be removed, Congress intervened and transferred the land in question to a private owner in an effort to side step the controversy.

Once again the lower courts and 9th Circuit weighed in and stated that Congress' maneuver was objectionable and did not solve the problem. In the meantime, plywood was used to cover the cross to prevent "any further harm." The U.S. Supreme Court then granted cert in the case to put the confusion to rest.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and sent the case back to the lower court to be reassessed "in light of a policy of accommodation." The logical assumption is that the display of the Cross will now be allowed. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with the majority, but additionally argued that the retired park employee did not have standing to sue since the property had been transferred to a private owner. In addition, while the court did not specifically rule on the display of a Cross on public property, it certainly hinted that it would find such a display acceptable in some circumstances.

However, the written dissent truly was tragic. Justice John Paul Stevens, soon to retire,  wrote that the Cross was an improper and intolerable government endorsement of a specific faith. Similar to Kaine's discriminatory chaplain prayer policy, this opinion is yet another example of growing anti-Christian sentiment (see Huffington Post for anti-Catholic hysterics). Simply the fact that four Supreme Court justices could buy into this "logic" of censorship is proof that we must do more to protect our freedom of conscience. The Family Foundation will continue to keep a pulse on this issue and work on efforts to further protect religious liberty.