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House stops Supreme Court from ruling on Pledge

(Boston Globe)
WASHINGTON -- The House yesterday voted to strip federal courts of the authority to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a dramatic move meant to thwart what the bill's sponsors call "activist" judges on the federal bench.
The measure, approved 247 to 173, is part of an effort by Republicans to restrict the courts' actions on several hot-button issues. In July, the House approved a measure that would limit the courts' ability to review cases involving the legal definition of marriage. Another bill pending in Congress would restrict the courts' authority to rule on cases involving the display of the Ten Commandments.

"This is the beginning of a trend, and it's unprecedented in terms of the breadth of what they want to do," said Terri Schroeder, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the measures.

During a heated floor debate, conservatives contended that they had to act preemptively to prevent courts from removing the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The US Supreme Court this year threw out a lower court ruling that deemed the pledge unconstitutional, but the high court did so on the grounds that the man who brought the case did not have legal standing. So the question of the constitutionality of reciting the pledge in schools remains open.

"If we allow federal judges to start creating law, and say that it's wrong to somehow allow schoolchildren to say 'under God' in the pledge, we have emasculated the very heart of what America is all about," said Representative Todd Akin, Republican of Missouri and sponsor of the Pledge Protection Act. "If we allow activist judges to go there, what's next?"

Opponents countered that the pledge bill, along with similar measures restricting courts' jurisdiction, represented a power grab by conservatives that would threaten the separation of powers.

"This bill is bizarre," said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. "Once you start down this road, you're going to create a precedent. You will see laws in area after area [where] there is no uniform national interpretation of them."

My Question is -- Can they do that? The article goes on to talk about precident, and how it leans both ways(of course.) Now, if I remember my checks and balances, the judiciary can simply rule that law unconstitutional and rule on it anyway, no? Can the senate even control the jurisdiction of the courts like that? I'm a little thrown off by this whole situation, can someone explain what the hell bush's cronies just did for me?
This Oughta Be Good for Some Laughs 24.Sep.2004 11:31

Antinomias Vermont

So, we've got a turf battle brewing between the Judicial and Legislative bodies, largely due to Congress being such a bunch of wimps, watching their power disappear to the Executive Branch. I hate to tell these yahoos this, but the Constitution specifically empoweres the federal court system to hear cases concerning Constitutional law. This isn't an amemdment, which means it can't be repealed without rewriting or suspending the constitution.

It's going to be quite entertaining to see the Supreme Court slap these yahoos upside the head.

House is often silly 24.Sep.2004 12:43

Bison Boy

Remember that the House alone can't do squat. It hasn't actually done anything but propose this to the Senate, in which cooler heads (usually) prevail.

Even if it does pass the Senate, and get the signature of the Prez, it's likely that the Supreme Court will decline to recognize the authority of Congress to interfere in the matter. The likely case here is that the new law would have to be challenged first, and it would eventually be squashed by any concievable Supreme Court.

It's an election-season ploy that's going to waste a lot of time for many people, nothing more.

If we allow activist judges to go there, what's next? 24.Sep.2004 13:05


Answer: activist judges who pre-empt democratic elections and appoint presidents.

Political bill with no chance of being enforced 24.Sep.2004 14:21


This is just a pre-election bill for congress to show their constituents that they are 'fightin' for what's right'.

Congress cannot legislate away the supreme court's power to decide constitutional issues and pledge cases are constitutional issues. Congress may have the ability to take this power away from lower federal courts, but even if it was decided by a state court, it would eventually make its way to the supreme court for decision.