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The Ten Commandments and the Clash of Worldviews in Alabama ^ | August 30, 2003 | Steven Yates

Posted on 08/30/2003 2:45:13 PM PDT by Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS

On August 27, a moving crew went into the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery and moved the 5,280-pound monument bearing the Ten Commandments from the public rotunda to a place out of view in obedience to a federal court order. In other words, the federal government won this round even though the legal fight over the fate of the monument is likely to continue for some time to come.

Back in 2001, Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama placed the monument of his own design in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery, a monument designed by himself and bearing the Ten Commandments. It did not take long before we began to hear from the usual suspects (the ACLU and groups such as the leftist Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center) on how the monument, in a state courthouse, violated the supposedly Constitutional separation of church and state. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered Justice Moore to remove the monument from public view, giving him 15 days to comply. Moore refused. He contended that to do so would be to fail to acknowledge the God whose divine law is the ultimate source of the Constitutional basis for the rule of law in America. Moreover, he maintained on Tenth Amendment grounds that the federal court did not have jurisdiction. In retaliation, a judicial ethics panel suspended him. Moore’s eight fellow state justices turned their backs on him and ordered him to comply with the federal court. Thompson had threatened the state with fines of $5,000 per day for every day the monument remained on the rotunda in public view.

Evangelical Christians have maintained round-the-clock vigils outside Justice Moore’s courthouse. Judge Moore appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal was turned down, allowing the lower court’s decision to stand. Moore stood his ground, saying, "The issue is: can the state acknowledge God. If this state can’t acknowledge God, then other states can’t… And eventually, the United States of America … will not be able to acknowledge the very source of our rights and liberties and the very source of our law." He continues to stand his ground, having filed a new appeal with the Supreme Court. The Tenth Amendment says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Thus Alabama could pass a law declaring itself an officially Christian state without violating the Federal Constitution as originally conceived by the Framers. Of course, doing so would be extremely ill-advised, but that isn’t the point. It is the federal government the Constitution prohibited from establishing a religion.

As these events play out, they promise to offer a lot of insight into where we stand as a society, and where we are headed – and for the philosophically inclined, to point toward which philosophical premises are guiding us. You see, this is not just another clash in the ongoing culture war, although it is that. It is not simply a clash between claims of state sovereignty versus federal imperialism, although it is that, too. This clash is more fundamental than the one over decisions such as Lawrence v. Texas in which the Supreme Court found a mysterious "right" in the Constitution no one had ever seen before, to practice sodomy.

The clash over the Ten Commandments in Alabama is just the latest and most visible skirmish in a much larger clash between comprehensive, incompatible worldviews. Let’s explore what this means.

The Christian writer C.S. Lewis contended that there are just two basic worldviews in Western European–American civilization (there are a lot of variants on each, of course). There is the worldview of Christian theism, as I will call it, and then there is the worldview of materialism, or materialistic naturalism.

Christian theism places the God of the Old and New Testaments at its center. The universe, according to Christian theism, is a divine artifact. It is the creation of God, as is the human race along with every other form of life on this planet. Its enormous size and complexity testifies to God’s commensurate creative powers. There are, in other words, at least two realms of reality. There is a nonmaterial order of things containing God, other supernatural agencies including the devil, Satan, and the human soul that survives the death of the body; and then there is the physical reality we experience through the senses. Although human reason also has its source with God and is capable of giving us at least partial knowledge of the physical universe and the nature of things generally, it neither can nor should be used as a path to God. According to Christianity, humanity is a fallen species, in need of redemption, with redemption possible only through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Materialism, or materialistic naturalism, offers a far different and obviously incompatible picture of the world. According to materialism, the universe is self-existent and not created. Science has simply failed to disclose any credible reason for thinking any gods or other supernatural agencies exist. The human race emerged as just one of countless products of a long but entirely natural process, a cosmic accident. There is, in this view, just one order of reality – physical or material reality, its structure disclosed by natural science. This reality may be a whole lot stranger than our senses alone can tell us – as evidenced by such discoveries as "charmed" quarks in elementary particle physics. But materialistic naturalism is dead set against interpreting any of the discoveries of science as pointing toward anything supernatural, such as God or a divine creation of the universe or a divine origin of human life.

Christian theism supplied us with a specific foundation for a moral life – even if this foundation predates Christianity per se. This is the Mosaic Law, of course, given its best-known expression in the Ten Commandments. The ethics of Christian theism consist of absolutes such as "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not murder." These rules are not negotiable. As Christians sometimes sardonically say, God did not call them the "Ten Suggestions." At one time, long ago, understanding them was a component of every child’s education, and of classical learning generally.

What sort of ethics might follow from materialistic naturalism is something philosophers have been struggling with ever since it began to become dominant among the Western intelligentsia. A handful have followed the lead supplied in the late 1700s by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who was not a materialist but still held that morality could be deduced from the structure of human reason itself, and was not revealed. Kant spoke of the "categorical imperative," and of the "moral law within" that determined our duties. Another group of philosophers has followed one version or another of the utilitarianism with its roots in British thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill. The latter spoke of the "greatest happiness principle," and the "greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people." There has been something of an ongoing debate between the two, with neither achieving true dominance although utilitarians have been the majority among ethicists for quite some time now. Meanwhile, the machinery of the omnipotent state has grown by leaps and bounds.

A few philosophers have adhered to the brand of individualism or ethical egoism espoused in its purest form by Ayn Rand. According to this view, rights are conditions for human survival on this planet. Man’s life, its sustenance, and human prosperity and happiness supply the standard. What is appropriate to the life of a rational being is good; what coercively interferes with or harms this life is evil. These ideas have been important among libertarians who have emphasized that theirs is a philosophy for life in this world. Rand’s Objectivism is a fundamentally materialist philosophy, however; and so are these brands of libertarianism although the latter usually eschew discussions of metaphysics and emphasize that it is a political philosophy. The fundamental issues cannot be evaded or avoided, however. The strong point of this brand of thought is its uncompromising individualism and defense of liberty, for which we should all be duly grateful. Its weaknesses involve its equally uncompromising materialism, its extremely dogmatic nature, leading to the drama of personality clashes, excommunications including libertarians who deviated in even the slightest way from Rand’s words, the movement’s cultlike aspects, etc., and its hopelessly optimistic conception of human nature.

Individualism has become an anathema, however, because of the fact that if individuals are left to their own devices, some will excel magnificently while others fall short. This violates egalitarianism. The idea that everyone either is or should be, in some sense, equal, emerges out of a vague sense of "fairness" that hearkens back to the Kantian approach – whose most significant twentieth century exponent was political philosopher John Rawls. Rawls was not a pure egalitarian. He believed some inequality was inevitable; but he also held that these inequalities should be justified carefully, and it be shown how they work to the benefit of the less well off. So to him, egalitarianism is still the human ideal, even if unreachable in practice. (Rawls’s major work, A Theory of Justice, offered a perfect ethic for central planners who are presuming omniscience in themselves while introducing machinery, the "veil of ignorance," to remove the individual and individual motivation, from ethical judgment – all very appropriate for a Harvard-based academic philosopher.)

The modern state has vacillated between utilitarian and egalitarian impulses, often mixing the two incoherently, depending on which fashion was prevalent or which war, in the eyes of its propagandists, was deemed necessary. The denizens of the modern state are not political philosophers. They couldn’t care less about all this hairsplitting. They just want power. That means crushing the competition.

Which worldview we are going to endorse obviously matters a great deal in a culture, therefore. Christian theism places God at the center of creation, of our ethical lives and therefore of our political order. It will follow that government – like every other institution – is subordinate to God’s commands in the sense of Justice Moore’s observation that God’s divine law forms the basis of all human rights and obligations embodied in a constitutional system of any sort that places checks and balances on government power. Government of some sort may be believed necessary because of man’s sinful nature; but concentrations of power are not to be trusted for the same reason. James Madison, in the Federalist Papers: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary; if angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

Materialistic naturalism recognizes no fundamental authority – except, perhaps, that of empirical science. It recognizes no sense of sin. Rather, it embraces the Enlightenment notion of man’s ability to perfect himself through various forms of scientific social engineering. Its apparent tendency, as evidenced by the past hundred-plus years of history, is to unleash the human will to power in the few by removing moral checks on power, while also unleashing human appetites – especially sexual ones, but also a more general lust for entertainment. Thus a political and financial elite accrues more and more power, centralizing it in government and closely associated institutions such as central banks, until we arrive at an age of central planners who see themselves as omnipotent and omniscient. (One of the fascinating things about operational atheists – those who may never have given two thoughts about the question but live as if atheism were true – is that invariably, somewhere along the way, God reappears in surrogate form. He reappears either as the State, or as Science, or occasionally as a presumably infallible Reason – think again of Ayn Rand and her disciples.) The masses become immersed in myriad distractions and cease to pay attention to matters of state that seem remote from the chores of daily life and the pleasures available in one’s off hours. In sum, in a culture that (whether openly or tacitly) embraces the worldview of materialistic naturalism, the State becomes the primary surrogate god because of its capacity to control resources by force or threat of force. Its authority becomes just as absolute although the rules may change with the times or with whichever gang of thugs happens to be running things. Individuals become self-absorbed. The larger culture, and eventually the legal culture, embraces increasingly radical forms of hedonism until we get a Lawrence v. Texas.

With all this as background, let us return to the controversy in Montgomery, Alabama. Much attention has been focused on what was originally meant by that phrase, separation of church and state. The first thing to note is something readers doubtless already know: this phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution or any other official legal document but in the letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association at the start of 1802. What the First Amendment says is: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…." Jefferson wrote, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state…."

What, precisely, does this mean? It clearly does not mean removing all vestiges of religion (meaning by this Christianity) from public life and visibility. There were differences in the specific religious beliefs of the Framers, but all would have endorsed some version of Christian theism. None were materialists. This is clear from numerous individual statements. Four should suffice. From James Madison, writing in 1778: "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions... upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." From Benjamin Franklin "The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? . . . I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers be held imploring the assistance of Heaven . . . in this assembly every morning." From Patrick Henry: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship." From John Adams, our second president: "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people.

It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."

The Framers might not have endorsed every belief held by every Christian – whatever this would mean – but they were clearly not materialists! They clearly had the sense that whatever justification could be supplied for government came from a transcendent and not a human authority. They did not endorse what today’s legal eagles mean by "separation of church and state" when that phrase is bandied around. What then could it mean? Nothing more and nothing less than the need to refrain from establishing a national church, on the order of the Church of England, or giving government sanction to a particular denomination such as the Anglicans. The federal government had no business either "establishing" one of them as the "official" religion of the new country, or interfering with the freedom to practice one’s faith in any way. That God would be worshipped was taken for granted; how to worship God was left to individuals and communities.

This puts us in a position to ask how Judge Moore’s placing the monument in his court house "establishes" religion. Moore himself recently stated, "It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson’s order states that the acknowledgment of God crosses the line between the permissible and the impermissible and that to acknowledge God is to violate the Constitution." Following the removal of the monument to a place out of sight, Moore observed, "It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our laws and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge."

This is likely to fall on deaf ears. In a society increasingly run alongside premises I’ve described as materialist, as the State increasingly becomes a surrogate god it will tolerate no competition for obedience. Hence the mounting efforts to remove every vestige of Christianity from public life, along with the growing supremacy of federal power not just over the states (in violation of the Tenth Amendment) but over everything else as well. Many Christians are rightly concerned about being driven to the margins of society. Christianity was driven out of government schools years ago. The culture is further threatened by UN-sponsored "resettlements" of non-Christian refugees from dysfunctional non-Western nations such as Somalia and the rise of influential and well-funded movements such as the homosexual lobby. Behind it all, of course, is the rising power of a global elite.

Numerous writers – including Edmund Burke, William Penn and Benjamin Franklin – have observed that if men are not ruled by God they will be ruled by tyrants. Human beings were not designed for freedom in the sense of total license. They were meant to be free within bounds established by a transcendent morality. Modern philosophical and scientific thought, freed from these bounds, has essentially left all moral questions up for grabs. Hence the thesis of existentialist writers that it is entirely up to us, working without guidelines, to figure out what to make of ourselves (as Sartre said, "existence precedes essence"). Hence "lifeboat ethics." Hence the "bioethics" of a Peter Singer who contends that infanticide is morally acceptable. Nietzsche saw clearly where this leads, with his contention, written in the late 1800s, that the twentieth century would witness the "advent of nihilism" – in a collection of writings later assembled under the revealing title, The Will To Power. Today’s academic postmodernists have essentially thrown up their hands in gestures of despair, having abandoned the quest for philosophical truth in favor of continuing the conversation of the West, as "superstar" academic philosopher Richard Rorty put it.

We can and must choose between worldviews if we are to have any hope whatsoever of restoring liberty. The logic of materialism is tyranny, whether imposed by violent revolution, as with Soviet Communism, or by stealth, gradualism and subterfuge, the primary methods at work in America today. We see this in every edict by a federal judge that says, in effect, "My way or the highway," often in plain defiance of the actual words of the Constitution. The removal of the Ten Commandments from public visibility is being trumpeted as a triumph of the "rule of law," illustrating the semantic confusion ensuing when rule of law defined as adherence to the Constitution is replaced by rule of law tacitly redefined to mean blind obedience to the federal tyrant. This conception of the rule of law could just as easily be applied to the eventual removal of what miniscule Constitutional controls on federal power yet remain. This would leave us completely at the mercy of those who would utterly destroy the U.S. as a sovereign nation in favor of a tyrannical global State that would doubtless be called a global liberal democracy.

August 30, 2003

Steven Yates [send him mail] is an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A professional writer and editor with a Ph.D. in philosophy, he is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1994). His latest book manuscript, In Defense of Logic, is undergoing revisions. He works out of Columbia, South Carolina.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; US: Alabama
KEYWORDS: culturewar; tencommandments
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The Constitutional Republicans have the argument(s)1, the populace2, 260 legislators3 , legislation4, and instructions5 to force the black robed tin horn dictators in federal courts into compliance with the U.S. Constitution. All they lack is a spine. Perhaps, 2004 will supply them ONE6.

  1. The Avalon Project : Federalist No 78 , AMENDMENT ONE - FREEPER rwfromkansas , AMENDMENT ONE Legal Scholar Says Founding Fathers Back Justice Moore on Ten Commandments , Federalism And Religious Liberty: Were Church And State Meant To Be Separate? , Reply To Judge Richard A. Posner on The Inseparability of Law and Morality , The Faith of the Founding
  2. AMENDMENT ONE Americans disapprove of federal court orderto remove 10 Commandments (77%!!)
  3. Federalism
  4. Ten Commandments Defense Act of 2003 , Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Religious Liberties Restoration Act , Pledge Protection Act of 2003
  5. Congress, the Court, and the Constitution , Impeaching Federal Judges: A Covenantal and Constitutional Response to Judicial Tyranny ,It's Time to Hold Federal Judges Accountable ,Congress Must Curb the Imperial Judiciary ,WallBuilders | Resources | Impeachment of Federal Judges
  6. AMENDMENTS 1,9,10 - Roy Moore: In God I Trust

1 posted on 08/30/2003 2:45:13 PM PDT by Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
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With a REBEL yell, they cried - MOORE, MOORE, MOORE in 2004.
2 posted on 08/30/2003 2:53:48 PM PDT by Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
This is a very good read! Thank you for keeping this up front, FoxNews has already moved on to the next car chase.
3 posted on 08/30/2003 3:25:29 PM PDT by Aquamarine (When you come close to sellin' out reconsider.)
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
4 posted on 08/30/2003 3:48:16 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
The ACLU supports the NAMBLA organization but are repulsed by the ten commandments monument....go figure!
5 posted on 08/30/2003 5:31:34 PM PDT by Arpege92
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
good read.
6 posted on 08/30/2003 5:32:15 PM PDT by Gal.5:1
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
this book was use in America until 1903 New England Primer { The Real Education Book that America needs to get Back too}

7 posted on 08/30/2003 6:15:41 PM PDT by Patriotways
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
constitution ping
8 posted on 08/30/2003 6:16:10 PM PDT by CGVet58 (Segun su condicion es que juzga el ladron)
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
9 posted on 08/30/2003 6:19:29 PM PDT by apackof2 (Watch and pray till you see Him coming, no one knows the hour or the day)
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS; Aquamarine; LiteKeeper; Arpege92; Gal.5:1; Patriotways; CGVet58
This is from a web site I came across this morning...

Ten Commandments yard signs, bumper stickers, t- shirts

10 posted on 08/30/2003 6:25:50 PM PDT by MaryFromMichigan ( If a man says something in the woods and there are no women there, is he still wrong?)
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To: Tooters
The Principle of States Rights
11 posted on 08/30/2003 6:28:23 PM PDT by Patriotways
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To: Patriotways
12 posted on 08/30/2003 7:20:08 PM PDT by MaryFromMichigan ( If a man says something in the woods and there are no women there, is he still wrong?)
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS; EternalVigilance
ping EV.
Curb -- Our -- Courts

Keep -- God -- Public

Curb -- Our -- Courts

Keep -- God -- Public

Curb -- Our -- Courts

Keep -- God -- Public

Curb -- Our -- Courts

Keep -- God -- Public

Curb -- Our -- Courts

Keep -- God -- Public

Curb -- Our -- Courts

Keep -- God -- Public

13 posted on 08/30/2003 9:00:52 PM PDT by Avoiding_Sulla (Those banning G-d from public view want you answering to them and to no Higher.)
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To: Avoiding_Sulla
Not being a fan of Lew Rockwell, the source of this piece, I nonetheless agree with the article and the author wholeheartedly.

I don't think enough people realize the significance of these events.

Keep chanting, maybe they'll wake up... ;-)
14 posted on 08/30/2003 9:08:43 PM PDT by EternalVigilance (Rejoicing beats groaning any old day...Proverbs 29:2)
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To: EternalVigilance
the oligarchs ... ayatollas --- sharia !

Main Entry: po·lit·bu·ro
Pronunciation: 'pä-l&t-"byur-(")O, 'pO-l&t-, p&-'lit-
Function: noun
Etymology: Russian politbyuro, from politicheskoe byuro political bureau
Date: 1925
: the principal policy-making and executive committee of a Communist party
15 posted on 08/30/2003 9:14:24 PM PDT by f.Christian (evolution vs intelligent design ... science3000 ... --- * architecture * !)
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
A good read - thanks. I have one slight disagreement, and a supporting quote:

The Christian writer C.S. Lewis contended that there are just two basic worldviews in Western European–American civilization (there are a lot of variants on each, of course). There is the worldview of Christian theism, as I will call it, and then there is the worldview of materialism, or materialistic naturalism.

In C.S.Lewis' writings - I believe it was in "Surprised by Joy" - he states that he came to believe in the existence of God before he became a Christian. He actually investigated Hinduism, but rejected it because he didn't find any personal God or personal eternal existence and relationship with God.

Having studied and practiced what is generally known as Hinduism for many years, I find it sad that most people are not aware that the essence of the Vedic teachings - the Hindu scriptures - teach that God is indeed the Supreme Person, and the essence of all religion is loving service and surrender to Him, in an eternal personal relationship. Additionally, the Vedas definitively state that God creates the universe(s), that nature is not self-manifesting. Also, the basic moral absolutes in the Vedas are not dissimilar to the 10 Commandments.

All theists should whole-heartedly support Justice Moore, for all the reasons stated in the above article.

"If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments." --G. K. Chesterton

16 posted on 08/30/2003 9:36:09 PM PDT by First Amendment
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To: pram
Continuing your pretense of Hinduism by quoting Lewis and Chesterton? LOL.

Realizing that Roy's monumental carnival has these people completely buffaloed, I have to say that you are tempting fate by assuming they're dumb enough to buy your representations as well.

17 posted on 08/30/2003 9:46:04 PM PDT by Chancellor Palpatine (Give death the finger. Try new things, live, enjoy simple pleasures.)
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To: Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
As suggested in another thread,, Congress also has the power (and the duty) to impeach and remove from office those judges who usurp the legislative authority of Congress and issue illegal and unconstitutional orders.
18 posted on 08/31/2003 11:37:56 AM PDT by Celtman (It's never right to do wrong to do right.)
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19 posted on 08/31/2003 11:39:21 AM PDT by Celtman (It's never right to do wrong to do right.)
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To: Celtman

Congress also has the power (and the duty) to impeach and remove from office those judges who usurp the legislative authority of Congress and issue illegal and unconstitutional orders.

AND IT NEEDS TO BE REPEATED, AND REPEATED AND REPEATED UNTIL THE DEAFEST AND DUMBEST representatives get it. Those who fail to campaign on forcing the federal courts into compliance with the Constitution, will fail to get my vote.

20 posted on 08/31/2003 12:06:33 PM PDT by Vindiciae Contra TyrannoSCOTUS
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