William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law! Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that! Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!I expect our friends at the Thomas More Center to put out a similar statement any moment now.
By the end of the Democratic National Convention last week my feet were aching but my spirit was soaring. I loved meeting People For members, and had a chance to connect with a lot of progressive advocates, political leaders, and potential donors. Our standing-room-only panel on the future of the Supreme Court was thoughtful and lively. Several of our staff did magnificent jobs in other panel discussions throughout the week. And the whole event felt like history in the making.
I hadn't even gotten home when the afterglow was interrupted by the announcement on Friday that John McCain had selected Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, to be his running mate. Like many others, we’ve been busy since then looking at her record, and when it comes to the issues we care about, it's not pretty.
Let me state clearly that I have spent my whole career working to give women the opportunity to take leadership roles. I am opposed to the media or anyone else judging women candidates on their hair, hemlines, or anything other than their policies, positions, and qualifications. I agree with Sen. Barack Obama that this campaign should not be about Palin's children, and as a mother, I appreciate that at least from the outside it appears that her teenage daughter is getting support at a difficult time.
In other words, let's judge Palin on her political positions and her record — and let's judge John McCain based on this important decision. Here's some of what we know already, with more coming out by the hour:
No wonder our Right Wing Watch blog reports that even the most extreme Religious Right leaders are falling all over themselves to gush about Palin — James Dobson even called her "God's answer" to prayer. When McCain floated the possibility of a pro-choice running mate, Religious Right leaders threatened to tank the campaign. The campaign caved, and the Religious Right got what they wanted. So much for Mr. Maverick.
Sarah Palin has proven that she knows how to win local and statewide elections, and I encourage progressives not to take her too lightly or dismissively. Given what we're learning about her record and political beliefs, there's plenty of reason to question her selection by McCain, and to remind Americans what their election would mean for the future of the Supreme Court and for our rights and liberties. With your help, that's what we're going to do.
Let me know what you think at Kathryn@pfaw.org.
As soon as news broke last Friday that Senator John McCain had chosen the relatively unknown governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, a media scramble began to find out more about her. In the brief period since then, one of the most concerning things to come to light about someone who holds public office and aspires to higher office is her belief that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public school science classes. As Palin has put it, "let kids debate both sides." This is a regurgitation of the right wing's "teach the debate" campaign. On the face of it, it sounds sort of benign, doesn't it? Give kids more information, let them decide? What could be wrong with that?
Well, one big thing — evolution is science, and creationism is religious belief. There is no scientific debate over evolution, and one simply cannot "debate" the validity of religious belief. Indeed, because creationism is religious belief, the Supreme Court has held that states cannot require it to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.
The right wing's "teach the debate" campaign is nothing more than their latest effort to undermine evolution, thereby sabotaging the teaching of sound science in our public schools. Having failed in their efforts to ban the teaching of evolution entirely, the right has shifted its strategy by attempting to suggest there is legitimate scientific evidence "questioning" evolution, when there isn't. (The other part of this strategy is to pretend that religion is science, by calling creationism "intelligent design.")
The campaign against evolution is not a scientific movement or an educational movement. It is a political campaign being waged by people who think their religious beliefs should be taught as science in our public school classrooms. It’s not good science, good education, or good policy.
Does this mean that students can't learn about creationism in public schools? Of course not. As part of a sound education, students should be taught about religion and learn about the beliefs of different faith groups, including beliefs about the origin of the universe and the development of human beings. And there are certainly suitable courses, such as World Religions, where such teaching can take place.
But science courses are not among them. Evolution and creationism occupy two separate and independent spheres, and have no place together in science classes. It's our responsibility to prepare our young people as best we can to succeed in the increasingly competitive global economy of the 21st century. To that end, students need and deserve a quality science education.
Hey, remember the U.S. attorney scandal? Fishy firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 for allegedly partisan reasons? It was a huge deal when the revelations first broke last year, but since then the mainstream media has, in classic MSM-ADD fashion, largely seemed to have lost interest in covering recent developments.
Well, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hasn't forgotten about the firings. And he's my hero of the day for promising the White House that he won't let them escape accountability for any potential wrongdoings.
At the Democratic National Convention yesterday, Talking Points Memo's David Kurtz asked Leahy for reaction to the news that a U.S. district court judge has refused to stay an order that former White House aide Harriet Miers is legally required to testify about the firings.
Leahy had this to say:
"The White House is essentially saying, 'We're above the law; the rest of the rest of the world has to follow the law.' That's not the way it works.
Just because someone works in the White House, they're subject to the same laws as everybody else...
I intend to keep on — and if they're trying to run out the clock to the end of this Congress, I remind them. I'll still be chairman next year."
Not one to expect much from the Bush administration, I'm still a bit flabbergasted that a simple concept like in America, no one is above the law is completely lost on the Bush administration. (Seeing as how escaping monarchical edicts and founding a government of equal citizens is kinda-sorta why this country was founded in the first place.)
Watch Kurtz's talk with Leahy here:
The AIGA, a consortium of graphic artists, thinks it just might.
In order to avoid the sort of poor election ballot design that plagued the 2000 election — remember butterfly ballots and hanging chads? — the AIGA has proposed several changes that would make ballots much easier for voters to figure out. (To say nothing of prettier.)
The New York Times has a great interactive look at the problems the AIGA sees in current ballot designs and what their ideal ballot would look like. (The picture on the right offers a glimpse.)
Of course, in addition to better ballots, voters also need to know their rights at the polls and what they need to bring with them. (Think ID!) Click here for People For's voting-rights toolkits.
If you read my post back in March after the oral argument before the Fourth Circuit in Turner v. City Council of Fredericksburg, Virginia, you know that it was quite an honor to have had retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the three-judge panel. And now Justice O’Connor has written the court’s opinion in the case, a July 23 unanimous decision in favor of our client, the Fredericksburg City Council.
As I’ve reported previously, the Council has been sued by one of its own members, Rev. Hashmel Turner, who claims that he has the constitutional right to deliver a prayer in the name of Jesus as the official Council prayer to start Council meetings. Never mind that this would make the non-Christian residents of Fredericksburg feel like second-class citizens when they attend Council meetings. Rev. Turner, who is represented in this case by the religious right Rutherford Institute, also claims that the Council’s policy requiring that its official opening prayers be nonsectarian (that is, not in the name of a specific deity) is unconstitutional. A federal district court judge soundly rejected those claims, and now the Fourth Circuit has rejected them as well.
As Justice O’Connor explained in the court’s opinion holding that the Council’s policy does not violate the Constitution, “[t]he restriction that prayers be nonsectarian in nature is designed to make the prayers accessible to people who come from a variety of backgrounds.” This does not mean, of course, that Rev. Turner’s own free speech or free exercise rights have been violated. To the contrary, as Justice O’Connor observed, Rev. Turner “remains free to pray on his own behalf, in nongovernmental endeavors, in the manner dictated by his conscience.”
Justice O’Connor’s opinion is a sound repudiation of the Rutherford Institute’s efforts to stand the First Amendment on its head. Unfortunately, it seems that the Institute is not listening; it has already announced that it will ask the Supreme Court to hear Rev. Turner’s case.
So stay tuned. In the meantime, I want to add my personal thanks to our co-counsel in this case, the very fine lawyers at Hunton & Williams.