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“GOP Lawmakers Take Aim At Constitutional Principle”: Ending Birthright Citizenship Has Been Added To The Far-Right’s To-Do List

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” It’s a principle generally known as “birthright citizenship,” and after its enactment following the Civil War, the Supreme Court has protected the tenet many times.

But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, and anti-immigration sentiments within the GOP became more extreme, the party’s “constitutional conservatives” decided the principle, championed by Republicans nearly 150 years ago, needs to go. Shortly after the “Tea Party” gains in 2010, ending birthright citizenship was added to the far-right’s to-do list.

And yesterday, as Dana Milbank explained, a congressional panel actually considered a plan to scrap the existing constitutional provision.

A House Judiciary subcommittee took up the question Wednesday afternoon, prompted by legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and 22 other lawmakers that, after nearly 150 years, would end automatic citizenship.

The 14th Amendment, King told the panel, “did not contemplate that anyone who would sneak into the United States and have a baby would have automatic citizenship conferred on them.” Added King, “I’d suggest it’s our job here in this Congress to decide who will be citizens, not someone in a foreign country that can sneak into the United States and have a baby and then go home with the birth certificate.”

It’s no small task to undo a principle, enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court, that defines the United States as a nation of immigrants. It’s particularly audacious that House Republicans would undo a century and a half of precedent without amending the Constitution but merely by passing a law to reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s wording in a way that will stop the scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”

That’s no small detail. In the American system of government, if federal lawmakers want to alter constitutional law, they have to actually amend the Constitution. But King and his cohorts have a different idea: they intend to simply pass a regular ol’ law voiding the unambiguous language of the 14th Amendment.

Remember, these are the same folks who are convinced President Obama is a radical who ignores constitutional principles he doesn’t like.

To bolster his case, House Republicans invited a few “experts” to tell lawmakers why the plan to end birthright citizenship is a great idea – one of whom has a deeply troubled history on issues related to race.

But to dismiss the entire debate as a pet project of a clownish congressman would be a mistake. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), for example, is also sponsoring a bill to end birthright citizenship, calling it a constitutional “loophole” he hopes to fill.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) hasn’t signed on to King’s bill, but he considers the constitutional principle an open question. “The question of whether our forefathers meant for birthright citizenship in all circumstances to be the law of the land is far from settled,” Goodlatte said at the hearing. “In any event, we must still determine if it is the right policy for America today.”

Even at the national level, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a GOP presidential candidate, recently sat down with a right-wing conspiracy-theory website, WorldNetDaily, where he voiced opposition to birthright citizenship.

WND: Do you still want to end birthright citizenship?

PAUL: Yeah, I think if you have a broken system like we have now, you can’t let just people –  you know, I’ve always agreed with Milton Freedman who said you can’t have open borders and a welfare state. You can’t become a magnet for the world and let everybody come in here, have children, and then they all become citizens. So I still do agree with that.

In 2011, Vitter introduced a measure to undo birthright citizenship, and the proposal picked up four Senate Republican co-sponsors. Rand Paul was one of the four.

It’s a bad sign when the debate shifts from whether or not to pass comprehensive immigration reform to whether or not Congress wants to nullify part of the 14th Amendment.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | 14th Amendment, Citizenship, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“We Will Not Obey”: Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands

It’s going to take me a while to absorb this document, and remember (probably with Sarah Posner’s help) the backgrounds of some of the signatories. But the newly released “Pledge of Solidarity in Defense of Marriage”, drafted by Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, semi-retired culture-war maven James Dobson, and Liberty University law school dean Matt Staver, represents the boldest effort yet of Christian Right types to claim a revolutionary right of resistance to marriage equality. Without question, the “pledge” asserts that marriage discrimination is part of the warp and weave of the universe, via divine fiat and natural law, and that no Court has the power to overturn it. Thus, the signatories announce their intention not to obey any such decision, as explained by Todd Starnes at townhall:

“We will not obey.”

That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage.

“We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,” read a document titled, Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage. “We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve.”

“While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross,” the pledge states….

“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver said. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.”

That’s quite a shocking statement. So I asked Mr. Staver to clarify his remarks.

“I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law,” he told me. “They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”

Yes, of course, the Pledge of Solidarity is loaded with references to the civil rights movement (they predictably secured the signature of Aveda King, the niece of MLK who has long been a committed right-wing culture warrior) and comparisons of any SCOTUS decision upholding same-sex marriage as illegitimate, just like Dred Scott. So what grievous harm do they claim for themselves that makes them and their largely well-fed suburban flocks qualified to stand with protesters like King and Gandhi fighting for the most basic rights?

[Scarborough] referenced the “outrageous penalties” being assessed against people of faith simply because they don’t want to participate in a same-sex union.

An Oregon bakery is facing a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a cake for a lesbian wedding and a Washington State florist faces fines for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.

Yep, it’s still the bakers and florists of conscience on whose behalf these birds are calling for an overturning of the Rule of Law and the shattering of a constitutional order that’s worked reasonably well in the past. Almost to a man or woman, of course, they’d call themselves “constitutional conservatives,” a term that means pretty much the opposite of both words, insofar as they claim “higher laws” like fetal rights, absolute property rights, and yes, a heterosexual monopoly on marriage, have to be imposed on the Constitution. No wonder David Barton, the author of so much historical fiction on the theocratic designs of the Founders, is a signatory of the Pledge, along with a rogue’s gallery of Christian Nation radicals he helped inspire.

So, too, are two candidates for the presidency, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. You kinda get the impression they would really love to find a way to get themselves arrested for their brave defense of “traditional marriage,” so they could campaign from a jail cell like Eugene Debs in 1920. Maybe they could take up baking or flower arranging.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Showdown Between God And Government”: Roy Moore And The Divine Right Of Nullifiers

With Roy Moore in the national headlines again–this time for defying and urging state courts in Alabama to defy a federal court order–reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court–to begin licensing same-sex marriages–it’s a good time to consult Sarah Posner, who has an important remembrance of a speech by the Ten Commandments Judge a few years ago. She helps explain why and how a lot of “constitutionalists” and “states rights advocates” like Moore have theocratic grounds for their supposedly law-based views.

That Friday night [in June 2011] in Severn [Maryland], Moore was speaking to a gathering of the Institute on the Constitution, a fringe educational group run by Maryland lawyer, former Constitution Party presidential candidate, and current member of the Anne Arundel County Council, Michael Peroutka. Back in 2010 and 2011, I made an irregular habit of attending the IOTC’s First Friday gatherings, at which there was typically an out-of-town celebrity speaker (Moore’s was particularly well-attended, with a few hundred people in the audience), covering topics near and dear to the IOTC’s unorthodox view of the Constitution. The Constitution, they claim, is a divine document designed only to protect the rights conferred by God, not to create “new” rights by way of jurisprudence. For all you law school graduates shaking your head as you read this, Peroutka, Moore, and their followers claim that the law schools are teaching it all wrong—that’s why they’ve created their own law schools….

In presenting Moore with a “Spirit of Daniel” award for courage, Peroutka gleefully noted that he was doing so on Jefferson Davis’s birthday. (The award was given because Moore “resisted a government that thought it was God.”)

That showdown between God and government is at the heart of Moore’s claims that he is on the side of righteousness and the federal courts on the side of an anti-God, unconstitutional “tyranny.” Moore believes there is a separation of church and state—but he believes it’s one that distinguishes America from royal monarchies. In other words, the government is separated from the church in that the government is barred from running the church, and it can’t tell the church what to do. Public schools, in his view, are “controlled by government,” and impose secularism; he favors tax credits for homeschooling because that’s “the right of the parent….”

Moore, who graduated from West Point and served in Vietnam, is fond of reiterating that he has sworn to uphold Constitution against enemies, both foreign and domestic. He readily agreed that America has been overtaken by enemies within. “Our government is infiltrated with communists, we’ve got Muslims coming in and taking over where we should be having the say about our principles.” And more: “I’m not so sure some in government don’t want to destroy our country.”

Sarah has more, but you get the drift. The scary thing is that Moore is not some isolated radio crank or even a state legislator, but the elected chief judicial officer of an entire state. He’s a useful study because he’s a little less crafty than most “constitutional conservatives” in speaking in code when he talks about the connection between religion and the law. For him, the divine law fundamentalists derive from the Hebrew scriptures was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution by the Founders and by definition cannot be legitimately modified by human hands, regardless of the instruments for doing just that made available in the Constitution itself. And so the presumed right of state nullfication of federal laws and court decisions is rooted not just in a pre-Civil War idea of federalism, but in an aggressively reactionary notion of religion and its implications for secular law.

While Moore’s bizarre and dangerous world view is plain for all who go to the trouble of looking for it to see, it has some pretty respectable fellow travelers. The Paul family’s close connection with the Constitution Party is a good example; indeed, in 2008, that party’s affiliate in Montana placed Ron Paul at the top of its ticket with Michael Peroutka as his running-mate (Paul protested this action, but apparently only to protect the status of national Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin, whom he ultimately endorsed over Republican John McCain and Libertarian Bob Barr).

So Roy Moore may be as crazy as he sounds, but he’s not as exotic a bird as you might think.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal,The Washington Monthly, February 11, 2015

February 12, 2015 Posted by | Alabama Supreme Court, Nullification, Roy Moore | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World According To Clarence Thomas And Ayn Rand

The Los Angeles Times highlights some of Justice Clarence Thomas’s more extreme solo opinions, most of which seem to be rooted in this: every year Thomas has his new clerks come to his home to watch a movie—”the 1949 film version of the classic of libertarian conservatism, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.”

Explains a lot, and not just his willingness to be the only (often crazy) dissenter on key cases.

Among them, he has declared that the Constitution gives states a right to establish an official religion. Prisoners, he wrote, have no constitutional right to be protected from beatings by guards. Teenagers and students have no free-speech rights at all, he said in an opinion Monday, because in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written, parents had “absolute authority” over their children.Two years ago, the court ruled that a school official could not strip-search a 13-year-old girl to look for two extra-strength ibuprofen pills. Thomas — alone — dissented, calling the search of her underwear “reasonable and justified.”

Alone, he voted to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act that is credited with giving blacks political power in the South. And he was the lone justice to uphold the George W. Bush administration’s view that an American citizen could be held as an “enemy combatant” with no charges and no hearing….

“He is the most radical justice to serve on the court in decades,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine Law School and a liberal constitutional scholar. He “would change the law dramatically and give little weight to precedent. It’s easy to overlook how radical [he is] because his are usually sole opinions that do not get attention.”

He’s the Federalist Society’s dream Justice, a true “constitutional conservative.” Ed Kilgore writes about the radicalism of the movement in reference to Michele Bachmann, but it’s applicable here.

…[C]onstitutional conservatives think of America as a sort of ruined paradise, bestowed a perfect form of government by its wise Founders but gradually imperiled by the looting impulses of voters and politicians. In their backwards-looking vision, constitutional conservatives like to talk about the inalienable rights conferred by the Founders—not specifically in the Constitution, as a matter of fact, but in the Declaration of Independence, which is frequently and intentionally conflated with the Constitution as the part of the Founders’ design. It’s from the Declaration, for instance, that today’s conservatives derive their belief that “natural rights” (often interpreted to include quasi-absolute property rights or the prerogatives of the traditional family), as well as the “rights of the unborn,” were fundamental to the American political experiment and made immutable by their divine origin….The obvious utility of the label is that it hints at a far more radical agenda than meets the untrained eye, all the while elevating the proud bearer above the factional disputes of the conservative movement’s economic and cultural factions.

On the economic side of the coin, most mainstream politicians are not going to publicly say that the monstrosities they associate with ObamaCare, “redistribution of wealth,” or Keynesian stimulus techniques are rooted in their desire to reverse the New Deal, as well as a long chain of Supreme Court decisions that also happened to make possible the abolition of segregation. But many conservative activists actually think that way, and have in mind as their goal nothing so modest as a mere rollback of federal social programs to the levels of the Bush or even the Reagan administration. Bachmann and other candidates can talk to most voters as though they are simply trying to defend America from a vast overreach by the 44th president. But to the radicalized conservative base that dominates contests like the Iowa Caucuses, the constitutional conservative label hints broadly at a more audacious agenda ultimately aimed at bringing back the lost American Eden of the 1920s, if not an earlier era.

It’s an interesting concept for Thomas to align with, given that he would have been considered only 3/5ths of a man “in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written.” Or perhaps he’s interpreting it as three out of five African-Americans being counted, and assuming he’d of course be among the three. Of course, if we returned to his preferred era of governance, he could be in prison on the basis of his marriage alone. And it’s a pretty safe bet, had so many of the laws he has dissented from so strenuously not been passed and upheld, the last place he’d find himself now is on a seat in the highest court of the land.

All of which would only be an interesting quirk of Thomas’s personality if he weren’t part of an increasingly extreme majority on the court, manifesting this hard-right, highly corporatist, and dangerous philosophy. That he’s guided by Ayn Rand should be enough to put his place on the court in question, if his ethical lapses alone weren’t enough to do so.


By: Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, SCOTUS, States, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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