Sunday, June 14, 2009

Their Constitution, And Ours

No doubt about it, the antics of the co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, are enough to drive a saint to drink or, at the very least, to intemperate language.

Radio host and blogger Hal Turner clearly went over the edge when he said about the two, "It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die."

Exclamation point!

"Or die?" a Hartford paper remarks in an editorial. "Turner defends his passionate beliefs not with a copy of the Constitution, but with the promise of ‘bullets.’”

“That would be wrong at any time, but especially now, when hate speech, mostly from the far right, and incitements to violence are so prevalent.”

To these reasonable objections, one can only reply "Here, here" -- and then proceed to quibble with some minor reservations.

Turner, the paper advises, “had taken umbrage at a bill introduced earlier this year — and since withdrawn — that would have changed the way the Roman Catholic Church is governed, giving more authority to lay members. The controversy was rekindled recently when state ethics officials decided to investigate whether church officials violated lobbying laws by organizing a rally at the state Capitol to protest the measure.”

Some nuances are not sufficiently appreciated in this concision. Actually, the bill Lawlor and McDonald contrived to sneak past watchful eyes in their own Judiciary Committee was an attack upon the apostolic nature of the Catholic Church, and the nature of Raised Bill No. 1098 was itself masked by its innocuous description.

So damaging was Raised Bill No. 1098 to the structure of the Catholic Church that opposition to it – though, significantly, not from many editorialists and commentators -- was instantly mobilized.

A massive crowd numbering in the thousands showed up on the Capitol lawn to protest this egregious violation of the First Amendment provision in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits government from impeding "the free exercise" of religion.

The state's ubiquitous Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, significantly not an active participant at the rally, later insisted in his hometown newspaper that he had numerous times protested the constitutional irregularity of the bill.

Under such pressure, none of it brought to bear by editorialists usually alert to emasculating assaults on the First Amendment, the bill was hastily withdrawn and later killed.

Round two of the assault on both the Catholic Church and the First Amendment opened when the state’s ineptly named Ethics Committee determined that the rally at the Capital was not, as most disinterested observers had supposed, a robust exercise of First Amendment rights but an impermissible lobbying effort by the diocese of Bridgeport, which was responsible for mounting an effective response to the assault by the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee on its imprescriptible constitutional rights.

It is here we see the chief difference between power brokers and friends of the constitution. Lawlor, McDonald, the members of the Ethics Committee and a vast silent majority of commentators – those who are interested in securing constitutional freedoms for themselves alone – do not view the constitution as a great charter of liberties artfully designed to protect and enhance those natural God given freedoms for which the founders of the country pledged their lives, their blood and their sacred honor.

No, these pinched souls, these little men of little consequence, see government, at best a necessary evil restrained by constitutional proscriptions, as a means of denying constitutional liberties to their enemies; just now the Catholic Church, but later their denials of rights may be expanded to include other distasteful citizens.

What the hapless Turner threatened to do with bullets they do by an abuse of a position of responsibility, by a telling silence – and no one calls them out on it.

Unmindful of Benjamin Franklin’s warning that our charter of liberty has given us a Republic – “if we can keep it” – these bullets aimed at our liberty are of no consequence to them. And newspapers use their language of oppression – the church that defended its constitutional rights is being investigated for violating “lobbying laws” – to assist in the assassination of constitutional rights.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote, summarizing a passage from Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” would have been abashed at such cowardice. And Voltaire would have used his pen to defame these men without chests as vampires of liberty.

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