Establishment of a State Religion OK According to Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas is OK with states establishing an official religion and that’s why it is important to vote for Hillary Clinton even if frustrated by Bernie Sanders not getting the nomination. The Supreme court is in the balance.

Clarence Thomas has been a controversial figure since he was first nominated to the Supreme Court. We are approaching the 25th anniversary of his nomination in which accusations of sexual harassment were revealed by National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg. Thomas has been remarkably conservative, some argue even farther to the right than the late Antonin Scalia. Charges of conflict of interest have dogged he and his wife. He virtually never speaks from the bench when cases are presented, so much so that when he finally spoke this past February for the first time in over 10 years it made national news. Just speaking sparks news stories.

So, it is never a surprise that he is in the news again. This time it is for something a good bit more substantial, possibly the biggest issue since his nomination hearings in 1991. He has said that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit the individual 50 states from establishing official state religions. It came in a dissent in a 5 to 4 case that allowed prayers at town board meetings. Thomas simply says that the Establishment Clause is not included in the implications of the 14th Amendment. The 14 Amendment is used to justify that the U.S. Constitution applies to States, also. In his rather unusual view, the Establishment Clause says that Congress can’t make laws that establish an official national religion (that is a conventional view) and can’t make laws that interfere with a State making laws to establish an official state religion (that is a non-conventional view).

So, this coming November we all will be facing a crucial decision: Whom to elect for President? There are a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who are unwavering in their devotion. That is truly great. Sanders views are close to my own Social Democrat* views, I admire him tremendously. But, he will not be the nominee. A lot of Bernie Sanders voters claim that they can’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I guess a lot of folks are not Democrats and feel no obligation to support the Democrats’ nominee. No foul there. But, come November an election will  be held and there will not be a viable Social Democrat on the ticket because there is no Social Democrat party in the US that could reasonably launch a viable national campaign. Therefore, Social Democrats have a decision to make between Clinton and Trump.

Look at the 4-4 Supreme Court. Who do you want deciding the upcoming cases on religious freedom, women’s rights, the influence of money in politics, gun laws, etc? Who do you want to pick the next several Supreme Court Justices, men and women who will have huge influence for the next 20 to 40 years? Do you really want Donald Trump to make that decision?

Come November, it will be time for the Social Democrats to hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton. In December, it will be a good time to then gather to form a new Social Democrat party in the USA. Then, start the hard work of getting local officials elected, state officials elected, and eventually national officials. You have to start in the minors to work up to the big leagues. Heck, maybe you bolster the already strong Green Party. If you are lucky, maybe you can get Bernie Sanders to be your founder and standard-bearer. Indeed, this may be Bernie Sanders long game, to use the contact lists he gains from the Democratic Party and his own list of workers and contributors to form the basis for a new Social Democrat Party.

*It is worth noting that there is a difference between Social Democrat and Democratic Socialist views. Social Democrats are strong believers in capitalism as the engine of an economy, but that the primary purpose of a society is to build a social system that is constantly supporting the strength of the next generation with education, health, housing and sustenance. Democratic Socialists want to eliminate the capitalist system as fundamentally incompatible with democratic ideals and with social support systems. They believe the state should own and operate the means of production, distribution, etc. So, they sound the same, but they are somewhat different.



Deconstructing the Seduction of The Will of the People

Within hours of the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Republican senators and candidates for President were saying that President Obama should not put forth a nominee, that we should wait for the Will of the People to be revealed in the coming election.

It is a seductive argument, if you don’t think about it… of course, that is the nature of seduction. Feel it, it feels so right, shhhh, don’t talk (don’t think), be carried away, float away with it feeling so right...The Will of the People…

Snap! Think using facts.

The Constitution (every Republican has one in their pocket, right?) says in Article Two, Section 2, Clause 2, “… he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for,…”. That is, the President nominates and the Senate provides consent or rejects the nominee. There is no ‘except in an election year’ clause. If Obama were to not offer a nominee it would be an abdication of constitutional responsibility. If the Senate does not hold hearings and vote for confirmation, it would be an abdication of constitutional responsibility.

The Republicans are saying that we should wait for the Will of the People to be represented in the 2016 election. But, there is no precedent for that. In contrast, there have been numerous nominations for Associate Justices by Presidents in an election year, even in their last year of their second term. One example is President Reagan in 1988 nominating Associate Justice Kennedy as a third choice after his first two were rejected. (Parenthetically, it is arguable that Joe Biden could have overcome some of the difficulties he faced in the 1988 Presidential campaign if he’s ignored his responsibility as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, see What it Takes by Richard Ben Cramer.)

The Republicans are saying that we should wait for the Will of the People to be represented in the 2016 election. But, that will has been spoken in the 2012 election of Barack Obama as President with the known power to appoint Justices. Twice elected. The Republicans say that the 2014 election that put the Republicans in control of the Senate means the people no longer support the President. Maybe, maybe not. The way to test it is to have the actual argument over a nominee. The Constitution says the President nominates and the Senate provides advice and consent. That is to say: The Will of the People from both the 2012 election and the 2014 election are represented in the process.

That is, we can allow the Will of the People to lead us, because it has already been expressed…This wait for the Will to be expressed argument has some traction because that old actually-expressed Will is not seductive. Like most idealized offerings, seduction lays in their unexpressed possibilities not in their realities. The Will of the People of 2012 and 2014 are not seductive, not like the easy to idealize Will of the People yet to be discovered for 2016. That 2016 Will will be so lovely, so clear, so perfect an expression that we will all know what to do…. <sigh>

The Constitution is designed to deal with the reality of the situation, taking into account the Will of the People through two branches of government to establish members of the third branch. It is not designed to have us live in the thrall of seduction. Otherwise we will always be in a never-ending hesitation awaiting the next expression of the Will of the People, only 2 years or less away.

Guns, Gays & God

All wrapped up in a single package here. The story is a brief one on NPR’s website about the US Supreme Court refusing to issue a stay of the Kentucky Supreme Court that the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky is required to issue marriage licenses. Reading the comments on this brief story, one stood out.


Wow, that captures so much. I’m in awe of it’s simplicity. I also dearly hope someone out there decides to do this in one of those states where ‘religious freedom’ laws are being passed.