Those pesky judges — let’s limit their power

Yeah, forget about the system of checks and balances so artfully created by the Founding Fathers. If the judges get to be too “activist” — meaning they do things some legislators do not like — then let’s amend the state constitution to proscribe such activities. That’s just what the GOP in the Kentucky state Senate wanted to do, anyway.

Ultimately, they failed in their attempt today. Voting along party lines, the 16 Democratic Senators voted nay, leaving SB 236 supporters one vote shy of the 60 percent needed to pass the bill. We were that close to a constitutional free-for-all.

Today’s newspaper was just chock full of happy political news. The state Senate wants to erect a monument of the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds. The Senate Republicans want to rewrite the state constitution to restrict the powers of the judiciary, especially those pesky judges who think posting religious texts on government property is unconstitutional.

The majority leaders pushed the bill, SB 236, through committee, then tried to rush a floor vote Wednesday. The Senate minority leader, Ed Worley, D-Richmond, who had actually voted for the bill in committee, balked. He said senators needed more time to review the bill, which was only two days in the making.

I bet a lot of thought went into that bill, like a student’s all-nighter term paper. Details of this attempted railroading job are at the Louisville Courier-Journal site.

When the bill came to a floor vote today, Worley sided with wiser minds and helped kill the bill.

In an earlier post, I referred to a book I had just read, The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us, by Rabbi James Rudin. I finished it just as the Kentucky Assembly was getting under way, doing plenty of things that supported exactly what the title implies.

Rudin contends that the religious right — Christocrats, he calls them — are frustrated in their attempts to pass laws to eliminate abortion, allow the display of the Ten Commandments in public places, restrict marriage to hetero couples only, introduce intelligent design in public school science classes, and other items in their scary agenda.

The courts have frustrated them at nearly every turn, because — guess what? — many of the laws are unconstitutional. Judges understand their role to be a brake on misguided legislators and members of the executive branch who are all too susceptible to noisy, influential lobby groups.

So, Rudin says, the Christocrats want to do no less than rewrite the law to restrict the powers of judiciary from interfering with legislative and executive efforts to toe their agenda’s line. The fact that to make such a change would require rewriting state and federal constitutions is a mere trifle in their minds.

I thought while reading his book that his hypothesis was far-fetched. Yet, here the state Senate has supplied plenty of evidence supporting Rudin. Just in today’s Courier-Journal, there were two reports on legislative efforts to post the Ten Commandments on state grounds and to limit the judiciary.

Obviously, many members of the state GOP need to bone up on their U.S. history. My study of U.S. history tells me we want and need to have three independent branches of government contending with one another. The founders saw the dangers of letting one branch of government acquiring too much power, so they wrote the Constitution to prevent governmental abuse.

That system of checks and balances has worked superbly for more than 200 years. It’s just plain idiotic to mess with it now, because some soreheads can’t get their way.

Too bad it seems only the Democrats here realize that.

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