Fax This Editorial to Congress

Every once in a while, we provide a Democracy 101 lesson in this spot. In it, we recall out loud that the U.S. Supreme Court is only one of three branches of government and is not the sole interpreter of the U.S. Constitution.

It's time to do so again, but it occurs to us that our readers have already heard it. Perhaps it's time for us to spread the word.

If you know any legislator who is in a position to stick up for self-government in the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives, please share this editorial with him or her. Heck, if you know the fax number of anyone who fits that description, you can share this editorial.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of the Ten Commandments monument brouhaha. But to do so would be to miss a rare opportunity to fight back at judicial overreaching.

Support for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's defense of his Ten Commandments monument is broader than the small band of Pentecostals the news reports love to show carrying on in the rotunda where the monument once stood.

Americans have been backing Moore's position as long ago as the the Mayflower Compact and as recently as 1999, when the state of Colorado took down the crosses for massacre victims at Columbine High in Littleton.

In fact, Congress can capitalize on the popularity of this issue to reclaim some of the powers it has ceded to the Supreme Court over the years.

The United States was founded on a system of checks and balances that gave three branches of government — the executive, the legislative and the judicial — equal footing in the project of governing the nation according to the Constitution. All three branches swear to uphold the Constitution and all three are empowered to make decisions about what is and what isn't constitutional.

The beauty of this system is that, when one branch begins to read strange and unintended meanings into the Constitution, another branch stops it. The danger is that, if the legislative and executive branches throw up their hands and say that it's up to the judiciary to decide what is and isn't constitutional, then a panel of unelected judges becomes the real highest power in the land.

Our freedoms remain because Congresses in the past didn't let that happen.

Abraham Lincoln himself, when a congressman, introduced legislation declaring that the Constitution didn't at all intend to give the slave Dred Scott the treatment he got from the court in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Later lawmakers rebelled when the Supreme Court ruled out child labor laws and when it stopped civil rights laws early in this century.

But the spirit of Lincoln isn't relegated to Congress' past. In 1966's Katzenbach v. Morgan (involving English literacy tests for voters) and 1986's Goldman v. Weinberger (involving wearing yarmulkes on Air Force duty), lawmakers challenged erroneous Supreme Court decisions and won.

It is high time for our representatives in Congress to do what Congresses of old did when faced with those other issues.

They must challenge the court by actually making the laws that so many of their constituents want and passing those laws again and again, if necessary. A bill allowing communities to restore the Ten Commandments to public buildings would be a good place to start.

After all, after Columbine, the U.S. Senate voted to go on record saying it is constitutional to erect religious memorials for students slain at public schools. And The Ten Commandments Defense Act passed the House easily that year.

Perhaps the Ten Commandments Defense Act of 2003 is the right bill. Or to emphasize that the people are on their side, they could use the language that passed last year in Senate Bill 2690, “A bill to reaf-firm the reference to one Nation under God in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

But however they do it, they'd better start now, and stick with it. More than the right, our representatives have the duty to reclaim the ground for us that the courts have stolen away.