Sunday, November 7, 2010

Election Fallout - Part the First

So it seems that the good citizens of Oklahoma have just banned the Ten Commandments.

Pardon me while I laugh until my sides hurt.

Of course that wasn’t their intention, at least one assumes that it wasn’t, anyway. At a certain point Teh Stoopid becomes its own parody and it gets hard to tell exactly what people intended, but my guess is that this wasn’t it.

No, this was pretty straightforward bigotry.

Apparently the voters in Oklahoma were concerned that their state courts might begin to enforce Sharia law, because you know if there is one thing that is likely to happen in the great state of Oklahoma it is the application of Islamic law by the state courts. And so, as if by magic, Oklahoma Ballot Measure 755 appeared before the electorate this year to solve this imminent crisis. It was overwhelmingly approved in last week’s election.

Now, certain things need to be cleared up before we move further into this farce.

First and most important, the Constitution of the United States already bans the imposition of Islamic law or any other form of religious law, by state courts. That’s one of the many things the Establishment Clause is good for – keeping church (or, in this case, mosque) and state separate that way. So the only substantive achievement produced by voting for this ballot measure is for the good citizens of Oklahoma to express their ignorance of their own government.

Which purpose it served astonishingly well, I might add.

Second and accordingly, it is clear that Oklahomans in general do not understand that, by the strict orders of the Founding Fathers whom they claim to revere so much, religious laws are not to be foisted off on the general public. My guess is that since they seem to blithely assume the right to impose on the rest of us the lunatic fringe version of Christianity so popular among the right wing these days, they therefore assume that others have the right - if not necessarily the power - to impose their own religious laws upon them as well.

See point one, above re: Church and State, Separation thereof. Methinks they dost protest too much.

Third, I do not claim to be an expert on the demographics of Oklahoma, but my guess is that the Muslim community there could fit into a phone booth, with a total political clout measured accordingly. Even if state courts were actually inclined to violate the Constitution in this manner, sheer political self-interest would seem to restrain such things. And if you can’t trust the political system to act in terms of its own self-interest, what can you trust?

Phone booths, children, were tiny little shacks that had telephones and occasionally superheroes in them. They were placed on street corners for public use in the days before everyone had cell phones. Ask your grandparents about them.

So the actual threat of Sharia being imposed was fairly limited, one could say.

Now it’s not bad enough that these boneheads decided to take a gratuitous swipe at a fifth of the world’s population and expose the entire United States to ridicule by association. Worse, they botched it. If you’re going to be an idiot, you should at least be clever about it. But no, not these guys.  Other countries have highly trained and literate Nativists - we get the Keystone Kops version.  Lucky us.

The language of the ballot measure is written fairly broadly – always a dangerous move when employed by people who have already proven they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. And the relevant section reads as follows:

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.”

To the best of my knowledge – and perhaps someone from Oklahoma can enlighten me on this – the Ten Commandments were not written in the United States. They are thus, by definition, “international law" and banned in the state of Oklahoma by popular acclaim.

So I’ll be interested to see how this falls out.

Perhaps there will be a second ballot measure, one that declares that the state courts of Oklahoma may (or, even better, must) use the Ten Commandments in their decision-making, despite the express prohibition of using religious law in that manner laid down by the Constitution, as described above.

Hold on to your hats, folks. We could end up miles from here.

Now excuse me while I go rest my aching sides.


KimK said...

I dunno - snicker - seems to me the authors of the ten commandments could have written them here. Dinosaurs could fly, and they could have ridden the dinosaurs to North America. (See the clever exhibits and the Creation Museum for more info on how this might have worked.) Of course, it's unclear whether that would be considered foreign or international, since we've only been a country 234 years.

Eric said...

Err... the constitutional amendment Oklahoma passed sounds like it's kind of sort of illegal to the extent it's not self-nullifying. See, on the one hand, it violates Article VI of the United States Constitution; on the other hand, since it makes courts rely on Federal law, and since Article VI says treaties the United States has entered into are Federal law, well....

Article VI is the part of the Constitution that says (in part):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Of course, I guess maybe the Oklahomans mean to be saying Oklahoma judges shouldn't consider international law the United States isn't part of (which therefore isn't part of the law of the land), as part of a long-way-around swipe at the U.S. Supreme Court considering other countries' laws on capital punishment when deciding that executing the mentally retarded was a violation of the Eighth Amendment, part of their dicta in Atkins. This became a bit of a thing for conservative types for a while, somewhat stupidly, as judges don't actually rely on foreign law, it was simply something the Atkins majority pointed to in pointing out that the United States was one of the last countries on Earth still killing the disabled and kids under 18.

I'm afraid I can't help closing with the obvious snark, then: the passage of the Oklahoma amendment clearly has the accidental side effect of outlawing the death penalty in Oklahoma under Atkins.

David said...

I'm figuring you're right about the motives for the international law prohibition, Eric, which makes the whole fiasco even better when you think about it.

From a Constitutional perspective, this ballot measure sure is a target-rich environment, isn't it?

Beatrice Desper said...

I am SOOOOO happy that I managed to NOT hear about this until now. It didn't hit French news, but Bush's book signing did.