Subverting the Constitution: Dial’s Ten Commandments bill is wrong for Alabama
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Feb 15, 2013 | 5644 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gerald Dial
Gerald Dial
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One of the lessons Alabama’s children should learn from watching lawmakers at work is that laws should be written to conform to U.S. Constitution, not to subvert it.

Unfortunately, Alabama has a history of writing laws to get around constitutional restraints.

Until recently, the most frequently cited example has been Alabama’s state Constitution, which in 1901 was written specifically to deny African-Americans the right to participate in politics as guaranteed by the 15th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Rather than saying black people could not vote because they were black, the state’s leaders inserted qualifications that blacks (and many poor whites) could not meet. Thus, the men of who wrote the document could claim they were not denying suffrage based on race (which was unconstitutional) but rather on intelligence, character or conduct.

The courts accepted this argument for a while, but in time the judiciary saw through the ruse and struck down those restrictions.

Alabama children will now have a new example of lawmakers trying to get around the U.S. Constitution, which, by the way, they are sworn to uphold.

Soon, the state Legislature will consider an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings, even though the courts have ruled that such a display constitutes an endorsement of a particular religion and violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Legislators will accomplish this by not specifying that the Ten Commandments can be displayed, but that “documents with historical significance” can.

And which historically significant document, currently not displayed, would our legislators want on the walls of public buildings?

Why, the Ten Commandments, of course.

Conveniently, supporters of the amendment have revealed the real purpose of the legislation. At least they are up front about their intentions, which is why the case will go into court as soon as the Ten Commandments appear on a courthouse or schoolhouse wall.

Won’t that cost the state money we don’t have?

“We don’t have to worry about that,” said Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who’s leading the charge to circumvent the U.S. Constitution. Under his plan, public institutions would not be allowed to spend money defending themselves when a case is brought against them.

But it doesn’t mean there will be no legal defense and the Ten Commandments will come down. “There are organizations that would be willing to step in” and defend the state’s position in court, Dial said, and they will pick up the tab.

Thus, history books in a few years will tell of another effort by Alabama legislators to do what the U.S. Constitution said the state should not do, and how legislators made the people of Alabama and private organizations partners in the effort.

If legal precedent counts for anything, the history books will also tell of how, once again, the U.S. Constitution prevailed.

This is the lesson our children will learn.
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