The New York Times published an editorial Saturday concerning a measure the U.S. House of Representatives pass that would bar federal money from being spent to enforce a federal court ruling regarding the Ten Commandments.
A mounument depicting the Ten Commandments is displayed on the Gibson County Courthouse in Princeton, Indiana. A federal district judge ruled that the presence of the monument to an endorsement of religion because, as he states, the display is “in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The local Congressman, Rep. John Hostettler of Indiania's Eighth District wrote a letter to President Bush on Feb. 17, 2005 asking that the president instruct the Department of Justice and the U. S. Marshal Service not to enforce this decision (or the decision of any appelate court or the Supreme Court) to remove the monument. In the letter Rep. Hostettler claimed that enforcement of such an order would be "inconsistent with both the clear intent of the Framers and the Christian heritage of the United States".
Rep. Hostettler admits that federal law provides that "Except as otherwise provided by law or Rule of Procedure, the United States Marshals Service shall execute all lawful writs, process, and orders issued under the authority of the United States...". However, he claims that "this ruling by the Southern District Court in Indiana is not a lawful decision consistent with the Constitution". Apparently, Rep. Hostettler believes that it is for himself, or for the president, rather than for an appellate court or the Supreme Court, to determine if a lower court ruling is consistent with the constitution.
Rep. Hostettler then introduced an amendment to the bill that funds the Justice Department that would prohibit federal funds from being spent to enforce the court's order. This would, in effect, prevent the Marshals Service from carrying out their required duty of enforcing court orders. The amendment passed the House by a 242-182 vote.
Rep. Hostettler, and many other House members, apparently do not understand two important values of our form of government.
First, we have a government "of laws, not of men". It is the proper role of the courts to uphold the constitution. It is not up to individuals, either Members of Congress or presidents to substitute their judgement.
Secondly, while the majority of the founders of the country may have been Christian, we do not base government action on "Christian heritage". Our country is one of many religions, some of which recognize the Ten Commandments and some of which do not. Some Americans would consider government protection of "graven images" to be against their religion.
Hostettler press release
Hostettler letter to the President
Crooks and Liars