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February 08, 2011 8:27 am

AMEND CORNER: Pledging allegiance with reservations?

Written by Don Amend

The Wyoming Legislature is working on three bills this session that make me wonder just what those people are thinking.

To begin with, the House will vote this week on a bill titled, “Patriotism in the classroom.” The proposed law requires that an American flag be placed in every school classroom in the state, and, at first, even specified a minimum size.

Well, I have no argument with that, although specifying a size seems like too much legislative micromanaging for me, and the House of Representatives must have agreed, because I think they removed that provision during debate.

The bill also mandates that every school begin the day with the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Well, that’s OK, too. In fact, Powell schools already do that.

However, our good representatives also have passed some bills that make me wonder if they have really paid attention to the pledge they have been reciting every morning before they start work. Moreover, these proposals make me wonder if they are really as devoted to the Constitution as they say they are.

For example, the House has passed a bill declaring the national health care bill that Congress passed in 2009 is unconstitutional, and ruling that it can’t be implemented it in the state of Wyoming.

Now that’s a problem. Anyone with any knowledge of American history knows that the concept of a state having the power to nullify a federal law was rejected a long time ago, like in 1832. And anyone who has read the Constitution knows that it declares the U.S. Constitution and laws passed under it are the “supreme law of the land.” There isn’t a word in the Constitution giving state legislatures the right to nullify a federal law.

Now, it is true that the constitutionality of the law is in question — the current score is two federal judges for, two against — but that’s for the courts to determine, not state legislatures. That part of the Legislature’s action violates the separation of powers that are a crucial element in the Constitution.

It’s also troublesome, because the original crisis over nullification was a precursor to the secession of the southern states three decades later. One wonders if that history might be about to repeat itself. If the courts eventually find the health care legislation constitutional, would the Wyoming Legislature then consider a vote to leave the union, even after all those years of repeating a pledge to the flag of one indivisible nation?

The House vote to keep the state from recognizing marriages of gay couples who marry in states where such marriages are legal also makes me wonder. This act challenges the constitutional provision that the states will give “full faith and credit to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

Not only is the legislation unconstitutional, it also violates the pledge they make to the flag every day, which definitely calls for “liberty and justice for all.” The gay people I know are all definitely people, and that would include them in the “all” part of the pledge. As a famous Wyoming conservative, Dick Cheney, said when asked what he thought about gay marriage, “With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People … ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.”

The Wyoming Legislature doesn’t appear to agree with the former vice president that liberty should be “for all,” although they have been pledging that for years.

Will the Legislature’s next act be to edit the Pledge of Allegiance, or will we in Wyoming all just have to cross our fingers when we get to the “one nation,” “indivisible” and “liberty and justice for all” parts?

1 Comment

  • Comment Link March 06, 2011 8:26 am posted by Joel Allen

    Finally, some common sense. Rational, deductive reasoning is still around, even in Wyoming! It gives me hope.

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