Sunday, February 19, 2006

House Dems Show Lack Of Conviction On House Prayer Resolution

The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" reminds us today that the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution scolding Judge David Hamilton for "censoring" House prayers and supporting a judicial appeal of the ruling--well sort of. In fact, 11 House Democrats abstained from voting on the resolution, and the most vocal critic of Speaker Bosma's handling of the issue and the chamber's only Jewish member, Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis), was excused for the day to perform volunteer work.

Democrats who abstained from voting on the resolution, included Jeb Bardon, John Day, Mae Dickinson and Ed Mahern, all from Indianapolis; Charlie Brown of Gary, Duane Cheney of Portage, Craig R. Fry of Mishawaka, Linda Lawson of Hammond, Win Moses of Fort Wayne, Phil Pflum of Milton and Matt Pierce of Bloomington.

Presumably, at least some of these members feared that a vote against the resolution might allow an opponent to use the vote to portray the member as being anti-Christian, notwithstanding the Bible's own admonition against public displays of prayer. One must also wonder whether the Speaker deliberately chose to call the resolution down for a vote on a day when the only member with the guts to vote against the resolution was absent to give a false appearance of unanimity.

Unfortunately, the supporters of the resolution will use the fact that both the House and Senate passed similar resolutions unanimously to advance their legal appeal of Judge Hamilton's ruling. Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana makes this point to his group's members. Clark recently commented that the resolutions were largely symbolic, but a supporter of the resolutions quickly contacted Clark to inform him that he misspoke. Clark said, "These official legislative statements could help the arguments in the legal appeal in that they both passed unanimously, and it is hard to buy the ICLU’s argument of harm when all the legislators oppose the Judge’s ruling. "

According to Clark, Rep. Mike Sodrel (R), has decided to join the circus act. Clark reports that Sodrel will hold a press conference at the State House on Tuesday to announce that he is introducing a bill in Congress to "keep Federal Judges out of the day-to-day operations of the elected bodies of the Indiana (or any other) Statehouse" as Clark puts it. Essentially, Sodrel's bill will strip the federal courts' jurisdiction to hear this particular type of Establishment Clause cases.

If lawmakers think this prayer issue is a burning issue that their constituents really care about, they better think again. Voters are becoming increasingly impatient with politicians who devote their energies to meaningless pursuits which serve no other purpose than to mine for votes, while ignoring the greater issues which require them to show leadership.

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