Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sodrel's Unveiling Of Court Stripping Bill Bad Timing For Bosma

Just a day after House Speaker Brian Bosma had to eat crow and publicly apologize to a Jewish group because of comments he made in his over-zealous pursuit of Christian only prayers in the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel will unveil a bill at the State House today, which he introduced in Congress last week, to strip federal courts of jurisdiction to hear Establishment Clause cases involving state legislatures--a bill we first told you about last weekend.

The Star gives the announcement of Sodrel's bill front-page billing with no mention of Bosma's public apology yesterday. Apparently the Star's State House reporters were taking a nap while that announcement was taking place yesterday--a story which got top billing on WISH-TV news yesterday. Bill Ruthhart writes:

U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., wants to take away federal judges' power to rule on the content of prayer in state legislatures. A bill introduced by Sodrel in the U.S. House would prevent what happened in Indiana last year from happening in other states. In November, U.S. District Judge David Hamilton banned prayers during Indiana House proceedings from mentioning Jesus Christ or endorsing any particular religion.

"This would restrict the court's ability to review decisions like this with regard to free speech," said Cam Savage, a spokesman for Sodrel, who could not be reached Monday. "Basically we think you ought to be able to say whatever you want and state legislators and their guests should be entitled to the same free speech rights as everybody else."

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union Ken Falk, not surprisingly, reacted negatively to the proposal, who called the effort a "complete disservice to judges and the American legal system." Falk said, "Sometimes courts make decisions that politically we don't like, but that's part of the American system. The response should not be to strip the courts of their responsibility of deciding what is constitutional."

Falk corrects an assertion by House Majority Leader Bill Friend in the story that this issue is about the "guarantee of free speech." Correcting Friend Falk said, "The speaker's lawyer has acknowledged that this is not a free speech issue. I don't have the right to walk into the House, ascend to the speaker's stand and start talking."

Joining Sodrel at the press conference will be that beacon of moral righteousness, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R), House Majority Leader Bill Friend (R-Macy) and Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel). Speaker Bosma will be as far away from the press conference as he possibly can to avoid any questions which might get him into more trouble for anwering.

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