By Dave Crater, firstname.lastname@example.org The “separation of church and state” crusade is joined every day in courtrooms across the land, but today in especially interesting fashion in North Carolina. Front page news says Chief N.C. District Court Judge Joseph Turner interpreted a reference in state law requiring witnesses to place their hand on the “holy scriptures” as, to everyone’s amazement, the Bible.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and their good friends at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say this is the first time a judge has gone on record declaring what is scripture and what is not. What the writers of the North Carolina statute meant by “holy scriptures,” apparently, is of less concern to them. Then again, I’ve noticed “separation of church and state” people seem little troubled by historic linguistic meanings these days.
These constant religious quarrels in the courts are fascinating because they involve so many dimensions of human life, private and public – dimensions not just where opinions meet and clash, but where consciences meet and clash. Where legal philosophies meet and clash. Even, in a sense, where deities meet and clash.
Though only, for a change, doing what all judges ought to be doing – applying the law as it is written – poor Judge Turner looks to be in for a wild ride as opponents of the Judeo-Christian history of the West – a history the United States still exhibits most clearly – attempt to use the court system to unravel just legislative activity. By corollary, they’ll attempt to unravel the old-fashioned notion that judges adjudicate according to law rather than deconstruct in spite of law.
At the risk of appearing gauche for flattering the blog editor, I had the good fortune once to watch in prime-time (the three hours prior to midnight, actually) Sen. Andrews bring some backbone into the state’s senate chamber over a similar legislature/judiciary tug-of-war – this one involving legislative re-districting in Colorado.
The chamber was divided 18-17 in favor of the GOP. With Andrews presiding, the minority attempted to derail the bill using empty procedural moves, hoping to break a firm statutory deadline of midnight. Though it was plainly out of order, Andrews allowed the maneuvering until close to midnight before, with the help of other Republicans, pulling a maneuver of his own that sent the bill to the House. Backbone makes life so much more dramatic.
We can only hope the North Carolina legislature has the same kind of backbone. Their authority over the court system is far more constitutional than vague claims of “separation of church and state.” As for Judge Turner, what a refreshing example of judicial substance over judicial image – exactly, I think, what North Carolina’s founders envisioned in establishing a state to the motto “Esse quam videri”: to be, rather than to seem.
[Andrews adds: The blog editor is duly flattered & will be hospitalized for a few days while the hot blush is surgically removed from his cheeks. No more such gaucheries from Crater will be permitted.]