Thursday, March 31, 2005

'They're paranoid'

Activist judges are everywhere! They're in your closet! They're under your bed! John Giles and Roy Moore told me so!

The president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama and the former state chief justice who loves granite objects appeared before a House committee Wednesday to warn that the removal of segregation-era language from the state constitution could cause judges to raise taxes willy-nilly and order that children get some book-learnin' and do other altogether unseemly things.

Lawmakers added the phrase in question -- "Nothing in this constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense" -- in 1956 in a transparent effort to defy the U.S. Supreme Court's integration order in Brown v. Board of Education. Thanks to some skillful demagoguery from Giles and Moore last fall, voters narrowly rejected an amendment to remove the language from the constitution, resulting in another round of bad press for my state.

Now Giles and Moore have another Chicken Little tale: If our lawmakers don't leave intact a constitutional amendment inspired by racism, judges could eliminate private schools and home-schooling. Their utterly illogical theories ignore the facts that 1) only the legislative branch can raise taxes, 2) Alabamians likely would vote out any lawmaker or judge who eliminated private schooling or home-schooling, 3) a judge declared the segregation-era language unconstitutional and unenforceable decades ago, and 4) a 1996 constitutional amendment "prohibits court-ordered disbursement of funds" without House and Senate approval.

But hey, no grandstander worth his salt lets facts stand in the way of a good rabble-rousing.

Legislators responded to Giles and Moore with the appropriate level of disbelief that anyone could take their fallacious arguments seriously. Alabama House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, addressing the duo's warnings about home-schooling, said it best: "[T]hey're paranoid."

Unfortunately, they're also probably just getting started.

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