- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

Ashcroft shouldnt have to check his faith at Justice Department door

Amen to Mona Charens column, "Prayer patrol circles Justice," (Commentary, May 17). The blatant religious bigotry streaming out of news media outlets is really getting old. Why should John Ashcroft be forced to check his faith at the entrance of the Justice Department building just because he is the attorney general? I dont remember any clause in our Constitution about religious freedom for everyone except government department heads.

Perhaps Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State would appreciate our religious liberties a little more, and spend less energy trying to erode them, if he moved to a nation such as China or the Sudan, where Christians are routinely tortured or killed simply for acknowledging their faith.

Some people seem unable to understand how fortunate they are to live in a country where religious freedom abounds. Frankly, I suspect a majority of Americans are comforted knowing that our attorney general is a prayerful man.


JEFF OVALL

Lorton

World War II memorial legislation cancels public hearings

As a Vietnam War veteran, former Navy captain and fighter pilot whose father and uncle were decorated in World War II, I can tell you that both of them would approve of a memorial with a design that recognized the veterans of the war in a location that did not disturb the sanctity of the ideas they defended ("Memorial gets boost from House," May 16). However, the current design and location are abominations. No amount of flag-waving rhetoric should be allowed to conceal the disservice to public opinion that will be done now that the House has passed its bill, canceling the National Capital Planning Commissions public hearings on the matter.


KEN BURGESS

Clifton

Losing the constitutional high ground

Last week in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, Judge Robert H. Bork denounced liberal judicial activism and the evil intent of the Senate Democrats who would prevent President Bush from returning the judiciary to its constitutional role of interpreting the law, instead of making it. On these points, we are in full agreement. Judge Bork has not, however, indicated the true state of the dispute between those, on the one hand, who would sever any connection between constitutional law and the Constitution, and those, on the other hand, who would ground constitutional law in the original intent of those who framed and ratified the Constitution.

Like myself, Judge Bork approves only of those judges "who interpret the Constitution as its principles were understood by those who wrote and ratified it." Today, however, these are "branded 'far right wing ideologues.´" By "parity of reasoning," he says, the aforesaid ideologues would include "Madison, Washington, Adams, Hamilton and the rest of the Founders."

However, there is a difficulty to which Judge Bork never alludes in proclaiming the authority of the original intent of the Constitution. Many of these originators were slave owners, and the antebellum Constitution contained massive guarantees to the institution of chattel slavery, among them the notorious fugitive slave clause. The liberals Judge Bork and I deplore and oppose declare that because of these guarantees of slavery, the original Constitution was racist, and its original intent devoid of all moral authority. This charge is itself the moral justification of liberal judicial activism. It is a charge that cannot be ignored.

Judge Bork, however, not only ignores it, he pretends it does not exist. In his book "The Tempting of America," he even denies that the text of the antebellum Constitution recognizes and protects slavery. And he is adamant that the principles of the Declaration of Independence which condemn slavery have no constitutional standing whatever.

Yet the platform of the Republican Party in 1860, upon which Abraham Lincoln was elected president, declared that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were incorporated into the Constitution. Lincoln and the Republican Party insisted that the concessions to slavery were made to enable the Constitution to be ratified and that any alternatives to the Constitution would have been far more favorable to slavery. Hence, paradoxical though it may seem, the concessions to slavery were, they held, in the ultimate interest of the antislavery cause. That this was true was ultimately proved by the government of the Constitution under Lincoln himself.

The argument made for the Constitution by Lincoln and his party rested upon the distinction between the principles of the Constitution and the compromises of the Constitution. The text of the Constitution does not itself make this distinction, but without it the original intent of the Constitution is morally indefensible.

In his stubborn refusal to recognize this distinction, Judge Bork has ceded the high ground of argument to the other side.


HARRY V. JAFFA

Claremont, Calif.


Harry V. Jaffa, distinguished fellow at the Claremont Institute, is author of "Original Intent and the Framers of the Constitution" and "Storm Over the Constitution."

Gun-show bill a compromise … of principle

The gun-show legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Joseph I. Lieberman, although thinly disguised as a way to keep firearms out of the hands of minors and felons, is, in fact, a backdoor ban on gun shows ("Gun-show bill divides supporters of control, Nation, May 16).

Gun shows usually are two-day affairs held on Saturdays and Sundays, and many vendors and buyers travel great distances to attend. However, Mr. McCain and Mr. Lieberman propose that the government be allowed three working days to conduct an obligatory background check on potential buyers. It doesn´t take a genius to figure out that this would virtually eliminate the sale of guns at gun shows, more than 99 percent of which are to law-abiding citizens.

I am not surprised by Mr. Lieberman´s position on this issue, given his left-wing affiliation. However, Mr. McCain has disappointed me. His claim that the bill is a compromise is dishonest unless, of course, the compromise to which he refers is his oath to support and defend the Constitution.


KENT SULLIVAN

Jacksonville, N.C.

Limbaugh misses point on Olson

David Limbaughs Commentary column on the nomination of Theodore Olson for solicitor general reaches new heights of conservative hypocrisy ("Fury of a party scorned," May 15).

Clearly, conservatives are willing to tolerate lying under oath by one of their own. It is indisputable that Mr. Olson gave false testimony under oath before Congress; his recent written answers to questions and law-firm billing records reveal as much. Mr. Limbaugh fails to recognize that the issue isn´t whether he was involved in the Arkansas Project which he clearly was but whether he subsequently lied about it under oath. He clearly did.


MICHAEL HERBERT

Madison, Wis.


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