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TEF Iowa Hosts Midwest Policy Summit

Five state policy organizations recently met to discuss principles that create opportunity and promote liberty.   TEF Iowa recently hosted and sponsored the second meeting of the Midwest Policy Summit.…

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Can Younger Americans Rely on Social Security?

We are in a Social Security danger zone of over-promised benefits. Will it still be around for younger generations? Anyone below the age of 52 today is on track to…

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The Forgotten Word in Politics: Restraint

It has been almost 100 years since government has shown spending restraint. What can be done to slow down our $22,000,000,000,000 national debt?   The $22 trillion national debt symbolizes…

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Lessons Never Learned

One state is trying to dig itself out of a hole… by digging deeper.   Connecticut, just as with other progressive Blue States such as Illinois and California, is in…

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A Win in the Shadow of a Cross

Religion and Morality: The Indispensable Supports of Political Prosperity   The United States Supreme Court in a 7-2 ruling in American Legion v. American Humanist Association decided that a Bladensburg,…

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We’re in the Money!

A pander bear should be the official mascot of the Democratic presidential debates. Never have so many candidates proposed so much spending. They are clearly trying to bribe voters to…

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Scorecards

County Property Tax Scorecard

Statewide, almost 22 percent of all property taxes paid are for Iowa counties. How do your taxes compare with other counties? Using information from the Iowa Department of Management and…

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City Property Tax Scorecard

Cities collect over 29 percent of all property taxes statewide. How do your taxes compare with other cities? Using information from the Iowa Department of Management and the U.S. Census…

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Visiting Scholars

Education Savings Accounts

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Tax Education Foundation.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.…

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Iowa Needs Dental Therapists

The views expressed in these publications are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Tax Education Foundation.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed…

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Civics

A Win in the Shadow of a Cross

Religion and Morality: The Indispensable Supports of Political Prosperity

 

The United States Supreme Court in a 7-2 ruling in American Legion v. American Humanist Association decided that a Bladensburg, Maryland memorial cross dedicated to 48 heroes from Prince George County who died in World War 1 does not violate the Establishment Clause. The First Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” The argument raised against the Great War memorial was it violated the Establishment Clause, because of the Christian symbolism of the cross and it was on public property. Opponents argued this was equivalent to the government declaring or endorsing an official language.

 

The memorial itself was initiated by a mother of one of the soldiers who died in the Great War. The design of the cross was chosen to reflect a similar gravestone or marker for those who died and were buried on the bloody battlefields of Europe. Several years later, the memorial and the accompanying land, was acquired by the government. This case is unfortunate because it demonstrates how far radical secularism has advanced in our society.

 

Although the Justices of the Supreme Court who voted in the majority decided Maryland was not violating the Establishment Clause, their reasonings were divided. William C. Duncan, Director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society, explained:

“For instance, four justices (Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh) questioned whether a previous rule adopted by the court in 1971 (the Lemon test) was really workable. Justice Clarence Thomas made a broader claim that the Lemon test should be abandoned and replaced with the test of whether a person is religiously coerced by a government action. Kavanaugh also suggested coercion was the relevant question. Thomas also argued that the Establishment Clause does not apply to state and local governments. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Thomas argued that being offended by seeing a religious display did not constitute an injury that violated the Constitution.”

 

The Court’s decision was a victory for the original intent of the Establishment Clause, but it does not mean the end of future cases involving religion in the public square. The late Justice Scalia provides a reminder that we have a longstanding tradition of religion in the public square.

 

As Antonin Scalia stated:

“Our country has a long tradition of official encouragement of religion on a non-sectarian basis. That tradition reflects the understanding of the nation’s founders that, as George Washington declared in his Farewell Address, religion and morality are “indispensable supports” of “political prosperity” and that we should “with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

Is a World War 1 Memorial Cross Unconstitutional?

This case is another example of our cultural decline. Since the mid-20th century the United States has been on a steady course of secularization.

 

The Supreme Court will decide if a Bladensburg, Maryland memorial cross dedicated to soldiers who died in World War 1 is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

In 1925 the American Legion established a 40-foot-tall memorial cross to remember 49 soldiers who fought and died from Maryland’s Prince George’s County in World War I. Secularists are arguing that the memorial represents a state endorsement of religion and the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed with this view. The Cato Institute argues that this case “provides an opportunity for the Court to clarify that the Establishment Clause was written to prevent religious persecution, not to be a weapon against religious symbols.”

The United States Supreme Court has been inconsistent with various Establishment Clause rulings. In fact Justice Clarence Thomas describe the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence in a state of “disarray.” The outcome of the case will have a major impact on issue of religion in the public square.

This case is another example of our cultural decline. Since the mid-20th century the United States has been on a steady course of secularization. It is hard to believe that earlier progressives such as President Woodrow Wilson or President Franklin D. Roosevelt would oppose a memorial with a cross. President Wilson even argued that “America was born Christian nation.” The cross is a Christian symbol and does not endorse any specific denomination, which was the original intent of the Establishment clause. It was meant to protect against an official church. It was never meant to void Christianity from the public.

American Legion v. American Humanist Association will be an important case on whether the Supreme Court will allow radical secularism to continue to purge Christianity from the public square or enforce the original intent of the Establishment Clause.

A Defense of the Electoral College

The simple argument for keeping the Electoral College is the fact that it works. More importantly we are a nation of “United States.”

President Donald Trump recently stated that he would like to see the Electoral College replaced with a direct election of the president by a popular vote. The Electoral College is one of the most misunderstood elements of our constitutional system and it often falls under criticism by members of both political parties. Abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with a direct national vote would be a colossus disaster and undermine our republican form of government. The debate is not new to American politics—whether or not the Electoral College should be replaced by a direct national popular vote for president—but the question, and the resolution, goes deeper than just elections, politics, and representation. It goes directly into the heart of our constitutional Republic. The Electoral College is fundamental to our constitutional system of limited government, federalism, equal representation, and separation of powers. Advocates of the direct national popular vote believe the Electoral College is a relic. In addition, they argue that the current system reflects voter’s decision on a state-by-state level and not on a national level. The conclusion: A direct national popular vote would be more democratic, recognize the nationwide presidential preference, and truly carry out the dream of equal representation, the famous one man-one vote concept. To many voters this probably sounds like a good idea, but, this is just another attempt to break down and eliminate our constitutional Republic. Before making a constitutional defense of the Electoral College, it is necessary to explain what it is, because the College is one of the most misunderstood concepts in American government. The Electoral College is defined in Article II, Section I of the Constitution, which was later amended under Amendment XII. The Electoral College is a body of electors that are chosen in each state when citizens cast their ballot for a presidential candidate. When a presidential vote takes place every four years, citizens are actually voting for electors, rather than the specific candidate. For example, a vote for Donald J. Trump in 2016 would represent a vote for a Republican elector and vice-versa.  The winner of the plurality of votes in the November then goes on to win that particular state’s slate of electors.  In December, electoral ballots are cast in state capitals and the process is completed in January, of the New Year, when the ballots are counted before a joint session of Congress. The Electoral College was created by a compromise during the great debates that resulted in the written Constitution of 1787; in fact, the Founder’s rejected a measure calling for the direct election of the president. The simple argument for keeping the Electoral College is the fact that it works. More importantly we are a nation of “United States.” It is important to remember that the individual states created the Constitution and not the other way around. In addition, through federalism, the Constitution gives states sovereign power through the 10th Amendment, and the powers of the national government are limited by Article I, Section VIII, which lists the enumerated powers of Congress. In Federalist # 45 James Madison wrote: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” In other words the Electoral College preserves federalism. Politically speaking the Electoral College offers equal representation. A direct popular vote would force candidates and elections to be determined by the large metropolitan cities, while the current system, allows voters in smaller states to have an equal voice. In addition, a direct popular vote would force presidential candidates and political parties to target their platforms to the wishes of the major urban centers. This system would be great for Boston, San Francisco, or New York City, but not good for rural, small town America. “Voters in southern, Midwestern, and western states—derided as ‘flyover’ country—tend to value family, religion, individual liberty, property rights, and gun rights. Washington elites abhor these values, and they hate that middle and rural America hold any political power whatsoever,” wrote former presidential candidate and Representative Ron Paul. The United States Senate is another example. Part of the compromise in framing the Constitution was balancing the interests of large and small states. The Congress reflects that compromise with the House of Representatives based on population and the Senate has equal population. Larger states have greater representation in the House, while every state has equal representation in the Senate. Smaller states are protected in the Senate with equal representation. As George F. Will argues: Do critics want to abolish the Senate as well? Delaware, the least populous state in 1789, was understandably the first to ratify the Constitution with its equal representation of states in the Senate: Virginia, the most populous, had eleven times more voters. Today Wyoming’s Senators’ votes can cancel those of California’s Senators, who represent sixty-nine times more people. If that offends you, so does America’s constitutional federalism. The electoral-vote system, like the Constitution it serves, was not devised by, and should not be revised by simpleminded majoritarians. The Electoral College protects from political factions, works to prevent voter fraud, and provides a solid reason for consensus building in presidential campaigns. As an example, in 2016, President Trump was able to build a coalition that consisted of not only Republicans, but also independents and many blue-collar Democrats. This coalition was an instrumental factor in President Trump winning the election. Many examples could be examined throughout our history, but the point is that the Electoral College forces candidates and political parties to build coalitions. This brief essay can only mention the major arguments surrounding the importance of the Electoral College, but a strong recommendation will be made for concerned citizens to read Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College, edited by Gary L. Gregg II. Tara Ross has also written two excellent books on the Electoral College, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College and The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule. The term and concept of Democracy is being preached in both domestic and foreign policy circles, but we must remind ourselves that our system is a Constitutional Republic and not a democracy. As John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the CATO Institute, wrote: “If the Founders had wished to create a pure democracy, they would have done so. Those who now wish to do away with the Electoral College are welcome to amend the Constitution, but if they succeed, they will be taking America further away from its roots as a constitutional republic.”