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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

I nominate Bubba

for the Supreme Court

Have you ever seen the comic strip, "The Wizard of Id?" It is a great strip. The realities of space and economics prohibit the Pecos Enterprise from carrying the Wizard but I read it when I can.

The Wizard made a really good point in a recent Sunday strip.

The Wiz walks into the bar and orders a half-dozen drinks, his head obviously spinning.

What's wrong, his fellow bar mates ask.

"I just read the entire Constitution twelve times and not once does it say, "separation of church and state," the Wiz answers, or something close to that.

The Wiz is right, not that you would know it if your only source of information about our Constitution and constitutional law were television and newspapers.

Think about everything you have ever heard or read about your government's relationship with religion.

I will guarantee that 99.9 percent of that information batted the "separation of church and state" phrase around like it was the title of a section of the Constitution.

It's not.

It is legal ease - five words stuck together to describe what one group of people in this country want the first ten words in the First Amendment to the Constitution to mean.

The real words are, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

From these ten words, our Supreme Court has interpreted and twisted and legal-eased their way into the current ridiculous mass of silliness where people seriously question the Constitutionality of beginning the school day with a prayer to a Christian god, or Buda for that matter, and where a bunch of fools on the Federal Appellate Court in California actually said that the words "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance were unconstitutional.

(Notice I do not comment on whether such words and actions are right and wrong. Right and wrong, morally speaking has nothing to do with Constitutional).

Now it seems to me that the original words of the First Amendment are fairly straightforward.

"Congress shall make no law."

Well, that is pretty straightforward in my mind.

"Regarding the establishment of religion."

Again, pretty straight forward.

So how do we get to, "What that really means is that praying as a class before the spelling test is unconstitutional."

(Notice again that I did not say wrong, or right - only unconstitutional - there is a difference).

The way you get there is lawyers.

Now, lawyers are not necessarily bad.

Technically I are one although I have been sober for nearly five years.

Lawyers make their living wringing the last ounce of meaning out of words for money - and when they start wringing you can bet they already have a definition in mind.

I find it hard to believe that there are many sane people who are not lawyers who could read the first ten words of the First Amendment and logically arrive at the idiocy we now have regarding the relationship of our government and religion of any sort.

You just cannot get here from there.

Not without a lot of word wringing.

And word wringing is not what the Constitution is all about. The Constitution is a simple document meant to be read and understood by everyone - not just the word-wringers.

The language is relatively simple. The concepts are easy. The directions to Monopoly are more complicated (obviously the lawyers never got their hands on the Monopoly directions).

Today, after 200-plus years of word-wringing, the meaning to these relatively simple words has been stretched and pounded to the point that a small forest of trees die with each printing of even a small section of Constitutional law and interpretation.

That is ridiculous.

But how do we fix the problem?

The solution is simple.

No more lawyers on the Supreme Court.

It is just too important a job to entrust to people who have been indoctrinated at schools of law and within courtrooms.

Instead, we need regular people.

People who can read, and write and who have lived relatively normal lives.

Once appointed and approved each will be issued a copy of the Constitution.

When a case is sent to the Supreme Court our new justices can reach into their pocket and read the Constitution.

After a brief review our good justices can then determine if the case before them actually invokes the protections and prohibitions of our Constitution or if the issue, good or bad, does not fall within the fairly narrow confines of Constitutional protection.

I do believe that a court made up of educated but normal Americans would have to agree with the Wiz - the Constitution does not say anything about separation of church and state. It says Congress shall make no law.

"Congress has not made a law so take your no-prayer-in-schools argument outside boys," Chief Justice Bubba the Plumber would say. "If you do not like what the Constitution says about your issue I would invite you to read the Constitution. The instructions on how to amend it are very plain. All you need is a Constitutional Amendment disallowing prayer in school and you are in like Flynn. Until then it is up to the folks who live in the school districts to decide if and to whom to pray. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

I probably will not ever hear such sweet music but it is fun to imagine. It might help the Wiz with his drinking problem too.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

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