June 29, 2005

Europeans and The Wall

The Supreme Court's recent Ten Commandments decisions (allowing one on the lawn of public property, disallowing another inside public property) are not particularly well decided. I do think, however, that the standard of allowing the Ten Commandments as a historical piece is a good one - and that it should've been the standard for the whole Moore business in MS a couple years ago. After all, it's no different from having a portrait of Abraham Lincoln - a part of history that doesn't force anybody to believe in anything (pictures and monuments can't coerce you into a point of view).

Todd Zywicki at VC makes a good point though: why didn't the Court look to Canada and Europe for advice on the Establishment Clause? I have to say that the "cruel and unusual" part of the Eighth Amendment makes it more open to opinion polling, but the Court didn't draw such a neat line. It seems to me that they look to Europe when they can find results they already wanted.

If we did model ourselves after Europe, of course, we'd be forced to violate the First Amendment. The British, after all, still have their government officials involved in the appointment and elevation of bishops in the Church of England (also called Anglican or Episcopalian). That is clearly violative of Congress making no law respecting an establishment of religion (or else the establishment clause is almost meaningless). Public religious displays are widespread in Europe and elsewhere. Many countreies run religious schools on the public dime (such as Israel, which has a large system of public orthodox schools, and is a self-titled 'Jewish state'), including Muslim minority schools.

America itself was created in rejection fo Europe. For many years Americans saw Europe as backwards, conservative, violent, imperialistic, feudalistic, unequal, unfree and unfit for our role model. In fact, we saw ourselves as the role model for Europe to follow - and that's actually come to pass, with Europe largely abandoning monarchy, fascism and communism in favor of a grainy facsimile of American capitalism and democracy. The Civil War was popular in North not so much because of slavery, which most Yankees opposed, but because of union; it was argued and believed that breaking the American union would result in endless war, strife, tyranny and the death of representative government from the Earth. Americans favoring the war made very unfavorable comparisons between a divided America and the contemporary European model.

Our history is being better than Europe, and it's a bad sign that we'd try to move ourselves backwards to be more like them rather than moving forward to be objectively better.


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