By Ivan Eland
May 7, 2008
Editor's [Consortium News] Note: Lost amid the U.S. news media's focus on important matters, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright's latest outburst, has been any interest in trivial questions, such as how George W. Bush has trampled the U.S. Constitution, stampeded the nation into a disastrous war and walked all over Congress.
More memos recently have surfaced that were written early in the Bush administration by John C. Yoo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel — the man who gave us the administration's horrifyingly narrow definition of torture.
As difficult as it is to believe, the recently released memos are even scarier than the original torture memo.
Yoo boldly asserts that the president's power during wartime is nearly unlimited. For example, he argues that Congress has no right to pass laws governing the interrogations of enemy combatants and the commander in chief can ignore such laws if passed, and can, without constraint, seize oceangoing ships.
The memos also argue that military operations in the United States against terrorists are not subject to the Fourth Amendment requirement for search warrants or the Fifth Amendment requirement for due process.
During the Quasi-War with France in the last years of the 1700s, Congress authorized President John Adams to seize armed ships sailing to French ports. Adams exceeded the congressional authorization by ordering the seizure of vessels sailing to or from French ports.
The Supreme Court, in the case Little v. Barreme, ruled that Adams had exceeded the authority Congress had delegated to him. So much for Bush's supposed intrinsic authority to seize all oceangoing ships without congressional authorization.
In 1952, President Truman, the first imperial president, seized the steel mills under his alleged "inherent power" as commander in chief — supposedly to prevent paralysis of the national economy and using the rationale that soldiers in the Korean War needed weapons and ammunition.
By a wide margin, in the case Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the Supreme Court struck down Truman's executive order to seize the mills because it had no statutory or constitutional basis. Essentially, the court ruled that the president may be commander in chief of the armed forces but not the country.
Yoo's assertion that Congress has no right to pass laws that impinge on the president's claim to a broad interpretation of his role as commander in chief violates the core of the constitutional system of checks and balances, and for which the United States regularly criticizes despots in foreign countries.
Finally, the Fourth Amendment (requiring warrants for any search) and the Fifth Amendment (the right to due legal process) contain no exceptions for wartime. In fact, in a republic — where the rule of law should be king — crises and wartime are exactly when people's rights are most likely to be endangered and when safeguards are especially needed.
"Editor's [Consortium News] Note" above is sarcastic of course. It misses the direct connection between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue(s) and exactly what is going on with the Imperial Presidency. Wright pointed exactly to the very kinds of abuses that this post on the "Imperial Branch" is about. How people are able to disconnect Wright from all the other things that the U.S. imperialist are doing is a mystery to most. Wright discussed the terrible U.S. foreign policy where presidents have abused other peoples (terrorizing them for the sake of Empire) and that, that terrorizing causes people in other nations to hate the U.S. and to seek to attack it. How is that missed or disconnected? Ignoring the issues raised by Wright will never lead to consistently addressing what is wrong with America or the entire world.
The following should appear at the end of every post:
According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":
Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.
Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.
Political Campaign Intervention
Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.
Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
- Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
- Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
- Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
- Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
- Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office
Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:
- The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
- Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
- We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
- When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
- It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
- We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
- We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
- When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
- We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
- It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)