A U.S. congressman from Indiana says President George W. Bush should defy the federal courts and refuse to enforce what he calls an “unconstitutional” ruling ordering the removal of a government-sponsored Ten Commandments display.
U.S. Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) wrote to Bush Feb. 17 to express his dismay over the decision, which struck down the Commandments display in Gibson County, Ind. A federal judge ruled in Russelburg v. Gibson County that the display must be removed within 60 days.
In his letter to Bush, Hostettler noted that federal courts have no mechanism to enforce their rulings other than federal marshals. Bush, he said, should simply refuse to allow the marshals to intervene.
“For this reason, I am requesting that you instruct the Department of Justice and the United States Marshals Service not to enforce this or any appellate – including Supreme Court – decision or execute any order that may ask for the removal of this monument by the Executive Branch,” Hostettler wrote. “As you know, the federal judiciary has no constitutional or statutory means by which to enforce its own opinion.”
Hostettler first proposed defying the federal courts while addressing the Christian Coalition in September.
“When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them,” he told attendees then. “Federal courts have no army or navy…. The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We’re not saying they can’t do that. At the end of the day, we’re saying the court can’t enforce its opinions.”
Critics noted that in the Gibson County case, Hostettler was clearly grandstanding. Although the judge gave the county 60 days to remove the monument, the ruling was immediately appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court will almost certainly put the order on hold while it waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue decisions in two Commandments cases pending before it.
In a Feb. 22 “Washington Update” bulletin, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins endorsed Hostettler’s move.
“The point that Congressman Hostettler (R-IN) is raising is long overdue; it is time someone with the proper authority stood up to the runaway judiciary, which does not have the exclusive authority to enforce its own rulings,” Perkins wrote. “The continual stream of judicial decisions from activist judges, beginning in 1947 with Justice Hugo Black when he created the ‘wall of separation,’ have steadily eroded the rich spiritual soil of our nation, leaving a cavernous divide in our body politic. Enough is enough! We echo Congressman Hostettler’s request – for the sake of the nation.”