The War on Christmas continues to be annual topic of debate, but is there any real legal questions surrounding the public celebration of the holidays? Boston University's Jay Wexler discusses the legal situation and explains why Christmas trees are somehow secular objects.
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In this episode of ACS Law Talk, we mark the tenth anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. Former congressman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton, discusses the state of homeland security, what fixes are in order, and how we can better oversee our national security apparatus to ensure the protection of civil liberties.
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Department of Homeland Security at 10: Past, Present, and Future
On November 25, 2002, then President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, which established the Department of Homeland Security and called for the largest federal government reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. On Wednesday, November 28, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Open Society Foundations hosted a panel discussion covering a decade of DHS accomplishments, successes, failures, and controversies, as well as suggested national security policies looking forward. The panel featured:
- Moderator, Stephen Vladeck, Associate Dean & Professor of Law at American University, Washington College of Law
- Michael German, Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU
- Seth Grossman, Deputy General Counsel, DHS
- Jamil Jaffer, Senior Counsel, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
- Wendy Patten, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations
by Joseph Jerome
Within days of President Obama’s re-election, dozens of states petitioned the White House for permission to secede from the union, and ever feisty Texans have led the way. One local politician made headlines for calling for an “amicable divorce” between the United States and the Lone Star State, and a petition for Texas’ secession has received over 100,000 signatures. The White House has said it will offer a response to the chorus of calls to secede, but the administration’s answer should be brief: secession is neither constitutional nor would it be good policy if it were.
In a thoughtful post for the National Constitution Center, Lyle Denniston explains that talk of secession “is a pipe dream, constitutionally speaking.” “If the Civil War did not settle it on the battlefield,” he writes, “the U.S. Supreme Court put it completely to rest constitutionally” in a case involving Texas, appropriately enough. Decided by the Supreme Court in 1869, White v. Texas addressed the sale of U.S. treasury bonds by the state of Texas in order to fund its rebellion during the Civil War. Finding the state’s ordinances supporting secession to be “absolutely null,” the Court held that secession could be accomplished only through “revolution or through consent of the States”:
The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States. When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final.
By Doug Kendall the Founder and President of the Constitutional Accountability Center and David H. Gans the director of CAC's Human Rights, Civil Rights and Citizenship Program. This analysis is cross posted at CAC’s Text & History blog.
In the wake of an election season in which the Voting Rights Act proved its mettle as the last, best hope against voter suppression efforts, the Supreme Court today decided to review the constitutionality of a key part of this iconic civil rights statute in a case called Shelby County v. Holder
. If the experience over the last 12 months proves anything, it’s that the Voting Rights Act is as vital today as it was in 1965 when originally passed. Hopefully, the proven success of the Act and the powerful opinions written by lower court judges from across the ideological spectrum applying it will convince a majority on the Court to affirm rather than undermine the vital constitutionality of the Act.
As everyone knows by now, in the run-up to the 2012 election, the right to vote was under siege. Conservatives throughout the country tried to change election rules to disenfranchise ordinary Americans – passing restrictive voter ID laws, shortening early voting hours, and making it more difficult to register to vote. These restrictions had the greatest impact on young, minority, elderly, and poor voters. They made a mockery of President Lincoln’s description of our government being “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and they failed to honor the heroic efforts of generations of Americans to ratify six different Amendments that expanded the right to vote.
By Amanda Simon
ACS president, Caroline Fredrickson, joined experts from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) on Nov. 8 for a discussion on the future of the courts post-election. The lively discussion, viewable here, covered a range of topics from reproductive rights to voting rights to judicial nominations.
After opening remarks from CAP’s John Podesta, the panelists tackled some of the issues that emerged from this week’s election. Fredrickson immediately pointed out that courts had played a large role in the election, including several court decisions on early voting rules and voter ID laws. And CAC’s Doug Kendall noted the strength of the Voting Rights Act played a large part in getting favorable rulings on voting issues leading up to the election.
Given that a few congressional candidates had made outrageous and offensive remarks about rape and pregnancy, the panelists discussed the influence of women in this week’s election. As Fredrickson put it, “Women voters aren’t stupid…For the moment at least, we can be a little more comfortable that we won’t see Roe v. Wade overturned in the immediate future.” But nothing is a sure thing until and unless progressives start recognizing the importance of the courts as a central issue, as conservatives have for decades. While President Obama may serve for just four more years, his judicial appointees will leave their imprints on the legal system for decades to come.
Our "Constitution in the Classroom" program brings ACS members into primary and secondary classrooms across the country to raise awareness of fundamental constitutional principles. Our members have helped educate thousands of students on vital issues of the day.