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Vestal: Beliefs Misinform Sheriff Ben

Is sodomy against the law in Idaho? More to the point: If a law in Idaho violates the Constitution – as determined by the constitutionally created Supreme Court – is it still a law? If you want the correct answer, don’t ask Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger. And the fact that Wolfinger seems not to know, or maybe care, about the answers should give pause to anyone who thinks it’s swell that Wolfinger wants to go all judge, jury and executioner on the Boy Scout troop his office sponsors. Wolfinger said last week that he’s not sure the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office can continue its charter with the Boy Scouts, due to the Scouts’ recent decision to stop discriminating against gay kids. Wolfinger based this qualm, in part, on Idaho’s 1972 anti-sodomy law/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (SR file photo: Kathy Plonka)


Yay! It’s Constitution Week

At least, that's what a proclamation signed by President Obama says. From last Saturday to this Friday, it's officially Constitution Week.

This coincides with the 224th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17. That was Constitution Day, but a single day doesn't really seem to be enough to celebrate something that historic, so the proclamation also has a Constitution Week.

Not to diminish "We the People" but this is also National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week.

And National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.

And National Farme Safety and Health Week.

But the Constitution is a noble and strong document, and it probably doesn't mind sharing its week with a few other good causes.

So go dress like your favorite article or celebrate your favorite amendment. If celebrating the 18th Amendment, please drink responsibly…which in that instance would probably  mean Not At All.

Remedial history

The new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives drew some snarky comments for its decision to open business Thursday by reading the Constitution.  I don't see the problem.  Everyone ought to read our main historical documents every so often.

About an hour after the event (in which liberal Seattle Democrat Jim McDermott participated), Congressman Bob Goodlatte — who ought to be from Seattle with a name like that but actually is a Virginia Republican — rose to speak on the House floor. Having managed the rotation of readers, he explained that there had been a minor glitch. Somebody accidentally turned an extra page, resulting in two pages not being read.

Nobody had noticed the oversight when it happened, so Goodlatte was allowed to read the neglected passages into the record.  In a ritual that was planned and conducted by people who are dismayed at how little their colleagues know about the Constitution, you'd think at least one of them would have recognized the error and corrected it on the spot.


Simpson ejects ‘birther’ for outburst

Idaho's Rep. Mike Simpson was holding the gavel today while part of the U.S. Constitution was being read on the floor of the House of Representatives, and he was quick to bring it down on someone shouting out a challenge to President Barack Obama's citizenship.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., was reading from Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the part that says who can be president, and got to "No person, except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President…" when a cry came from the gallery.

"Except Obama! Except Obama!" a woman shouted.

Simpson banged the gavel, reminded everyone present of the need for following the rules of the House, and ordered the sergeant of arms to eject the woman.

I-1058: Could you pass a test on the constitution?

Monte Benham of Kennewick is convinced that people know very little about the U.S. Constitution and next to nothing about the state Constitution.

“Elected officials swear an oath to uphold the state Constitution, and most of them have never even seen it, let alone read it,”he  said.

Benham, who previously worked with Tim Eyman on several tax initiatives, would like to fix that knowledge gap with the current generation of school children, requiring them to learn about the two constitutions and the Declaration of Independence in fifth, eighth and tenth grades and pass a test before graduating high school.

To do that, he and supporters of Initiative 1058 will need about 250,000 like-minded citizens to sign petitions, and for voters to approve the initiative to the people in November. Copies of the initiative were inserted in The Spokesman-Review earlier this week as a way to generate more signed petitions, which must be turned in by the beginning of July.

The initiative calls for schools to teach the relationships among those documents and other things like the Pledge of Allegiance and the Gettysburg Address. They would also be required to know some of the important words in the documents, like despotism, providence, tranquility and consanguinity. (The last one means blood relationship, in case it comes up on some future test.)

It also requires they learn about initiatives: “Students shall be taught the inherent right of the people to elect government officials and enact or reject, at the polls, legislation independent of the Legislature, and to approve or reject, at the polls, any law passed by the Legislature.”

 The initiative calls for standardized tests, although Benham said this week he didn’t know of an adequate test that exists right now. The schools would have to come up with one, he said.

Want to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. and State constitutions?