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June 05, 2005 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-06-05

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, July 5, 2005
tothedaily@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
SINCE 1890 necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
T he key elements of the First Amend-mby the University of Connecticut early
ment, from freedom of speech to th pc this year revealed frightening results:
separation of church and state, have S trik in g Lo w nI tLP ress One-half of high school students thought
been under increasing attack by state and the government should have the ability to
national legislation, judicial rulings and even Court threatens expression decide what is acceptable to print. The
public skepticism over the past few years. C decisiontcampus freedoms that played a critical role in
In a rehearing of Hosty v.Carter, the U.S. the nation's democratic foundation are
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unleashed funding from the University, most campus make this sort of defense no more than a increasingly deemed as burdensome or
its own assault on the freedom of press last newspapers - like Michigan State Univer- fond memory. even unpatriotic. While America fortu-
month by ruling against three Governors sity's State News, which is subsidized by a Under the ruling, University officials may nately still falls far from the doomsday
State University students who claimed that five-dollar student fee - could be threatened no longer be required to ensure students the picture of George Orwell's "1984," the
the school's administrationviolatedtheirFirst under the ruling. The decision could effec- unfettered ability to express their opinions. Hosty decision is one more way of legit-
Amendment rights in ordering their campus tively end the ability of school-funded news- The new precedent could also be applied to imizing a culture of censorship among
newspaper, which was subsidized by the uni- papers to act as objective campus observers pull funding from student groups whose work America's future leaders.
veristy, to stop printing. The ruling threatens and hold administrators accountable for their might counter the interests of administrators The University should issue a statement
the ability of college students to maintain actions. Even without direct restrictions, the or offend influential alumni and legislators. from President Mary Sue Coleman visible
a free press and jeopardizes the open aca- concern of losing funding could cripple The work of activist groups like the Students to all students, preferably on the front page
demic environment that characterizes public many student publications, driving them to Organizing for Labor and Economic Equal- of its website, making it clear that it will
universities, particularly if its precedent is self-censor their coverage. ity could be at risk to lose funding for pro- adhere to its current policy of allowing
extended to other student groups. With the The censorship debate already reached the moting views that University officials may complete freedom of expression among
future of free expression on campus appear- University last March when the University prefer to ignore. Fear of losing funding could the student organizations it subsidizes.
ing uncertain, the University must recognize Activities Center pressured The Michigan hamper efforts of more controversial student Regardless of this new judicial precedent,
that the court decision in no way legitimizes Every Three Weekly, a satirical publication organizations to promote their causes and any censorship would be a clear violation
censorship of the publications or organiza- that receives student fees from the Univer- could detract from the broad range of ideas of student rights and would be severely
tions it funds and should make it clear to sity through UAC, to halt distribution of an and opinions on campus. detrimental to the campus environment.
students that it will continue to respect their issue because of its questionable content. Freedom of speech has taken a beat- Unrestricted student groups and publica-
right to free expression. Although University officials later came out ing in recent years not only in the courts tions on campus may annoy university
Although the decision would not apply firm in their assertion that the E3W had the but in society as well, particularly among officials, but annoyance is a small price
to The Michigan Daily, which receives no right to print freely, the court's ruling could younger Americans. A survey conducted for preserving such vital freedoms.

Keep God off the Capitol
Granholm should oppose commandment display

Ruling without Sandra
O'Connor's legacy up in the air


ast week, the U.S. Supreme Court
finally weighed in on the debate over
public displays of the Ten Command-
ments, but those looking for the court to set
a strong precedent came away disappointed.
In two divided decisions, the court upheld the
constitutionality of the six-foot display in front
of the Texas State Capitol but struck down the
framed displays in two Kentucky courthouses.
The court ruled that the commandments may
be displayed if they serve as a tribute to the his-
tory of American law, but not if they are meant
as a religious symbol. Despite the nuanced
and subjective nature of the decision, those
who support displaying the commandments at
Michigan's Capitol are claiming victory. Gov.
Jennifer Granholm previously stated that she
would supporta display of the Ten Command-
ments if it were found to be constitutional, and
after the ruling she again voiced support for
the idea. Her stance neglects her duty to the
Michigan public and is yet another example of
Granholm buckling to conservative pressure.
In sidestepping a blanket ruling *on pub-
lic displays of the Ten Commandments, the
Supreme Court explicitly avoided taking a
decisive stance on the issue. Granholm, how-
ever, should strongly oppose a public display
and instead respect the separation of church
and state. If the governor sincerely wants to
be regularly reminded of the Judeo-Christian
morals espoused by the commandments, she
should display them in her home or prop them
up in a picture frame on her desk. It seems
more likely, however, that pressure from the
right is a stronger motivation. A public display
of the commandments dangerously blurs the
line between government and religion, even if
it were carefully crafted to avoid violating the
Supreme Court's decision. By taking the eas-
ier route in endorsing the display, Granholm

sacrifices the values on which this country
was founded to avoid potential criticism from
the right.
Unfortunately, Granholm's approval of dis-
playing the Ten Commandments is not the
only evidence of her weak backbone on con-
troversial issues. She made the same mistake
when she revoked same-sex benefits for state
workers following the passage of Proposal 2
despite the absence of a court ruling requir-
ing her to do so, There, too, she took the path
of least resistance to avoid conflict with state
Republicans. Political safety is an unaccept-
able excuse for failing to protect separation of
church and state or ensure civil rights of all
the state's residents. Granholm must set aside
her fears of conservative backlash and instead
take strong stances in support of constitutional
and civil rights.
The Michigan Capitol Committee will be
meeting soon to determine whether to display
the Ten Commandments in the Capitol, and
if so, how to go about it. Given Granholm's
backing and a March vote of support from the
state House, it seems the committee's primary
role will be determining how to display the
commandments while minimizing the inevi-
table lawsuits that could follow in the wake of
the unclear Supreme Court decision.
Although the committee currently has both
legislative and executive backing to display the
Ten Commandments, its decision should be
to spare Michigan the role of being the first
state to attempt to work the Supreme Court
decision to the satisfy the desires of Christian
conservatives. Furthermore, Granholm must
recognize her responsibility to adhere to the
separation clause of the Constitution and take
a hard stance against such public endorse-
ments of religion rather than back down under
political pressure.

.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra
Day O'Connor announced her retire-
ment Friday, sparking rampant specu-
lation about her successor as well as countless
media tributes to her 24 years on the court. As
terms like "pragmatist" and "swing vote" are
tossed around by legislators, reporters and the
general public, the real question remains what
her actual legacy will be. It is a tense moment,
particularly for Democrats, who cringe as
they wait for President Bush to nominate her
replacement, wondering just how far to the
right he will dare to go. Potential state legisla-
tion like the pending Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative could eventully overrule many of her
landmark decisions, also chipping away at the
opinions she gave. Bush's choice of the next
justice and the effects of future legislation will
be the real determinant of how O'Connor's
legacy will be carried out - whether her
decisive opinions that supported abortion
rights, affirmative action and separation of
church and state will hold for generations or
be overturned in only a few short years by a
far more conservative court.
Despite her appointment as a conservative
justice, O'Connor's opinions were unpre-
dictible because she separated ideology from
constitutional interpretaion, and she has been
praised by people of all political leanings
for her level-headed rationale. Her opinions
played an decisive role in numerous decisions
- she was the deciding vote in more 5-4 split
decisions than any other justice on the court.
O'Connor's opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, one
such 5-4 decision, was crucial in upholding
the University's right to practice a race-based
admissions policy. In the majority opinion, she
not only supported the right for the University
to use affirmative action, but she also broad-
ened the concept of diversity. She affirmed

previous precedent that an institution can
pursue affirmative action for the purpose of
encouraging diversity because it internally
enhances the quality of the institution, and she
stated that diversity was also worth actively
promoting because of the external good it pro-
vides to society.
Because of the divided nature of many4
of these decisions, whether they will hold
upon her retirement is now up in the air. The
strength of O'Connor's legacy will be decided
by the future makeup of the bench and pend-
ing legislation. For example, MCRI would
undermine the ability of the University to
maintain a diverse student body and essen-
tially overturn the rulings that O'Connor's
opinions were so crucial in deciding. If the
initiative appears on the November ballot,
Michigan voters should consider both the
important role affirmative action has played
in starting to alleviate social inequality as
well as the importance of diversity as an end
in itself, which O'Connor supported during
her terms as justice.
Bush's replacement for O'Connor will
surely anger members of at least one politi-
cal party for being too activist, too conserva-4
tive or too unpredictable. Regardless of the
political struggle that will likely ensue, Bush
should avoid considering political ramifica-
tions in his selection. Adhering to a political
ideology and ruling in an independent, fair-
minded way are mutually exclusive traits in
a justice, and the latter should characterize
his nominee. As America braces itself to be4
bombarded with yet more debate over fili-
busters and judicial activism, there is still the
small hope that Bush will choose the nobler
path of honoring O'Connor's legacy by unit-
ing the country with a justice selected for his
qualifications and not his political beliefs.

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