My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

A Consitutional Right to Funding?

with 116 comments

     Does a private organization have a consitutional right to get money from the United States Congress? A federal judge thinks so.  She must be reading a different Constitution than the one that I know about.  I see nowhere in the Consitution that the Congress is to fund any particular organization just because a judge says that it is “in the public’s best interest” to do so.  I wonder which public she was thinking of–the public that works and pays taxes or the public that gets “organized” by ACORN?  But that’s beside the point, for now.

     The irony is that the ruling was based on the doctrine of Separation of Powers.  But the judge herself is violating that doctrine by ordering the Congress to keep funding ACORN, since nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the Congress is beholden to some federal judge, as though she is Queen Elizabeth I commanding the Parliament to enact something or to reverse a prior act.

     Ignoring momentarily that it is wrong to spend taxpayers’ money to fund any private organization, cannot Congress do whatever it wants with the money that is under it’s authority and control?  If Congress has the power to give the money away, do they not also have the power to stop giving the money away–for whatever reason they deem appopriate?

     President Obama signed the law that activated the defunding.  So, you had a bill approved by Congress and signed into law by the president.  How did that violate the Constitution?  That’s exactly the procedure outlined by the Constitution.

     If any of my students were as bad at reading comprehension as this judge, I would give them a failing grade in reading, and I have never given a failing grade in reading.


Written by ambrosianideas

December 12, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Posted in United States Constitution

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116 Responses

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  1. Well, the judge ruled that the effort to strip the funds was unconstitutional, not that they had a ‘constitutional right to funding.” Legally those are two different things. The process Congress used to try to strip funding violated due process. Of course, the idea it’s wrong to fund private organizations with taxpayer money is a matter of opinion. If all taxpayers believed that, then they would vote people with different perspectives into office. The right or wrongness of this issue gets decided democratically, to reflect the beliefs of the public at large. Whether or not that process really works to reflect how people think can of course be debated!

    Scott Erb

    December 12, 2009 at 5:38 pm

  2. Due process takes more than one form, however, Scott. When I taught public school (and therefore was a government employee), I could be suspended without pay for merely being charged with a crime. If I had tenure (which requires three years in the same district), I would get a school district hearing, but still could/would be fired without a conviction.

    ACORN has been accused of wrongdoing. They were temporarily defunded (and the defunding has already been renewed once, but will either be renewed or will sunset soon), which is equivalent to suspension without pay, imo. When a finding of guilt is handed down, they may well be permanently defunded (akin to firing). I fail to see the violation of due process.


    December 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm

  3. Well, in order to arrive at the conclusion that it is unconsitutional to defund ACORN, you must presume that they are somehow automatically entitled to the funding in the first place. If that were not a premise, then the judge would have accepted that Congress could defund any group that they had previously decided to fund–based on whatever criteria they select.

    Due process is a Constitutional concept that has to do with the criminal justice system. The Congress did not declare ACORN guilty of anything or sentence them to jail or fine them. They have no power to do that. If the judge was using the Due Process clause, then it was definitely a misapplication of it, and the judge apparently equates choosing not to continue making payments to a group with depriving them of something that already belongs to them. Again, the judge was presuming that the funds they were receiving belong to them inherently, apparently as a Consitutional right.

    The due process clause has nothing to do with expenditures by the Congress, especially when those expenditures are duly enacted and signed by the President.

    Taxpayers vote for people for many different reasons. The fact that we have politicians who approve funding for private organizations does not prove that people are in favor of it. My guess is that most people approve funding for organizations that they like or thta benefit them and disapprove funding for organizations that they do not like or that they preceive as harming them.

    Most people cannot see past the nose on their face, and they are not logically consistent.


    December 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

  4. True, RG. I’ll admit I was working on the basis of Scott’s argument, regardless of whether it logically applies.

    But getting people to understand what is constitutionally permitted vs required vs what one is entitled to is a whole other matter!


    December 13, 2009 at 1:59 am

  5. RG: Well, in order to arrive at the conclusion that it is unconsitutional to defund ACORN, you must presume that they are somehow automatically entitled to the funding in the first place.

    No, not really. That’s like saying that per congress can only raise taxes and that any legislation to lower taxes is unconstitutional.

    Having previously decided to give them money, congress can’t punish Acorn before there is a finding of fault, as per my understanding. So as an analogy, if the government hired you to build a wall and you were charged with tax evasion, the government couldn’t stop paying you for the wall until you were proven guilty.

    Spherical Time

    December 13, 2009 at 4:53 am

  6. And, of course, you should be careful about saying you’ll punish students based on reading comprehension if they do as well as a Judge who has been through law school and has had a pretty successful career. It cuts both ways: nothing in the article or case suggests that anyone has a constitutional right to funding — that could be called poor reading comprehension. It does say that the process used to cut funding already approved was unconstitutional. It does say that Congress has the constitutional right to approve funding for various groups that they believe promote the common good. But that’s pretty clearly a power Congress has.

    One can debate about the interpretation of the Constitution, but ultimately you and I are not legal scholars, and we have a process which will yield the result that is the law of the land. I just find it dangerous to talk about punishing students about what could be a political/legal position on an issue. I don’t think you’d really do that, but one could read it that way.

    Scott Erb

    December 13, 2009 at 1:43 pm

  7. Scott, one could read it that way if they chose to be obtuse.

    Since at least Roe v. Wade, but really starting before that, judges have taken it upon themselves to write laws based on the flimsiest of Constitutional grounds. They base decisions on interpretations of interpretations that are far beyond the actual text of the Constitution and/or the original intent of its framers.

    Anyone can read the Constitution and see for themselves that (1) this judge overstepped her bounds, (2) the Congress has the power to enact legislation concerning spending, which the President may sign, and (3) nothing explicitly in the Constitution was violated by this law.

    If I had a student who made up things instead of extracting information from the text, I would indeed consider that student’s reading comprehension skills poor. In the case of our courts, they cloak it all in an air of legal knowledge and superior wisdom that most people can see right through.

    This judge likes ACORN. She ruled in their favor. She “interpreted” the facts and the Constitution to fit the way that she wanted to rule. I predict that on appeal other justices will agree with me. In fact, I would not be surprised if her decision is overturned.


    December 13, 2009 at 10:34 pm

  8. Well, if you were taking Constitutional Law and made that sweeping of a statement, you’d be chided for positing your interpretation of Supreme Court actions as if it were clear fact. Also, an argument that goes “Anyone can read and see for themselves…” has no validity. It is a rhetorical device, not a true argument. To argue against the ruling you have to state where the legal reasoning is wrong and why. Then one looks at precedent and various other legal opinions. You have an opinion. You state it as fact, and then deride the Judge because she had legal reasoning different than your own. Constitutional law is complicated. A small document has had to be applied in a myriad of cases, and often that doesn’t yield results that your or my reading of the constitution would find obvious.

    Now, is that a bad thing? I suspect I agree with you more than the judge in terms of legal philosophy — my view is very skeptical of judicial activism and I focus on the text — though I don’t believe it is helpful or possible to figure out ‘original intent’ as the context is totally different, and I also recognize that no text can be read without being interpreted. However, I also know that very brilliant legal minds have come up with very different perspectives than you and I. Therefore I prefer not to insult them or over-simplify, but instead focus on the legal reasoning.

    More simply: I understand the legal reasoning of the judge, and respect it. Ultimately if I were judge and ruling, I probably would have ruled differently (not seeing all the information, precedents and argumentation, I cannot say for sure). I think people can disagree on issues like this without having to see the other side as somehow dumb, dishonest, or interpreting things simply in their own favor. After all, such an argument can be turned around and used against the other side as well.

    Scott Erb

    December 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm

  9. I don’t plan to spend much time worrying about what would happen to me in a Constitutional Law class. The Constitution is by “we the people,” and I am one of the people, and I am entitled to say what it seems to say in that document and what I understand it to mean.

    One reason that I can trust my opinion and disagree with this judge’s is that I am basing it on principle. I do not care if the organization were ACORN (which I don’t like) or some group that I do like, I would still say that the same Congress that has the power to give out funds has the power to rescind or choose not to give them out. I would also still say that unless you can produce a literal, actual bill of attainder, then you cannot claim that there was one. You cannot logically say that something “amounts to” a bill of attainder. Either it is one or it isn’t. That’s clear and simple.

    Just as you cannot logically say that the due process clause implies a right to privacy which implies a right to an abortion.


    December 15, 2009 at 10:40 am

  10. You can base your opinion on principle, but if someone has different principles they’ll end up in a different place. In fact, if you base it on principle then you are likely guilty of simply finding an interpretation to fit your beliefs — exactly what you accuse the judge of doing.

    I’m not sure what a “literal, actual” bill of attainder is — that seems up for interpretation too. Consider: What if Congress passed health care reform that banned paying for abortion. What if some states passed regulations that allowed physicians to charge the plan for “essential services,” creating a way to get abortion paid for. The state could legitimately say that they have not approved funding abortion. But the loophole amounts to such an approval, and likely was put in place for that reason. In such a case, would you not think that state is violating the law and that the loophole should be closed?

    You have your opinion about the ruling, and I’m probably as I said, closer to you than to the judge in my legal philosophy. I object to absolute claims that you are right and the judge is wrong, worded in a manner that ridicules and belittles the judges’ point of view. It is just as legitimate as yours and mine. The best way to deal with such disputes is through logical argumentation, not ridicule and insult. People differ on principle and core values. That’s reality. One can either build a fortress saying “my core values are right and theirs are wrong,” and attack those who disagree. Or one can say “we disagree. Let’s talk and debate the substance.” My objection was that you veered to the former in the tone of your post, while I choose the latter. Of course, in this case you may feel justified in choosing the former because it seems so self-evident to you — and I obviously do not see it that way.

    Scott Erb

    December 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm

  11. Scott, did I not present a logical argument above? You’ve not interacted with it, so I don’t know how to improve it.


    December 15, 2009 at 3:28 pm

  12. Cameron, I didn’t see your post earlier, sorry. I think, though, that your analogy isn’t really a legal argument concerning the way constitutional law is used. The idea here is that Congress was reacting to allegations about ACORN and, based on political motives, decided to punish the agency by removing funding. Is this constitutional? That is a complicated matter. Even if it is unconstitutional, that doesn’t mean that ACORN is constitutionally entitled to money, but it might mean that the act passed by Congress is not enough to undo the earlier act because of the nature of the two acts. In general, the principle is that Congress should not use the power of the purse or legislation to single out groups and punish them for political acts. If they can do this, all funded groups would have to worry that if they did not say what the government wanted, government would pull the money away.

    So, let’s say a scientist getting government funding for a project speaks out against global warming. Should a liberal Congress have the power to single that person out and deny funding for his project? That power would seriously empower the government to be able to shape actions of any private actor receiving government funds. If this act is constitutional, that does mean government has more power over private actors, a consequence I would expect you and RG to oppose.

    Yet the legal arguments are complex, rely on precedent, and don’t lend themselves to analogies to other things in the world. It was clear that Congress was seeking to ban funding of ACORN in response to allegations. This wasn’t a step towards permanent defunding, it was simply a response. Moreover, since no one would argue that ACORN has a right to permanent funding, the analogy you give is inaccurate — the only funding ACORN has a right to is that already passed by Congress. Any other later funding depends on a different Congressional act. So this is the final act in any “process” regarding ACORN’s activities.

    Scott Erb

    December 16, 2009 at 3:53 am

    • Scott,
      In your post above, you mentioned logical argumentation, yet now you dismiss my argument because it isn’t a “legal” one.

      Regardless, I would think that a government employee (a teacher) with a signed contract has more “entitlement” to her pay than an organization to which Congress has chosen to dole out funds (minus a contract). If my pay can be rescinded without a finding of guilt, why can’t theirs?

      You argue these are political acts–is that how you describe tax fraud? You have a D congress with a D president defunding a liberal organization for allegations of financial wrongdoing–how is that political?

      How do you know that Congress’ act wasn’t a step toward permanent defunding? It does seem logical that would happen with a court’s finding of guilt.


      December 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

  13. Most places will suspend someone with pay if there is an investigation. But either way that has nothing to do with the constitution. The talk is here about the constitution.

    Do you honestly not think the defunding of ACORN was politically motivated? Seriously? Why do you think Congress did it? The fact Congress is Democratic and ACORN is on the left is irrelevant to the question of whether or not there was a political motivation behind the action. I also have a hard time accepting that you do not think it was political.

    The idea of “permanent defunding” is wrong. When Congress funds an organization, it has the option in the next budget to either fund it again, or choose not to fund it. Same with the next budget. They could cease funding it for two budgets, and then resume funding. Here funding was cut (the only funding they have — it stops when the budget period ends) to punish them after allegations of wrong doing emerged.

    Also, if Congress has the power to do this, they have the power to selectively cut funding on organizations or individuals who do things they don’t like. Do you really want to give Congress that power? Consider again the climate change example I gave. You are arguing for increased power to the state vis-a-vis private actors.

    But I still have a sense you’re playing games here — I can’t believe you honestly think that the Congress wasn’t responding to allegations against them and had a political motivation.

    Scott Erb

    December 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  14. What’s the political motivation other than voter outrage?

    “Also, if Congress has the power to do this, they have the power to selectively cut funding on organizations or individuals who do things they don’t like. Do you really want to give Congress that power?”

    Doubtful I’d get upset about it—Congress funds very little that I approve of, starting with the Dept. of Education. The less money they hand out, the less they need to tax me (hopefully).

    Of course I think Congress was responding to allegations; I just don’t think that’s unconstitutional. We’re out of money. If we truly behaved that way, plenty of line items in the budget would get defunded, just like when money runs tight at my house. At least this one has multiple allegations of wrongdoing to speed up the process.


    December 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm

  15. Voter “outrage” is definitely a political factor. De-funding ACORN was all about politics and reaction to allegations.

    You have a good point about the need to cut spending and debt. Yet that is unrelated to the question of whether this particular action was constitutional or not. My main point was not to argue one way or another on the constitutionality, but to note that this is a tricky issue and there are good arguments on the side of the action being unconstitutional. Ultimately, of course, the courts will decide.

    Scott Erb

    December 16, 2009 at 8:27 pm

  16. Why is it unconstitutional to stop giving tax dollars in light of serious allegations involving tax fraud (among other things)?

    There is no contract, no guarantee of funds, no “entitlement” described in the Constitution that would cover ACORN, etc.


    December 16, 2009 at 9:11 pm

  17. Cameron, you and I see it exactly the same. I think that we are reasoning with simple common sense, which makes me very much inclined to stick with my view.


    December 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  18. Well, simple common sense doesn’t necessarily go along with constitutional validity. Sometimes following the constitution can lead to some strange places. Of course ACORN has no constitutional guarantee of funds. That’s not the argument. The argument is whether stripping them of the funds in the way they did was constitutional. Again, does the government have the power to strip funding from any source whose actions go against what the government wants? If this was the next budget and ACORN got no money, then there would be no problem — they have no right to money. It’s going into the current budget and taking promised monies away that’s in question.

    Common sense: You promise someone money. They act and plan on the basis of that promise. They take you at your word, you’ve always kept it before. Someone says “you know, that person has done something nasty.” You then decide based on that allegation to suddenly not give the money you promised, totally messing up the plans of the person counting on you. Even common sense says that’s wrong. That’s what happened here.

    The more I think this through, the more it seems to me common sensical and important we do not give the government this kind of selective power to break its promise and defund.

    Scott Erb

    December 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    • “Even common sense says that’s wrong.”

      No, that’s good stewardship of my money, which I’m commanded by scripture to practice and is good common sense.

      Would you continue to personally donate to a charity that had similar allegations?

      Just to prove I’m not playing games, my husband and I currently are not funding the seminary from which he graduated until those in charge resolve some poor personnel decisions. We shifted our money to our denomination’s missionary agency until it’s resolved. There has been no finding of guilt, but the allegations are serious enough to cause us to put our money elsewhere.

      Even if we had pledged a certain amount to the seminary, the pledge would have been contingent upon the proper actions of the seminary. Their failure to act in accordance with our standards would remove us from our obligation to fund them.

      Would even a finding of guilt satisfy you or would we *have* to fund ACORN this budget regardless of the crime?


      December 17, 2009 at 10:38 pm

  19. Well, we’ll have to just disagree on this. I do think you are putting your own personal opinion forth as common sense, which people tend to do — even when the various “common senses” disagree. That’s why I distrust any position that claims to be obviously right — there are numerous ways to look at issues, and that’s why politics is so contentious. I think your “common sense” comes from a deep bias, and I’m sure you think mine does as well. And we’re both probably right, everyone looks at the world through a prism of beliefs and biases, no one can claim real objectivity. So we have courts, parliaments, and other ways to settle these differences.

    And that’s not bad.

    Scott Erb

    December 18, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    • Scott,

      Most of my post figured around two questions I asked directly to you, which you did not answer.

      Third question: what is my deep bias?


      December 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm

  20. You made your bias clear: you don’t like government funding things. You have a strong political bias towards distrust of government and not wanting taxpayer money to go to private organizations.

    Your questions were not the same as a government promising funding and then Congress singling out an agency to remove that funding because of allegations. That is government punishment without due process. The government can choose not to fund the agency in the future, of course. A government commitment to funding is far different than a ‘pledge,’ it is a legal commitmennt around which agencies plan. To allow government to remove it because of political pressure is very dangerous. That’s why the Constitution protects us from mob mentality and demands due process. As far as I can tell, you’ve never addressed those issues, but instead retreat to claim of ‘common sense’ — but I see my view as extremely common-sensical. Your view rests on a dislike of ACORN, a belief in unclear allegations, and a general dislike of government funding.

    If, say, the Democratic Congress choose to remove funding from a university where research was starting to disprove climate change theory, claiming misuse of funds, I suspect a lot of conservatives would accuse them of trying to shape the evidence and silence critics. Due process protects everyone. Of course, if you don’t want to see anyone funded by government, you’ll always see defunding as good. That’s not the majority view.

    Scott Erb

    December 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm

  21. I dealt with due process at least twice in my example as a government-paid school teacher.

    Due process protects everyone? Then why could I be fired without a hearing until I received tenure?

    You have moved the goalposts more than once. First you say arguments need to be logical, then they need to be constitutional/legal, and now you reject any analogy to what goes on in the real world.

    I agree with two of the biases you list, but you assume I believe the allegations are true/factual. Where have I said that? I simply don’t believe a finding of guilt is necessary to take intermediary steps against any organization, public or private, that receives outside money.

    You say the government has a legal commitment to disburse this money. Prior to this judge’s ruling, what would be your source for that, so I can understand your view better.


    December 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

  22. Well, if you want to keep this going…

    First, due process. The 5th amendment says that the federal government must follow due process in all actions, it protects individuals from arbitrary use of government power, government must respect all laws and rights. The 14th amendment applies this to states. You and everyone else are protected from government/state power by due process, it’s a constitutional protection. If someone is fired unfairly, without due process, they would have a legal case. It does not protect people from ever getting fired!

    Second, a logical argument involving what is or is not constitution by necessity must be a legal argument, because the constitution is a legal document. You cannot say something is constitutional or unconstitutional without making a statement about legality. I have also given analogies — you’ve not responded to mine, but I have explained why your analogies do not apply to this case. You have not responded to those arguments.

    On three, we disagree. Allegations alone do not empower the state to act against someone or some organization, either to punish or defund them. They are sufficient to convince Congress not to vote to fund them the next time the issue comes up. Not only do I think that violates due process (and the basic principle of innocent until proven guilty), but as I’ve patiently explained, it gives tremendous power to the state to arbitrarily withdraw funding from groups that run afoul of what the government wants from them. This power could very easily be abused. It may seem unlikely now that it would be used wrongly, but the Constitution is designed to give real protections against overarching state power.

    If Congress passes a bill that funds an organization, that is a legal commitment to provide that money. That commitment can be rescended if due process is followed. For instance, if a budget crisis meant a need for massive cuts within a fiscal year, there could be a process whereby agencies are treated equally, with clear criteria on how decisions to cut will be made. In this case, there was an arbitrary cut based on allegations without proof of guilt. It is the judge’s opinion that this violates due process and gives too much power to the state. As someone who distrusts giving too much power to the state, I would think you’d welcome this protection, even if it applies to a group that you dislike.

    Ultimately in constitutional questions the key is take one’s politics out of the issue. I’m not absolutely sure about the legal reasoning of this case, I’d need to know more about the arguments to say for sure if Congress overstepped its bounds. However, recall my point is that there is a prima facia case that this was an abuse of power by the government, violating the due process clause of the 5th amendment. If you object to that on the basis that the 5th amendment mentions persons not organizations, I’d point out that since the early 1890s it has been ruled to apply to corporations as well — any organization with a corporate identity — and this has become a fundamental principle of corporate law. On the left this is often criticized as limiting the ability of government to regulate or punish businesses.

    Scott Erb

    December 18, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    • “If someone is fired unfairly, without due process, they would have a legal case. It does not protect people from ever getting fired!”

      Ah, but “unfairly” is subjective! I could have been fired without cause my first three years. After that, I was entitled to a hearing. Was that fair? I think so, and wouldn’t have cared much whether I had tenure. Most union supporters would decry that as abominable.

      “Allegations alone do not empower the state to act against someone or some organization, either to punish or defund them.”

      But allegations alone are enough for suspension without pay if you teach public/government school. That’s both punishing and defunding. Is that fair and/or constitutional? Why?

      “So, let’s say a scientist getting government funding for a project speaks out against global warming. Should a liberal Congress have the power to single that person out and deny funding for his project?”

      Not a reasonable analogy in my book, since speaking out against global warming has yet to be to determined to be a crime, unlike tax fraud. While there has been no finding of guilt, one charge is criminal; the other is not.

      I dealt with your private agreement to give money as an analogy–it would be bad stewardship to do so until the matter is resolved. Those were the only two I could find, but I may have overlooked some.

      *Hey, RG, is there any way to number or time-stamp posts? It’s a little difficult to cite each other with no reference points.


      December 18, 2009 at 5:57 pm

  23. In cases where there is subjective disagreement about whether or not due process was followed, courts decide. That’s why we have courts. In general, labor law pretty well delineates what can and cannot be done.

    I do not know enough about school rules and procedures to comment specifically, but I suspect they are following due process. If not, I’m sure the union would take them to court. They need to follow certain procedures which are applied to all in a particular situation. They cannot apply one standard to you in order to fire you because of your color, gender or what not, but then not fire someone else in the same position.

    You miss the point on the analogy. Giving the state this power gives the state the power to determine if an excuse to fund is valid or not. Let’s say Nancy Pelosi accuses the research university of “abusing funds.” Then they have the power to arbitrarily deny funding. That’s the point of due process – to stop the state from arbitrarily deciding to punish and reward.

    If Congress decided to defund every organization ACCUSED of impropriety, you can imagine the field day people would have trying to find problems in how organizations they dislike operate. And, as you know, no organization always does things right, and large organizations will often have employees who violate rules. That’s why the state has to be prevented from having the power to simply decide on the basis of an allegation to punish one organization (or more) solely on the basis of allegations.

    One key point in looking at issues like this is to consider unintended consequences — that’s why I used the global warming example, or the possibility that people would try to find any little excuse they could to drum up a mob mentality against a group, like has been done against ACORN. This is a protection against government abuse of power. To be sure, the next budget they can choose not to fund any organization they wish.

    Scott Erb

    December 18, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    • Um, not every state has a teachers’ union. I’ve never worked in a state that did, as a matter of fact. I believe I should be fired without cause, but that’s a minority position.

      I’m not aware that “abusing funds” is criminal. It’s not arbitrary to deny funding if it’s done every time a group faces criminal allegations, just like it’s not arbitrary to fire those without tenure without due process if the rule applies equally.

      I also think it’s reasonable to investigate serious allegations, especially when there’s reasonable evidence (both the videos and ACORN’s actions in disciplining personnel.) How is this a mob mentality or “any little excuse”?


      December 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  24. Sure abusing funds could be criminal. You can charge anyone with a criminal allegation, you can make them up. If the state has the power to do this, they can also claim false allegations and use that as an excuse. That’s why you want to limit the power of the state and force due process. That is making sure that we are a nation ruled by law, not people. This was a one time political vote, not something done by Congress as a matter of course. I’m not sure what ACORN is alleged to have done. All I’ve seen are a couple videos shown on the Daily Show where really minor employees are helping prostitutes claim tax breaks or something. I can’t imagine that’s all there is to this though (and if so, then it would seem to be ‘mob mentality’ – some lower level person does a minor crime, and populist commentators arouse emotion against the group — that’s what we need to protect ourselves against). I can’t see how disciplining personnel is a major issue too. It seems the more I hear of it that ACORN was indeed treated unfairly, and I suspect unconstitutionally. Though, of course, that call ultimately belongs to the courts.

    Scott Erb

    December 19, 2009 at 1:55 am

    • You’re not sure what ACORN is alleged to have done, but you’ve been on here for multiple posts convinced about a judge’s ruling?!?!

      Since you obviously missed two weeks worth of news coverage, multiple ACORN offices were targeted by two young people posing as a pimp and a prostitute (generally). They explained each time (on hidden video/audio) that banks would not give them a loan because their work involved prostitution, to the point that they wanted to import underage girls from Central and South America. Only one office even blinked an eye at such blatant illegality (sex slavery, of minors, no less). In at least two offices, the young man said he wanted to use the profits later to help him campaign for political office, so the trail of the origin of the money shouldn’t be clear. All offices except one offered tax help (“Just say you’re a performance artist.”), none but one shied away from the illegal sex, to my knowledge no one reported the couple for the slavery or attempts at tax fraud, etc.

      Two weeks later, confidential client info regarding food stamps were found in the dumpster of a CA ACORN office.

      How can I “make up” a criminal allegation? The allegation has to have the name of an actual crime–in this case tax fraud, at the very least.

      “I can’t see how disciplining personnel is a major issue too.”

      I have no idea what you mean here, so I can’t respond.


      December 19, 2009 at 2:19 am

  25. I had to choose a different blog design, but I was able to get time stamps on here. I’m on Universal Time, so the time will appear wrong to some of you, but you can now use it to identify comments.


    December 19, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    • I’m sorry—I never meant for it to be any trouble! I just figured it would be as easy as checking a box. Feel free to ignore your lowly reader and swap back–I just enjoy reading here; you shouldn’t have to change the design to accommodate a quibbler!


      December 19, 2009 at 2:58 pm

  26. If that’s all ACORN as a huge organization did — have some underlings give illegal advice — then definitely they should not be targeted. Stuff like that happens all the time in any big organization. This really convinces me that the Judge absolutely made the right call, and that ACORN is the victim of an unfair broad based right wing smear. Sorry, but you’ve weakened your case in my book.

    None of that changes the constitutional issue, though, which is not affected by what the allegations are. The constitutional issue is a lack of due process, which seems definitely to be the case here.

    So I’ve gone in this discussion from thinking the judge probably was wrong on constitutional grounds but that there was a case to be made that she was right, to now thinking she obviously made the right call.

    Scott Erb

    December 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    • So a supposed non-profit who gets my tax dollars breaks the law repeatedly, at multiple sites, by giving fraudulent advice and failing to report multiple felonies (often done by office directors, btw, not “underlings”) and you don’t see the problem?!?!

      Even _The Daily Show_ condemned ACORN, for crying out loud!


      December 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

  27. The Daily Show mocked them, but in terms of the whole episode it seems more like an emotion-driven smear of an organization based on a few small incidents. I mean, it’s not as bad as the Catholic Church and their child abuse/pedophilia scandal. Think about it.

    Scott Erb

    December 20, 2009 at 4:42 am

  28. I think I should explain that last example a bit. One could look at the scandal of priests abusing young boys, and the church covering it up and enabling it for decades, and say that the Catholic Church should lose its status as a protected religion, with the benefits in the forms of not being taxed, etc. Yet, despite the fact a “common sense” view might say that their behavior which permeated all levels of the American church warranted that (far more than the rather small problems found in ACORN), but the Constitutional right to freedom of religion would trump such an effort. The point is that the Constitution matters, whether in freedom of religion or due process, no matter how much it may seem on “common sense” terms some kind of action is warranted.

    Scott Erb

    December 20, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    • Were the Catholic church funded by our tax dollars, that scandal should have stripped them away. However, that church, which I support in no way, receives no tax funds to operate that I am aware of. Their partner agencies may receive funds as faith-based organizations to run shelters, food pantries, etc. but not for general operating expenses–the two are not the same. Relieving churches of property taxes is not the same thing as receiving government funds.

      The bottom line is that when the government gives money, there are always strings–if someone is not comfortable with the strings, all that needs to be done is to reject the money. This is why some churches do not pursue 501(c)(3) recognition. Churches are automatically recognized as tax-exempt (for now), so there is no reason to pursue the extra designation with the limits it brings.

      ACORN is alleged to have committed tax fraud at multiple locations while receiving tax dollars. It’s perfectly reasonable (and constitutional—since there is no promise of money) to withhold funds even during the investigation. I’m glad that ACORN and the government both view the crimes more seriously than you do. Firing those involved was a good step if they expect to retain even a shred of credibility.


      December 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm

  29. They are given enormous tax breaks because they are a religion. That is a huge economic benefit!

    Your constitutional argument is very weak. You say that because there is no promise of money in the constitution then it’s constitutional for Congress to cut funding based on whatever allegation they choose to take seriously. Yet the constitution does guarantee due process, and that — not the money — is the constitutional question in play. The constitutional question is not about whether or not they should or should not get the money, the question is about whether or not the Congress violated due process in their action to strip them of the money. That legal question is what determines constitutionality. Think of it this way: even if ACORN got no money and Congress had acted in some other way against them, the due process question would be the same.

    Simply: no one is arguing they have a constitutional right to funding. The argument is that they have a constitutional right to due process, and due process has not been granted.

    Scott Erb

    December 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    • Maybe, then, it would be beneficial to back up and define due process as it applies here. I’ve given a real-life example of how it works without a finding of guilt, but you are not satisfied.

      I never said that setting aside property tax wasn’t an economic benefit; I said it wasn’t the same as receiving tax dollars.


      December 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

  30. Well, if the Church’s religious status could be revoked, then they’d have to pay…either way they benefit economically.

    Here’s some info on due process.

    This is one of the shortest, clearest introductions I could find. Procedural due process is much less contested than substantive due process (which has been brought into question by some current Supreme Court justices). In this case, procedural due process is the issue. I’m not sure why your personal example would be considered at all a due process case — what law would be in question?

    Scott Erb

    December 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

  31. Quick addition: note the fact a law must carry a presumption of innocence. That’s the problem here — if there are allegations the law has to presume innocence. Stopping funding based on the allegations does not presume innocence.

    Scott Erb

    December 21, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  32. I would assume labor law would come into play in my personal example. Pre-tenure = no due process; post-tenure = due process. Either way, no finding of guilt has to occur for a teacher to be suspended with or without pay, merely the allegations and/or charges.

    I have no idea what your first sentence has to do with anything. Nobody is talking about revoking ACORN’s non-profit status, so what’s the analogy?

    Your link focuses on how law is applied. What law applies to defunding ACORN?


    December 22, 2009 at 12:38 am

  33. The law to defund ACORN applies to defunding ACORN. That law seems not to presume innocence.

    If all teachers are treated equally in terms of suspension, then the law is probably OK. They aren’t targeting one teacher, they are making broad rules.

    Scott Erb

    December 22, 2009 at 5:08 am

    • I meant the law guaranteeing ACORN funding. That would be the law that was broken when due process was violated, right?

      Well, then one could argue that the law defunding ACORN is applied equally–we just don’t have any other non-profits receiving tax dollars with video and audio evidence of crimes committed by employees at the present moment. But I bet Congress would defund the next one, too.


      December 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm

  34. You can’t single out an organization, and you can’t presume guilt — in fact, you have to presume innocence. Due process affects the law defunding ACORN – Congress singled out one organization, and acted in a way that does not show a presumption of innocence. Even if they have cause not to presume innocence, the Constitution demands they must.

    But what if we went back to the late 19th century and altered the court decisions which made corporate actors “individuals” having the same constitutional protections as you and I. Then ACORN would not have due process protection, nor would corporations across the country. That would open the door to a lot of regulation and requirements that corporations would fight hard against. Many on the left say that extending due process to corporations opened the door to corporate dominance of the American economy and political system. I’d not oppose altering that provision back to applying to only individuals — but that would be a revolution in the legal system of unprecedented proportion!

    Scott Erb

    December 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    • It’s not singling out an organization as much as it is suspending them without pay, which we’ve established is legal and possible.

      You’ve yet to show me the law guaranteeing ACORN tax dollars, and due process is about ensuring that laws are followed fairly. Even your link admits that due process is murky, so how can you be so sure it applies exactly as you wish it to here?


      December 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm

  35. Congress cannot pass a law to single out an individual and fire or suspend them without pay. They can set up laws where government entities can act like any other employer, so long as they follow labor laws that are applied equally to all.

    You seem not to want to follow the argument: a) any law passed by Congress must guarantee due process, which means it cannot single out individuals or organizations, and it must presume innocence; b) I showed you a cite to what due process is; c) I’ve explained how clearly and self-evidently it appears here that Congress specifically targeted ACORN based on allegations, and the law did not presume ACORN innocent.

    That is pretty clear. The murkier parts of due process are in substantive due process, but in procedural due process this is a pretty strong case. I’m not sure how I explain the above better than I have. It’s like you have your mind made up and there is no way you’ll even consider the other perspective. You’re not even making a due process argument. I’ve provided you with the cite in the Constitution, a link that explains the terms and its usage in constitutional law, I’ve shown how it gets applied, explained what’s problematic here, explained how your case is different because Congress passed no law targeting you alone, and somehow you just don’t want to deal with all that. I don’t know what else I can do!

    Scott Erb

    December 22, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    • And I’ve shown you a clear example of how the government doesn’t have to have a finding of guilt (does it actually require a legal finding, by the way, or could they merely choose to believe the video?) to impose temporary punishment, which as a professor for a state school, I would think you’d be familiar with.

      Here’s a site that explains the bill does not target ACORN but applies to groups like Lockheed Martin:
      ACORN isn’t even mentioned by name in the bill, as far as I can see, so I don’t see how due process was violated as far as singling out the agency.


      December 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

  36. You don’t get it — your “example” is NOT Congress passing a law signaling you out or presuming built. You don’t seem to understand judicial review. Labor law is constitutional, and it allows people to be treated in various ways, including being suspended without pay under certain circumstances. To pretend that this is the same as passing a law signaling out an organization and not presuming innocence is so contrary to logic that I am asking myself if you might just be playing games, knowing you’re wrong but too proud to admit it.

    Now, if you understand the due process issue, and how a bill aimed at ACORN that does not presume innocence can violate due process (without getting hung up on the totally different issue of labor law), one can debate the merits of the due process claim. Here’s what your link says near the top:

    “This bill, designed to block any federal funds from going to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), was approved in the form of a motion to recommit with instructions to the House’s student loan bill (H.R. 3221). It has been noted that the bill is written so broadly that it could apply to organizations besides ACORN, including defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman.”

    Note that the sponsor states that the aim of the bill was to deny funds to ACORN. No one denies that this was the purpose — they brag about it. He claims that due process is not denied because the bill is written broadly. Perhaps — that argument is for the court to decide. However, even if it is broad enough, does it presume innocence?

    In this case, the court decided that it was not broad enough and does not presume innocence. I have, however NO PROBLEM saying that these legal issues can be debated and there are too sides. That was my initial point, that it was wrong to say one side was obviously right and the other obviously wrong, especially relying on false claims like “Acorn says it has a constitutional right to funding” (no, it says it has a right to due process) and claims that because individuals working under government contracts are subject to labor law and discipline that’s the same as due process from Congressional action.

    So yes, one can debate the merits of the due process claim, and make arguments on each side. Remember, my point was not that the judge was obviously right, I was saying way above that the judge and ACORN do have a strong prima facia case, and that many arguments against it were not based in constitutional law.

    Scott Erb

    December 22, 2009 at 11:49 pm

  37. Um, I think you’re confusing the bill with the summary–you may want to read more closely. The actual bill doesn’t mention ACORN until 2(c)(1) other than as a nickname in Section 1. What you quote is clearly labeled as the summary.


    December 23, 2009 at 3:19 am

  38. The summary is evidence that ACORN was targeted, those are the words of one of the bill’s sponsors. He claims the language is broad enough to affect others — courts can decide if that’s really enough, or if the purpose of the bill was — as was widely touted by politicians and pundits — to defund ACORN. The court can look at all this evidence. And, of course, even if it’s broad enough, there is the issue of ‘presumption of innocence.’ This whole problem would go away, of course, if the court ceased giving corporations the same constitutional rights that individuals receive!

    Scott Erb

    December 23, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    • First of all, where does the site attribute those words to the bill’s sponsor? Those words directly follow the title “Opencongress Summary”.

      Second of all, even if you are correct, a sponsor’s opinion has no legal effect on the wording of the bill or its constitutionality.


      December 23, 2009 at 3:03 pm

  39. The statements of legislators can be taken into account by judges.

    Also note that there it is definitely not clear ACORN broke any laws:

    Remember, the bill must presume innocence as well.

    Scott Erb

    December 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm

  40. So you still claim the words you quoted are from the bill?!

    If that’s so, then I’m not the one “not getting it”.


    December 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm

  41. I never claimed to be quoting from the bill. I just noted that a lot of Congress people and others identify defunding ACORN as the bill’s purpose. The Judge takes more than just the wording of the bill into account.

    But let’s see where we are: we agree that due process is a right guaranteed by the Constitution to individuals, extended to corporate actors in the late 1800s, right? We agree the case is about due process, and does not make any claim that there is a “constitutional right to funding.” You claim the bill is broad enough not to be seen as targeting ACORN. I agree that it is a contestable issue and the Court has to make a call on that (using evidence and arguments made/offered by the attorneys). You have not said anything about the need to presume innocence.

    Can we end this agreeing that it was a due process case, that there are arguments on both sides that ACORN was too directly targeted, and that the issue of the law needing to presume innocence is also a legitimate question?

    Scott Erb

    December 24, 2009 at 8:36 pm

  42. “Note that the sponsor states that the aim of the bill was to deny funds to ACORN. No one denies that this was the purpose — they brag about it.” December 22, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    It appears here you seem to think you are quoting the bill; I must have misunderstood what you meant by “sponsor,” which is a term, in this genre, generally used to refer to one who has supported a bill to the point of signing his name.

    I disagree with you that idea of due process equals a need to presume innocence in every situation, as does state-run education. We would also disagree, apparently, about the level of proof needed to establish enough presumed guilt to begin some sort of even temporary punishment.

    We agree that the courts will settle this, and we may leave it there if you like.


    December 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm

  43. You disagree with the interpretation of the Constitution that has been settled law for over a century (and longer as relates to individuals)? Well, OK, you can, but you’re not disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with courts and constitutional scholars of the last century. Congress and states can pass no law that in its basis presumes guilt because that would be Congress infringing on judicial power. It is really a fundamental principle. You need also to separate this from your education example — that was NOT a law passed that specifically targeted anyone or presumed guilt. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m trying to hone in on issue here very specifically.

    As head of a local union chapter I often deal with people who believe they have been mistreated by the Administration. I have to say that no matter how right they are, how unfair the act was, if there was not a violation of our contract we will lose any grievance. Legal issues get very precise, you have to really focus on that issue and question.

    Scott Erb

    December 28, 2009 at 4:32 am

    • Thought you wanted to let this go.

      I never said what your first sentence says. My education example absolutely presumes guilt—I could be suspended without pay at least until my hearing. How is that different from what we’re talking about?!

      I’m not sure of the point of your second paragraph–I believe in at-will employment, as I made clear earlier.

      You never defined sponsor, btw.


      December 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  44. Your education example is not an act of Congress, which is what this case is about — Congress passing a law that presumes guilt.

    The point is that this is a legal/constitutional question, and often people don’t understand how particular and focused such questions are. The logic has to be in the form of legal reasoning, with knowledge of the precedent and the state of constitutional law.

    Scott Erb

    December 31, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    • So state governments aren’t held to the same standards in regards to the law, due process, and the Constitution? I find it hard to believe that’s your view.


      December 31, 2009 at 9:35 pm

  45. The 14th amendment also affects states. If you don’t see how employment is different than legislation that assumes guilt, then I don’t know how to make you understand. You have the burden of proof here — how me what law violated your due process? States can fire and suspend employees, that is not a due process issue. In this case, states must follow labor laws, though the federal government exempts itself from those. But that has nothing to do with due process.

    Scott Erb

    December 31, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  46. Sorry, I mean the Senate and House exempt themselves — not the entire federal government.

    Scott Erb

    December 31, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  47. Funny, “due process” is exactly how it was referred to when I was given tenure (the only benefit to tenure in those states) and on my contract…it’s what I was entitled to that I didn’t have prior to tenure–a hearing to decide guilt.


    December 31, 2009 at 10:29 pm

  48. Due process in a constitutional sense is not the same as talking about due process in a general sense. A student might complain that a disciplinary decision was made without due process. In that case, the documents we’d look at are university policies and procedures, to determine if they were followed and the student treated fairly. That is not the same as a constitutional issue involving a law passed by Congress.

    Scott Erb

    January 1, 2010 at 12:38 am

  49. Even using your version/definition, the law doesn’t single out ACORN. Nor have you proven the level of evidence needed to determine guilt or what the setting for the determination would be. The fact that various other agencies distanced themselves from ACORN separate of this and the video evidence is reasonable, imo. I’m not aware that it has to be only a court’s finding to determine guilt.


    January 1, 2010 at 1:52 am

  50. The judge has to determine if the law either presumes guilt, or focuses on punishing particular organizations. Given the politicians and media claiming this was to deny ACORN funding, there is evidence that the law was directed against ACORN, whether or not the law specifically says so. That is for a judge to decide. The law must presume innocence, therefore determining guilt is irrelevant. The law passed by Congress MUST presume innocence.

    Scott Erb

    January 1, 2010 at 4:26 am

  51. According to your logic, no law could ever impose a penalty; only a judge could.

    Is it wrong for all the other groups that separated from ACORN (the IRS, whoever’s in charge of the census this go-round, etc.)?


    January 1, 2010 at 4:41 am

  52. Not according to my logic, but according to the constitution. The problem is a law passed by the Congress, and the issue is whether or not that law is meant to focus on ACORN, and if it does not presume guilt. Since the other examples you give do not involve acts of Congress, they are not analogous. This is due to the 5th amendment (state legislatures also cannot pass such laws, due to the 14th amendment).

    Scott Erb

    January 1, 2010 at 11:55 pm

  53. So how do we have laws that do apply a penalty, then? A law against littering imposes a $250 fine, for example. That law presumes guilt has been established. Generally, that’s by a judge or jury (i.e. a conviction), but that simply doesn’t always have to be the case.

    According to your last sentence, any state who has enacted labor laws such as the one I describe above are violating the Constitution, unless I misunderstand you.

    Is it wrong for all the other groups that separated from ACORN (the IRS, whoever’s in charge of the census this go-round, etc.) to have done so? Why?


    January 2, 2010 at 12:08 am

  54. Yes, guilt gets established by due process (judge and jury). The law does not presume guilt on anyone. And, no, labor laws do not violate the constitution. And other groups certainly can ‘separate’ themselves from ACORN. Seriously, I think you need to learn a bit about constitutional law before you try to debate it. Read the 5th and 14th amendments. Learn what ‘due process’ means. I don’t think you realize how silly your arguments are. Have you ever studied constitutional law, or looked at this with more than just a partisan eye?

    Scott Erb

    January 3, 2010 at 5:16 am

  55. You say laws can’t presume guilt, yet laws carry penalties that assume guilt.

    Had I been charged with moral turpitude as a teacher, there would have been no legal judge and jury; I would merely have had a hearing where my guilt would have been evaluated. I fail to see why, if a school board can legally act that way, that Congress may not.

    Why wasn’t it wrong for the IRS, etc. to distance themselves from ACORN? No guilt has been established, in your view.

    I don’t think the Founding Fathers intended for someone to need to study constitutional law to understand the Amendments; common sense is generally all that’s necessary.

    You might be rushing to judgment yourself to assign a a particular party to me, by the way…nor do I need a law degree to have an opinion, which, unless you’ve left it off your blog unless I’m mistaken, you don’t seem to possess either.


    January 3, 2010 at 11:12 pm

  56. You fail to see why a school can act that way because you don’t understand Constitutional law — which is OK, my understanding is a bit more because my field requires it, but it’s far below that of a legal scholar. And whatever the founders intended is irrelevant: two hundred thirty years later and with a myriad of cases and problems, constitutional law has developed to be the law of the land. The Founders would have never intended the US to become a dominate world power, to launch wars in the Mideast and things like that either. But their intent for the country isn’t important, the legal documents they left shape it, and we can improve on it or make it worse as we see fit — that’s democracy.

    Remember what this was about: Go back and you’ll see that I said the judge had a good rationale for her decision, even though I didn’t say for sure the judge was right. There is the 5th amendment, one can argue this was directed primarily at ACORN and that it presumes guilt. One can argue the contrary as well, and the appeals court will hear that. Good arguments can be made on each side.

    You seem to think that I’m saying it’s open and shut that the law is unconstitutional. It’s not. But not because of the analogy you gave. I’ll try to explain this again, I’m not sure why I can’t get you to understand total irrelevance of your analogy to this case or to the 5th (and 14th amendments).

    First, laws carry penalties to be applied only if a person is found guilty, they don’t assume everyone is guilty. All legal procedures involving those laws carry a presumption of innocence in the US.

    Now, moral turpitude is not a crime. Presumption of innocence applies to crimes. Schools, the military and government bureaucracies can have labor practices that allow people to be removed from their position for various reasons. So if there is a rule that says anyone accused of improper contact with a child, for instance, will be fired if an investigation finds reasonable cause to believe it true, then as along as that rule is applied equally, someone can be fired without having guilt proven. What can’t be done is the person can’t be put in prison or put on a sex offender’s list, or be punished according to the law of the land without a fair trial. You are mixing up legal and non-legal presumptions of innocence. You are mixing crimes with employment rules and procedures.

    Scott Erb

    January 3, 2010 at 11:32 pm

  57. “Now, moral turpitude is not a crime. Presumption of innocence applies to crimes. Schools, the military and government bureaucracies can have labor practices that allow people to be removed from their position for various reasons.

    I deliberately chose moral turpitude because it wasn’t a crime–thank you for seeing my point. In that situation, a teacher can be disciplined fairly (including suspending pay) without being convicted of a crime. Ever seen the definition for moral turpitude? It’s pretty much like the saying (a jurist, I believe) “I know it when I see it.”

    The videos are pretty damning, though I doubt you’ve seen them beyond a clip or two, from what you said earlier. You want me to study constitutional law before discussing the issue, yet you apparently have not reviewed the evidence pertaining to the issue.

    ACORN isn’t being “punished according to the law of the land,” so a trial isn’t necessary.

    Third time: Why wasn’t it wrong for the IRS, etc. to distance themselves from ACORN? No guilt has been established, in your view.


    January 4, 2010 at 12:10 am

  58. Remember: A law must presume innocence. The videos are completely irrelevant on that very pertinent Constitutional point. You can have an opinion on whether or not ACORN did wrong — I’ve read opinions on both sides of that issue, and that’s cool, people can disagree. But we’re talking about the constitutionality of an act of Congress to cut funding. In a legal sense it is an absolute fact that no guilt has been established (and in the realm of opinion from people who view this through videos or blogs, there is a wide diversity of perspectives). The video is completely irrelevant to the issue in question – the constitutionality of a Congressional act.

    The IRS does not determine guilt and does not punish crimes. They can use or distance themselves from any organization they choose, following their procedures. It certainly neither requires nor entails any determination of guilt. It has no fifth amendment implications.

    Scott Erb

    January 4, 2010 at 7:18 pm

  59. One quick addition — the IRS does have power to investigate and fine for tax evasion, etc. However, taxpayers can legal recourse if they disagree, and IRS rules are such that in that duty they have passed constitutional scrutiny. However, working with local organizations is something they have wide discretion at — distancing themselves is not punishment of a crime.

    Scott Erb

    January 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

  60. ACORN also has legal recourse (obviously) if/when they disagree with Congress, so that’s no different.

    Who’s to say this law won’t pass constitutional scrutiny?

    Congress also has wide discretion in working with local organizations–why is the IRS different? Both cut funding to the same group.

    Why do you suppose those with the census and the IRS distanced themselves? Whimsy? Folly? Mere coincidence? Or was it for exactly the same reason? Why are these two government agencies allowed to cut funding but not Congress?

    I still haven’t seen any legal proof that Congress alone can’t decide guilt, much like a school board does independently of the court system.


    January 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm

  61. Also, we agree Congress isn’t punishing a crime; no conviction has been handed down. I’m arguing they have to right to withhold money merely on the basis of the evidence before them since there is no legal guarantee of funds. As far as ACORN “counting on the promise of money from the budget,” so have plenty of other non-profits in this economy, and they’ve had to do without even in the absence of this level of accusations/charges.


    January 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm

  62. ACORN indeed has full recourse — they took the case to court, and won the first round. You seem not to be paying attention, let me state clearly my points, and tell me which you disagree with:

    1. The post was about the constitutionality of the law past to restrict ACORN funding. The post made it sound like there is no good legal logic behind the Judge’s ruling.

    2. My response: I do not know for sure how I would have ruled, but there is a good legal argument for ACORN’s side on this. This can be seen as a law that does not presume innocence and has as its main purpose the goal of defunding a particular organization due to allegations made against it.

    3. The due process argument applies clearly to Congress in its law making capacity. Asking questions about the IRS does not contradict my argument. It’s more like you’re puzzled “why can the IRS or a school do this when Congress can’t pass a law that defunds ACORN.” I tried my best to enlighten you on why these are very different cases. You do not understand my effort to do so, it’s probably my fault for not explaining it well, but it is tangential to my argument. You in no way deny that there is a legitimate due process argument to be made, and that this can be seen as an attempt by Congress to punish ACORN for allegations against it. Some Congress people stated so explicitly.

    So my point: that ACORN does have a solid legal argument, even if I do not know enough about the case to state for sure how I would rule, is undenied, and not even addressed. Also, the legal proof that Congress cannot decide guilt is in the Constitution, in the Fifth amendment. The only time Congress has such judicial powers is in impeachment scenarios.

    I think clearly you have your mind made up and you are digging in and unwilling to reply to what I’m writing, even though I’ve been patiently trying to explain to you the legal issues at play. It seems you’re going from the gut here, it just feels like Congress should be able to do this because that seems to you to be common sense. Yet when it comes to legal and constitutional issues, you have to look at the documents, precedent, and the facts.

    The fact is ACORN’s argument: that this legislation was aimed at them (many politicians supporting and sponsoring it bragged it was), was meant as punishment for allegations based on the tapes that have you so convinced, is a strong argument that due process was violated. You need to address that argument specifically, otherwise, you’re just talking on the margins, trying to avoid admitting that my point is rational and logical.

    Scott Erb

    January 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm

  63. I disagree with your point 2. I also disagree that Congress is legally bound to give out money promised in the budget.

    If Congress is bound from deciding guilt, then they couldn’t have violated due process, which by its very nature requires a finding of guilt, right?

    I find it interesting that you hold Congress and other government agencies (beholden to Congress, mind you) to different standards.


    January 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm

  64. To paragraph one: Here the problem may be wording. For that to be true (as you worded it), you would have to say that laws made by Congress are not legally binding. I’m sure that’s not what you meant. Congress passes a law funding something, the executive branch actually gives over the money. The question here is can Congress pass a law cutting money already legally approved. You can see that the due process argument is a good one, even if you might believe ultimately it doesn’t hold up? You can see how this law could be interpreted as singling out ACORN and removing funding as a form of punishment, right? Remember, my argument is that ACORN’s case isn’t as ridiculous as some make it sound, they do have a decent legal argument.

    2. Due process does not require a finding of guilt. Congressional laws have many times been found to violate due process. Only in impeachment (as described in the Constitution) does Congress take on judicial functions.

    3. Government agencies are actually part of the Executive branch, and answer to the President who enforces the laws of the land. Congress makes the law, the Executive enforces and implements it, and the judiciary settles disputes either about the laws (as in this case) or of course legal disputes in the population. This separation of powers does create real paradoxes for the US government compared to countries that don’t separate Legislative and Executive functions (most European countries don’t.)

    Scott Erb

    January 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  65. 1. Does a budget have the force of law?

    2. If due process doesn’t require a finding of guilt, then how has Congress violated it?

    3. I still disagree that this law singles out ACORN (the text of the law says nothing of the kind). Congress should be able to remove funding that is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution at any time, for any reason.


    January 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm

  66. 1. Yes, though in some cases the Executive has been given the authority to hold back payments or regulate how the money is spent.

    2. The court ruled that the law does not presume innocence.

    3. The Appeals Court will rule on whether this is directed at ACORN (many politicians claimed it was), or if removal of funding amounts to punishment for allegations in a manner that does not presume innocence. I’d need to read a lot more of the legal arguments before I’d take a stand on how I would rule if I were a judge.

    Scott Erb

    January 7, 2010 at 9:35 pm

  67. !. May I see a source?

    2. A court ruling does not make something true (much less right). It may make something legal, but truth and morality transcend the law.

    3. The text does not single out ACORN. It doesn’t matter if a person says it does; it merely matters what the law says. I hope no judge takes a press conference or sound bite into consideration when deliberating upon any case, much less one that deals with the constitutionality of a law.


    January 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm

  68. 1. I don’t really have time to look up all this, if you doubt me, you can do some digging. But you do accept that bills passed by Congress become the law of the land, don’t you?

    2. Of course truth and morality transcend law. But laws exist and courts exist because people disagree on what truth and morality mean, so for governance we rely on rule of law.

    3. If the people who pass the law claim its that purpose, ACORN can use that in their law suit, leaving the judge to decide. The judge considers all the evidence. Obviously, anyone can word something designed to punish someone else by avoiding naming that person, so the fact the text doesn’t single out ACORN isn’t enough to make a ruling either way.

    The purpose here is to limit the power of the state.

    Scott Erb

    January 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm

  69. 1. The burden of proof is on you, as it is your claim, not mine.

    2. We rely on them when they function as designed.

    3. A person’s claim is not evidence, nor is it necessarily truth, as you pointed out in your #2.

    “The purpose here is to limit the power of the state.”

    On this we would agree, but I imagine we would disagree about how and why. On one hand, you expect me to accept that judicial ruling and precedent are what we have to work with (even when they’re outdated), yet now you want to limit the power of the state. It would have been far more beneficial if the state were limited in doling out money in the first place, don’t you think? If they stuck to funding constitutional necessities, we could have avoided this whole mess.


    January 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm

  70. 1. You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to. But it’s the kind of thing you learn in the fifth grade — Congress makes laws, acts of Congress are the law of the land. But since you haven’t argued against my argument, it stands unrefuted.

    2. How were they “designed”? I’m not sure what you mean by that. A lot of people think courts “should” operate in a particular way, but that’s subjective opinion. They act as they act. Also, I don’t know what you mean by precedented as “outdated.” That also sounds like your subjective opinion. Which is fine — but in the realm of opinion there is no proof, just differences.

    3. A person’s claim can be evidence — otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to call witnesses! Whether or not a claim should be considered true gets decided by the courts. But I don’t think anyone honestly doubts that the act was designed to defund ACORN after tapes came out!

    I do not think limiting funding to “constitutional necessities” would be better. I doubt people can even agree as to what they are. I hear people defending our massive military spending by saying the Constitution specifies defense — even though the military is now used as an offensive, even imperialist force, which the founders did not want!

    Bottom line: You do not know what is best or true, neither do we. We have our opinions. Opinions vary across the spectrum. People may really believe they are right with all their heart and mind, but that’s subjective. So we have Congress to make laws (and be voted out if the people dislike what they do), and courts to settle disputes. And within those confines we have a lot of freedom in what kind of polity we create.

    Scott Erb

    January 9, 2010 at 11:35 pm

  71. 1. Then it should be easy to support your claim. Then I can proceed to argue against it, if warrant exists, or I can accede to your argument.

    2. “Design” as in intent, which can often be gathered from context or related sources from the same author(s).

    3. “Whether or not a claim should be considered true gets decided by the courts.” I agree. But even if I agree with your first sentence, can we not agree that a claim carries far less weight than forensic or verifiable evidence. A claim may support such, but is not enough to stand on its own, at least in criminal court.

    4. While the act defunds ACORN, it may be also be used to defund any group accused of the same behavior, thus eliminating any specific target. While ACORN may be the impetus for the act, it does not limit application to ACORN alone, nor should it.

    5. Defense is specified, and I would agree the definition is sometimes stretched, though you veer wildly into opinion in your last clause. Education, however, is not, nor are the arts, etc. It’s pretty easy to determine what is *not* specified, while determining application of what is specified is admittedly more difficult.

    6. Pure relativism, to which I do not subscribe, so we will not agree.


    January 9, 2010 at 11:51 pm

  72. 1. You have the burden of proof here. Do you claim that budget laws are not really laws? If so, support the claim. You are implying the Judge made a wrong decision. The status quo is that the Judge’s decision was right. If you think this doesn’t fall under the 5th amendment on the basis of it not being a law, make and support that argument.

    2. The intent of the courts according to whom? Isn’t their intent in part to adjudicate disputes such as this one? I’m not sure what you mean, but…

    3. Sure, there are different levels of evidence. But if intent is, as you claim, determined by the context or related sources from the authors, and the authors of the bill claim the intent is to defund ACORN after allegations and tapes came out, well, by your own logic it seems strong evidence of intent.

    4. Two points: a) the Judge has to decide if the the law is broad enough to overcome a claim it’s intent is primarily to defund ACORN. If that was the primary reason, the fact other groups could be defunded too is not relevant; and b) even if the Judge decides “a” passes muster (it is broad enough), then the Judge has to decide if the law presumes innocence. If not, then it can still be considered unconstitutional.

    5. The people can decide what to fund through their elected officials, the Constitution leaves them to that power. That’s political freedom.

    6. Argument by labeling is a fallacy. Even if it is relativism (it isn’t, by the way — it’s pragmatism, at least in a philosophy of science lingo), unless you explain what’s wrong with the argument, you haven’t refuted it. A lot of people want to call any claim that “you might be wrong” relativistic. But humans are fallible, and on these and most philosophical issues I have not seen many unfalsifiable, testable hypotheses. Thus while there may be an absolute truth, we are limited in our ability to discern it. Pragmatism says we have to go with our best call, and have processes to try to mediate disputes about issues when we can’t test claims. I’m just saying that all humans are fallible, and if you can’t make an argument for your opinion that rests on testable hypotheses, then you have not proven your opinion and thus I have no reason to consider it truth.

    In short: saying someone might be wrong in their beliefs is not the same as relativism; in fact, in most cases it’s obviously true that someone might be wrong. Your beliefs about what is true and proper may be wrong — so might mine. Do you really disagree with that?

    Scott Erb

    January 11, 2010 at 2:02 am

  73. 1. Nope. I asked you on Jan. 6, you claimed it did on Jan. 7.

    2. I was actually referring to the Founding Fathers and their intent for how government should work (including all three branches).

    3. Now you’re mixing groups. I never said anything about the intent of the people surrounding the bill. It would be foolish, since I don’t know their intent or have access to a larger context. As I said in 2, I was referring to the Founding Fathers.

    4. Only the text of the law should be used to determine both A and B. We’re dealing with law, not sound bites.

    5. Not at the federal level, according to the Constitution.

    6. We can know what is best or true or right. Saying otherwise is relativism by any definition. I hold to the belief that there is ultimate truth; you apparently do not, so I find it hard to believe we will agree on much of anything on this topic or any other.


    January 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  74. 1. How is any claim I made relevant to the issue under discussion? Do you deny or refute a claim?

    2. Well, the founders’ intent is pretty much irrelevant by now, the world is so much different than theirs — though perhaps their intent was a document that could allow change as conditions change. They set up a system.

    3. The judge can take into account the intent of the people who wrote and passed the bill.

    4. I could write a law that punishes you for some allegation, and word it in a way that it doesn’t name your name. If Congress had that power, and could skirt the Constitution by simply not naming a name, or having a few other people affected, it would greatly empower the state and take away individual protections. That’s why I think your opinion on this matter (and here it’s definitely just your opinion) is wrong.

    5. I have no idea why you make that statement. Clearly the House and Senate can and do pass a wide range of measures. There are limits, but even those limits can be changed through amendment.

    6. Again, there is a distinction between pragmatism and relativism. If you make an epistemological claim that we CAN know what is best and true, then show your card — HOW can we do so. People have tried for millenia, so far no one has been able to pull it off. That’s why there are so many competing theories. I think you’re making an assertion you cannot support.

    Also, saying you ‘believe in an ultimate truth’ is fine from a pragmatist stand point. I believe in an ultimate truth too. I just have never seen anyone demonstrate how you can know for sure if you have it. To me that means we need to be a bit humble, and recognize that just because we really believe something strongly, it’s possible that we may be wrong. Too many people put their particular beliefs forward as “the truth” without being able to defend it as being anything more than their perspective about what the truth is.

    Unless you’ve solved the 2500 year lingering problem of philosophy (and if you have, please share it with the world), then please explain how we know if what we believe is the truth? (By the way, if you look into quantum mechanics, even the apparent truths of every day material reality start being called into question!)

    Scott Erb

    January 11, 2010 at 5:03 pm

  75. A better example of relativism in action: Congress passes a law where politicians brag that it is meant to defund a particular organization, and clearly state that ACORN is the target. But if you can argue that the text doesn’t say ACORN and so therefore that’s enough to rule that ACORN was not the target, you have engaged in the worst kind of relativism: the truth doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you can find an interpretation to fit your preference. And you say you don’t like relativism!

    Scott Erb

    January 11, 2010 at 5:19 pm

  76. OK, I’ve gone back trying to figure out just what you want me to support. The nearest I can tell, is that you are doubting that a budget is a law? I can’t believe that. In any event, if that’s it, Article 1, section 7 of the Constitution is where you need to go, if a Bill is passed by Congress and signed by the President, it becomes law. Budgets are passed as bills. That really is something you should know, especially if you’re going to make claims about what the constitution is all about!

    Scott Erb

    January 11, 2010 at 5:43 pm

  77. 1. A bizarre response, given the discussion. Since we’re discussing *laws*, I asked if the law that was broken was the budget or some other law, for one.

    2. I don’t subscribe to a “living, breathing” Constitution, so again, we cannot compromise.

    3. What the judge may, can, and should do are often not the same thing.

    4. As long as it’s applied fairly, and in the context of the government giving me money I haven’t earned, I don’t see the problem. Please don’t liken it to sending me to jail or some other physical deprivation.

    5. Once again, merely because they have usurped the states’ authority does not make it right. They should not be funding education, the arts, etc., as I have already mentioned. It does not suddenly become right after the fact.

    6. I subscribe to the ultimate truth found in Scripture. Moving the debate to that area is off-topic.

    7. The truth is what was written in the law, not what folks say about the law.


    January 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm

  78. No, I’m asking you to clarify if the budget was the law that was broken, if it was some other law, or if the only issue is that the law used to defund ACORN is unconstitutional.

    You claimed earlier that Congress needed to fund them for now because they had promised it in the budget/law. So did they break the law in defunding ACORN? If so, why isn’t that also the issue before the courts?


    January 11, 2010 at 6:38 pm

  79. 1. OK, no they did not necessarily break the law in defunding ACORN. They can supersede their own laws. The claim by ACORN is that the law passed to defund them was unconstitutional on due process grounds (no presumption of innocence, etc.).

    2. All texts need to be interpreted. There is no such thing as a text with a single interpretation, and they have to be interpreted in context (e.g., the 2nd amendment does not just protect muskets and the arms available in 1789). The founders wrote a document that sets a process, but allows for flexibility as the context changes. Most countries ditch their constitutions and write new ones if they are too precise. The founders specifically worded this with that flexibility.

    Jump to 5: You don’t think the arts should be funded. The constitution does not prohibit funding of the arts, so it’s a political issue. If it were legal, the Supreme Court has the power to make determinations, and they know more about the Constitution, it’s history, and various interpretive controversies than either of us. Now, personally I would prefer a more confederal system with far more power to the states. I’m not a fan of large, powerful, centralized governments for a variety of reasons.

    6. Faith in any religion is different than proof in a philosophical or scientific sense. I respect Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other faiths, and believe that a person can claim *subjective* certainty that their belief is true. (And believe me, I’ve had intense arguments with atheists over this, especially atheists who are in reality anti-theists). My own belief system is at base spiritual. But when it comes to defining truth in a social context where others have different core beliefs, then nobody is able to prove claims their beliefs are better. And, of course, even within major religions, there are vast disagreements over dogma, which you simply have to make a call based on what moves you or where you choose to put your faith.

    7. The people who wrote the law and passed it know why they did so — and if it was aimed at ACORN to punish them based on allegations, then that is the reason for the law. That’s why legislative debates about laws are used in the court room in trying to determine how to interpret a law.

    Scott Erb

    January 11, 2010 at 9:12 pm

  80. 1. But if a budget has the force of law (signed by the President, etc.), and Congress chooses to eliminate one area (rather than equally applying cuts across categories, for example), how is that permissible from your view?

    2. Notice our Founding Fathers had the sense not to merely list the permitted weapons. “Bear arms” takes very little interpretation, far less than courts have spent on it, imo.

    5. I’m a strict constructionist (obviously), so I can’t agree with your first sentence.

    6. My religious faith informs my philosophy and view of science as well as my worldview. Putting my faith in a box is impossible for me.

    7. Even if this were true (and you have no proof, to my knowledge), as long as the law can and does apply to other groups in similar situations, there is no legal issue, imo. Consistency is the key here as much as the presumption of innocence.


    January 11, 2010 at 11:15 pm

  81. 1. I’m not sure what you mean. Obviously, each year’s budget is a new budget, and Congress can change what gets funded and to what extent — as you note, there is no Constitutional right to be funded.

    2. If you think “bear arms” takes very little interpretation, you certainly have a minority view. Do we have a right to nuclear weapons? And, of course, the amendment also seems to imply the right to regulate. The amendment can be interpreted a multitude of ways (which each side thinking they have the correct way).

    5.Show me where the Constitution prohibits funding of the arts. It’s clear Congress can raise funds to promote the general welfare.

    6. But religious faith is belief. If someone says “this is the absolute truth because I am convinced it is,” that won’t go very far. In fact that’s relativist — because one believes something, one claims it is truth.

    7. First, if the law does not presume innocence, it doesn’t matter if it applies to other groups or not. Laws must presume innocence. But if the purpose of the law was to punish ACORN, it really doesn’t matter if it could apply to others — it was passed focused on a certain group. We disagree on that (I think my view is closer to what the constitution means, but obviously it’s subject to interpretation). That’s why we have courts — to settle such disputes.

    Scott Erb

    January 12, 2010 at 10:58 pm

  82. 1. I’m speaking of the budget where ACORN was “promised” money it did not receive.

    2. Define “we”. I’m aware I have a minority position; you’re hardly the first to notice. That doesn’t invalidate my view (nor is a majority position strengthened by its numbers). You add a lot of qualifiers to your view (seems, imply). Why not simply take a face-value reading?

    3. Once again, I’m a strict constructionist. The federal gov’t should fund exactly what is enumerated. All other powers are to be left to the states. It’s not what is prohibited; it’s what is permitted for them to fund.

    4. Your example is circular and not at all what I believe–proof you do not understand “the other side”.

    5. We’ve gone ’round and ’round on this. We’ve debated who can find the guilt, how much evidence is necessary, etc. How does this law differ from others that impose a penalty?



    January 13, 2010 at 12:29 am

  83. 1. The law funds ACORN to a certain amount. A new law was passed which would defund it. The question is the constitutionality of the new law.

    2. What one person sees as a ‘face value’ reading, another sees as way off base. That’s because texts are human constructs, and use language which is inherently defined in part by context, and in part in ways that are subject to multiple interpretations.

    3. I find labels unhelpful, so give me the argument, not the label. The Constitution allows promotion of the general welfare. I don’t see you making an argument about why you think the constitution says this. I can’t quite see how you interpret it that way, it isn’t evident or obvious from the wording. Can you explain?

    4. What “other side” do you think I don’t understand? I certainly do understand religious thinking and a lot of theology, as well as questions concerning faith, reason, and proof. Or are you talking about funding the arts here? (I’m not sure if you’re responding to my 5 or 6).

    5. But there are clear things not up for debate: A law must presume innocence, according to the interpretation of the Fifth amendment around for the last 120 years. All laws that impose penalties do so only after guilt has been proven in due process — including the initial presumption of innocence. If this law imposed the penalty after trial in the justice system, like all other penalties are imposed, it would be quite different. It doesn’t do it, so it’s qualitatively different than other laws that impose penalties. Innocence is always presumed, penalties are imposed only after due process. That’s what ACORN claims happened here.

    One thing I try to do on legal arguments: completely ignore the politics. I still think your dislike for ACORN is driving your position more than a real effort to apply the constitution. I don’t mean that to be insulting, I think Supreme Court justices too often do the same thing. My own view is to try to make sure the legal reasoning is applied equally regardless of the political consequences.

    Scott Erb

    January 14, 2010 at 4:58 am

  84. 1. So why wasn’t the first law (the budget) broken when the money wasn’t disbursed? The budget has the force of the law, and it wasn’t carried out as promised, according to you.

    2. “inalienable right” seems pretty clear to me. As soon as I need permission for something labeled an “inalienable right,” something is wrong.

    3. If “general welfare” covers everything under the sun, then why did the FF bother to leave all other powers to the states? A clearer reading is to limit the federal gov’t (which we know they didn’t want strengthened) to what was specifically listed and to leave everything else to the states, which is a face-value reading.

    4. You skipped paragraphs/numbers, not me. I’m just dealing with each point, so I’m referring to your circular argument of “because I say it is.” My arguments have little to do with what I believe apart from the document(s) we’re discussing, and in this case, Scripture. I believe what they say, and one clearly proclaims to be truth.

    5. I’m pretty sure Congress considered them innocent before the videos. They funneled plenty of money to them over the years. It was only after audio/video evidence clearly shows multiple employees, some in supervisory positions, breaking multiple laws involving tax dollars. You’ve yet to show there must be a traditional trial in the justice system to withdraw funds.


    January 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  85. 1. I don’t know anything about that, I’m simply talking about the constitutionality of the law to defund ACORN.

    2. What those rights really mean in context and when people contest those rights (each thinks their inalienable right trumps the other’s) is always unclear. If everyone agreed with your interpretation, that’s what we’d have. But, of course, they don’t — and they have the freedom to disagree with you and act politically on that disagreement.

    3. Well, that’s one argument. There are others. It seems the Supreme Court decided your interpretation wasn’t valid. You’re not giving me anything in the constitution that limits spending, by the way. You’re just speculating “why did they do this…” That’s not a real constitutional argument.

    4. Even scripture has numerous translations, interpretations and the like. And, of course, there are many religious traditions. Cool if you find one tradition and one interpretation comfortable — great, go with that. But it doesn’t give anyone else reason to agree.

    5. You are stubborn in your denial of the reality of the constitution. Laws must presume innocence. If the law passed did not — if it meant to punish ACORN because videos suggested they violated the laws without a trial and due process — then innocence was not presumed. I think you know it, I think you’re just too proud to admit that this is a reasonable argument. To be sure, I’d need a lot more information to know how I’d rule on the case; remember, I’m just pointing out that ACORN does have a valid, logical, constitutional argument that can’t be dismissed with ridicule.

    Scott Erb

    January 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm

  86. 1. Seems like whether the law (the budget) was broken would be part of the equation. It was part of your argument, after all–that Congress had promised the money in the budget.

    2. What inalienable right (as defined by the Constitution) is violated by my gun ownership? I have no idea what you’re trying to advocate here.

    3. I have described the areas in which the federal government is Constitutionally limited in regards to taxes and funding. The fact that the SC has chosen to ignore that wording and stretch it beyond belief does not change what the FF wrote.

    4. No legitimate Christian translation of Scripture deviates beyond mere word choice. By “legitimate” I mean the translating team was composed of recognized scholars who used authenticated texts for translation. But I have no idea what point you’re arguing here. I was merely explaining why your attributed argument was misrepresenting what Christians believe.

    5. You addressed nothing I actually said in #5.


    January 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

  87. 1. I honestly am not sure what you are talking about here. Can you give me more information?

    2. I’m just saying that all human texts are subject to multiple interpretation — words have multiple meanings, and context matters. I believe the constitution provides an individual right to have weapons, but I think it can be regulated in a limited manner.

    3. Where in the Constitution do you find these limits on funding? Taxation, of course, was also expanded by an amendment to the constitution (and amendments, of course, can directly go against the intent of the founders).

    4. Christians have multiple interpretations of scripture, and there have been huge fights about that. Groups often claim they have the “correct” one because they claim their interpretation is “obvious.” When I took theology at a Lutheran school we delved into just some of these disputes. Face it — texts are subject to multiple interpretations, and older ones have the added problem of trying to figure out the meaning of past concepts and words in new contexts.

    5. What you said in 5 was irrelevant to the argument about the constitutionality of the law passed. You have never addressed the need for laws to presume innocence, or the fifth amendment argument. That’s the whole point of the argument — was due process violated, and did the law presume innocence?

    Scott Erb

    January 14, 2010 at 9:38 pm

  88. 1. A) The budget has the force of law.
    B) Money was earmarked for ACORN in the budget.
    C) ACORN did not receive that money after the videos were released.

    So was the budget/law violated even before the new law was written? Why?

    2. Prove the last clause of your point (“..I think it can be…”. So far it’s just your opinion.

    3. Again, the Constitution sets out the division between federal and state powers. Education, for example, is to be left to the states because it is not one of the few that are enumerated under the federal government.

    4. I still have no idea why you’re discussing this or its relevance.

    5. I agree that laws need to presume innocence; we just disagree about how guilt is determined here–you insist there must be a trial; I believe the videos do a fine job of indicting ACORN and see no legal reason why an actual trial must take place, nor have you cited a legal reason why we must go through the motions of a trial *in this instance*. Please do not apply this to a typical person charged with a crime–we’re talking about tax dollars, not jail or even putting a conviction on someone’s record.


    January 15, 2010 at 1:53 am

  89. 1. I don’t know the details of what happened, so don’t know how any actions were justified. But that’s a different issue than whether or not the new law was unconstitutional.

    2. “A well regulated militia.” To me the phrase allows regulation, as well as providing an individual right. But there’s no proof — we’re interpreting a human made document, and multiple interpretations exist.

    3. That’s very broad, I was looking for something specific about how the federal government is limited.

    4. One point of relevance: the issue of interpretation. Have you ever translated texts from one language to another? Quickly you find out there isn’t a one to one word interpretation, and sometimes you need a larger or smaller series of words to express the same concept. Often it can never be exact. That was my experience going between English and German. It gets even more intense if you use ancient languages where there is no clear, obvious translation, it takes a lot of guess work, that’s the nature of translation.

    I think one core disagreement we have is that I believe you do not accept the inherent uncertainty in interpreting texts and determining meaning. You seem to think it is “clear and obvious” in everything from scripture to the constitution. I think that’s a big error.

    5. Guilt can only be determined by a court, the Constitution is clear on that, and that’s also why due process is important. And you can’t separate individuals out from organizations because the Court has rules that corporate actors have the same rights as individuals (they are treated as individuals). In fact, the idea that a few videos would be used to determine guilt would be an insult to the entire notion of justice the founders had — that’s why it’s important to not give up due process, and let political whim determine guilt.

    Scott Erb

    January 15, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    • Hey Scott, excellent job and lots of kudos for the time you put into this thread.

      Spherical Time

      March 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

  90. I delivered my baby seven weeks early last Friday–I write this from the hospital where she is in the neonatal ICU. You may have the last word.


    January 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm

  91. Cameron,
    Someone at WMB spread the word about Grace the other day. Great name! (My middle name, which I never appreciated as a child, partly because it was my mother’s middle name also and I would rather not have had to share a name, but mostly because I had no idea what grace was.)


    January 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm

  92. Pauline, please pray for her—she has already overcome having too many red blood cells (which required a reverse transfusion) and jaundice. She now has moderate trouble maintaining her blood sugar and they can’t determine why–adding more and more glucose only works for a half a day or so. I’m pretty much living at the hospital–thank God, literally, for Ronald McDonald House and the March of Dimes.

    Sorry to derail the thread…


    January 19, 2010 at 11:43 pm

  93. Thanks for the update, Cameron. I passed it along on the WV thread at WMB – people praying for you and Grace asked me to keep them informed.
    Do you have your own blog somewhere where you post updates so we can let this thread get back to its regularly scheduled programming?


    January 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    • Not yet, but that’s a good idea. I’ll let y’all know if we do—maybe through Caring Bridge?

      Thanks, RG.


      January 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm

  94. My prayers are with you and your new baby.


    January 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

  95. Congratulations!

    Scott Erb

    January 20, 2010 at 5:54 pm

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