Warren Michigan Mayor James Fouts Doesn’t Respect the Constitution

The Warren, Michigan, city hall has a prayer station, so resident Douglas Marshall decided to seek permission to create a reason station to complement it. Permission denied, lawsuits ensue, and now a federal judge has required the city to allow it.

The script and its denouement is so damned predictable by now that I’m at a loss to understand why cities keep wasting their taxpayer’s money trying to change the ending. Don’t they have city attorneys who knows how to read case law? Or do they ignore their counsel’s sage advice?

In this particular case, not only did the city’s mayor, James Fouts, deny the request for a reason station, he stupidly put his unconstitutional reasons in writing.

“To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this,” Fouts wrote, underlining the last sentence.

“Also, I believe it is group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the prayer station, which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment. For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request,” Fouts wrote.

I have little enough patience with people who are dumb enough to think that in the U.S. government is allowed to protect religion by discriminating against the irreligious, but I have particular scorn for politicians who are so unstrategic as to put that idea on record as the official reason for their actions.

The mayor also said, that “Irregardless, I didn’t feel at the time that it was necessary to have a reason station.” Your feelings don’t matter, your honor, the law does.

Advertisements

About James Hanley

James Hanley is Associate Professor of Political Science at Adrian College and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of either organization.
This entry was posted in Politics in General. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Warren Michigan Mayor James Fouts Doesn’t Respect the Constitution

  1. madrocketscientist says:

    Kinda related:

    http://www.kmov.com/news/st-charles-county-news/Some-cities-challenging-St-Charles-Countys-red-light-camera-ban-286714451.html

    The issue is, legally, a bit murkier, but the move by the cities strikes me as politically stupid come the next election cycle.

  2. James Hanley says:

    Interesting, Mr. Rocket Scientist,
    From the article

    “The federal government has jurisdictions over the states, states have jurisdictions over the counties, the counties have jurisdictions over their municipalities, so it’s fairly clear that they have the right to impose laws on those municipalities, especially if those laws are voted into law by the voters,” said Roger Dalsky.

    The attorney representing the cities filing the lawsuit said the county’s legal authority is very clear.

    “The state can dictate what cities are authorized to do or prohibit the cities from doing things. There’s nothing in the Missouri Constitution that provides the county to do the same thing,” said attorney John Young.

    State and local government is not my area of expertise, but I do know a little bit from teaching it a few times and having taken the effort to read the textbook. And I think Mr. Dalsky is almost certainly wrong in thinking there’s a direct nesting of jurisdictional authority all the way down, so that cities are under the authority of counties. Rather, municipalities are generally directly under the authority of the state (and if they are chartered, sometimes not even entirely so, or at least not in a way that the state can always exercise authority over them with ease. Counties are generally an outpost of state government responsible for managing territory that’s not incorporated in municipalities.

    So I’d guess the cities have reasonable legal ground, although I rush to say that I don’t know the specifics of Missouri’s political structure.

    As to the politics of it, what matters is not that 73% of county residents voted for the ban on red light cameras, but how many people in the cities that are challenging the ban voted for it.

  3. AMW says:

    The mayor also said, that “Irregardless, I didn’t feel at the time that it was necessary to have a reason station.” Your feelings don’t matter, your honor, the law does.

    Irregardless isn’t a word. Strike three.

  4. ppnl says:

    “As to the politics of it, what matters is not that 73% of county residents voted for the ban on red light cameras, but how many people in the cities that are challenging the ban voted for it.”

    Yeah, the problem is the cities probably have the power to prevent it from coming to a vote. So you need a majority that not only support the ban but a majority willing to kick the bastards out if they don’t get their ban. Democracy does not give power to the majority. It gives power to the most intransigent.

    Actually I thing traffic cams are on a down swing nationally.

    The prayer station issue shows that we are not actually a democracy. There are things that are and should be beyond the power of the majority.

  5. mcain6925 says:

    And I think Mr. Dalsky is almost certainly wrong in thinking there’s a direct nesting of jurisdictional authority all the way down…

    Absolutely. In addition to counties and cities with non-nesting authority (and New York State has a layer in between counties and cities), there are special districts whose borders don’t necessarily align with any of the other entities.

    Colorado’s state constitution gives local school districts control over textbooks and instruction. This has caused the state to lose out on some supplemental federal grants (eg, the Race to the Top) because there’s usually a scoring system that awards points if the state seeking the grant can guarantee that school districts implement certain instruction or administrative practices.

  6. Lancifer says:

    AMW beat me to the mayor’s use of the non-word “irregardless”.

    Further proof that he is a moron.

  7. James Hanley says:

    I almost commented on “irregardless,” too, but it felt like piling on. Feel free to pile on, though.

  8. ppnl says:

    Over at Dispatches they are reporting that Warren has settled.

  9. Murali says:

    I’m going to disagree here. Since language is just the use of visual or verbal symbols to convey meaning, and people generally know what someone means when they say “irregardless” then its a word.

Comments are closed.