This is pretty bizarre:
Hostettler has been concerned about a court case in his community called Russelburg v. Gibson County, which deals with a controversy surrounding a state-sponsored Ten Commandments display in front of the Gibson County Courthouse in Princeton, Indiana. Local citizens challenged the constitutionality of the local government promoting one faith’s holy text at the courthouse, and, as is usually the case, a federal judge agreed that the display is unconstitutional.
Hostettler, perhaps a little concerned about his re-election prospects, has latched onto the case. In February, he wrote a letter to the president, urging Bush, as head of the executive branch of government, to refuse to enforce the court order. The White House ignored the request.
So Hostettler, this week, took matters into his own hands and introduced an amendment to a spending bill that would “prohibit funds in the Act from being used to enforce the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in the case of Russelburg v. Gibson County.” In other words, Hostettler would prevent the federal judiciary from enforcing its own court order. Gibson County could refuse to comply with the law and the judge couldn’t send marshals to resolve the problem.
And as if that weren’t insane enough, Hostettler’s amendment passed, 242-182.
So now Congress is writing laws that forbids enforcement of court orders? Is this a first? Even the attorney who repesented the city, fighting to keep the display, thinks he is nuts:
U.S. Rep. John Hostettler’s attempt to defy a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a southern Indiana courthouse lawn has bewildered even those who want the monument to stay.
Gibson County officials have distanced themselves from Hostettler, saying there was never any intent to defy the federal court order, which could prompt U.S. marshals to descend on the city to remove it instead.
“We’re law-abiding people,” said Jerry Stilwell, the Princeton attorney who defended the county in a lawsuit seeking the monument’s removal. “Whether we like the ruling or not is irrelevant.”
Hostettler’s amendment, which passed though the House on Wednesday, would prohibit federal money from funding marshals in any effort to remove the monument. Hostettler sponsored a similar amendment regarding a Ten Commandments monument in Alabama in 2003 that passed the House but was rejected in the Senate.
Why not wait for the SCOUTS ruling:
Gibson County Attorney Jerry Stilwell says, “The judge in his order never ordered the U.S. Marshals to do anything.” Stilwell defended the county’s efforts to keep the monument in place and says the federal ruling made no mention of US Marshals. “He ordered Gibson County to remove the monument within 60 days of his order, and we initiated the appeal and that is stayed at this point, and we’ll wait for the final decision.”
The final decision now rests with the US Supreme Court, which is looking over two cases that could affect the fate of Gibson County’s monument. Stilwell tells us, “One’s a Kentucky case and one’s a Texas case and if, in other words, depending on what that decision is in those two cases by the United States Supreme Court, will depend on what happens here.” Stilwell says Gibson County residents are law abiding and will follow any judge’s ruling.
The whole thing is just weird.