This Week

Issue: "Walk the Talk," Nov. 15, 1997

"A green light"

California's voter-passed ban on race- and sex-based preferences jumped over its last legal hurdle. Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a constitutional challenge to the measure, known as Proposition 209. "This is a green light to all the other states who want to copy Proposition 209," said California businessman Ward Connerly, who led last year's effort to pass the initiative. Similar measures are expected to be on state ballots next year in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Washington.

Wrong man for rights job

Saying, "It's time to take a stand against ... policies that are dividing America and ripping us apart," Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced he would not support President Clinton's choice to head the Justice Department's civil-rights division. Mr. Hatch, whose committee must approve the nomination before it goes to the full Senate, said nominee Bill Lann Lee's defense of "constitutionally suspect ... public policies that ultimately sort citizens by race" makes him unfit for the job. "The assistant attorney general must be America's civil-rights law enforcer, not the civil-rights ombudsman for the political left," said Mr. Hatch. Like President Clinton, Mr. Lee advocates legal preferences based on race and sex. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee voted to sidestep the politically explosive issue of preferences, delaying indefinitely any action on a bill that calls for ending federal "affirmative action" programs.

A double standard?

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The Clinton administration, fresh from rolling out the diplomatic red carpet for the leader of China, took a decidedly different tone with another human rights-abusing nation: Sudan. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced a near-total trade-and-investment embargo against Africa's largest country. "We take these steps because the government of Sudan has failed to respond to repeated expressions of concern," she said. The Sudanese government, according to the State Department, supports severe persecution of Christians, promotes terrorism, and condones a slave trade.

On the Hill

Senatorial hot air blocked a bill that would have made it easier for parents to afford their children's school-related expenses, including tuition for private school. The bill fell victim to a Democratic filibuster but could be revived next year. It would allow parents or others to contribute up to $2,500 a year for each child to a tax-free savings account similar to an Individual Retirement Account. Under the bill, money deposited in an "education savings account" could be used to cover a variety of expenses for grades K-12, such as buying a home computer, hiring a tutor, and paying private school tuition-including tuition at religious schools. In the House, lawmakers rejected, 228-191, a proposal to provide educational choice to the nation's neediest students. The bill would have authorized states to funnel federal education money toward tuition vouchers so that poor students could afford to attend private schools. Despite pleas from GOP leaders to support the bill, more than two dozen Republicans voted with Democrats to kill the measure. On another issue, almost all House members were of one mind: A bill to reform the Internal Revenue Service sailed through by a vote of 426-4. The bill would create an IRS oversight board, enact 28 new legal protections for taxpayers, and make it easier for average citizens to win cases in tax court. "The IRS is too big and too mean," said Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas. "Once this bill becomes law, the IRS will just be too big." The Senate plans to take up the bill next year.

Twisted compassion

A farmer from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan placed his sleeping 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, in the cab of his pickup truck in October 1993 and filled it with carbon monoxide gas until she died. Tracy suffered from cerebral palsy and faced a second surgery to remove part of a bone that was causing pain in her hip; her father, Robert Latimer, never disputed he killed the girl, but characterized it as an act of love to relieve her suffering. A jury of his peers last week, for the second time in three years, ruled that he committed murder. The Canadian Supreme Court overturned his first conviction, but ordered a second trial. "People say this is a handicapped issue," said Mr. Latimer in a nationally televised news conference Nov. 6 after his conviction. "But they are wrong. This is an issue of torture." Torture? Prosecutors showed journal entries from Mrs. Latimer describing Tracy as a happy, alert child. There is no denying the Latimers' anguish, and no denying Tracy Latimer's suffering. But even the girl's or the parents' happiness or lack of it is beside the point. The issue is the sovereignty of God. What makes these euthanasia cases "hard" is man's attempt to substitute his judgment for God's. That makes every case a hard case. In the court case that ended last week, the judge made it simple for the jurors: If they believed the evidence showed Mr. Latimer deliberately killed his daughter, they must find him guilty-no matter how they may have felt for him. Following their verdict, several jurors gasped and two began weeping after the judge announced he'd have to impose a life sentence. They were then asked to recommend a parole date of between 10 and 25 years. Jurors wanted to know whether they could recommend 1 year. The judge said no. The judge refused to second-guess the civil law. How much more fearful it is to second-guess God's law.

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