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Earlier this month I was in Lincoln for several hearings with the Legislature’s Rules Committee of which I am a member. This committee reviews the rules that the Legislature operates by. The purpose of the hearings was to gather input on possible rule changes and make a recommendation to the full Legislature.
The Rules Committee reviewed and took testimony on several possible rule changes, but one rule change in particular stood out to me. LR 217 was a Legislative Resolution introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha which contained the rule change I want to talk about today. Vargas’s proposed rule change would require that each new bill come with a racial impact statement. I’m still trying to figure out what value this kind of rule change would have for senators. So, here are some of the comments I made during the hearing.
Concerning Corrections, I asked Sen. Vargas, “If minorities don’t want a Corrections bill to impact them, shouldn’t they just not break the law?” Again, I asked Sen. Vargas, “So should we have two different types of laws: Those for minorities and those for not-minorities?” And, “Once we get the information, what determination do we make as to what law should we pass? The law is the law. If you don’t want to be affected, don’t break the law.”
We, as a country, have for a long time been dwelling on our differences. Every day we are inundated with reminders about these many differences. We hear about this group or that group and how they are different and how we need to bend our laws to accommodate this sector of our society or that group of people in the community. Whatever happened to the idea that we are all Americans? We may have come here in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now. We are all Americans!
Please don’t miss understand me. Discrimination is an unjust evil. But, discrimination will never be completely eradicated. The reason is that racism and discrimination are evils which reside in the hearts of people. Moreover, having a racial impact statement will never solve this particular problem. No amount of Legislation will ever change a person’s heart.
Herein lies the greater concern that I believe needs to be addressed. It is what the Bible calls a divided house. Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” So, unless we learn how to stand united, we will eventually fall as a nation.
The more we concentrate on our differences, the more divided we become as a society. We are a country that is becoming increasingly more and more divided every single day. So, instead of dwelling on our differences, shouldn’t we be rallying around what unites us as Americans? Our unity as a nation depends upon our shared American values, yet these values are the very things which get attacked every time we dwell on our differences.
Let me be clear, when equal justice under the law gets redefined to mean that the concerns of the few must be allowed to override the rights of all the citizens, such things as religious liberty, freedom of speech, and bearing arms, all suddenly become compromised. Yet, these are some of our most sacred shared American values that should bind us together in perfect unity.
So, let us be reminded today about what the American concept of equal justice under the law really means. The highest authority in our nation is not any person or any group, but a document called the Constitution, which we believe reflects those rights which God has bestowed upon all people. Therefore, equal justice under the law means that the rights of all must be upheld and protected against the special interests and concerns of the few. If we ever lose sight of this fundamental concept of American jurisprudence, we will most assuredly become a house divided.
God bless America!