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A curious time to discover a principle

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Sep 24, 2004

It's a little-known fact-- although it's right there in black and white in the US Constitution (Article II Section 2)-- that Congress has the authority to restrict the appellate jurisdiction of the US Supreme Court, as well as the jurisdiction of inferior federal courts.

Congress could declare-- and could have declared, at any time since 1973-- that federal courts do not have the authority to consider appeals of state abortion laws, or laws pertaining to the definition of human life. Congress could declare that the federal court not have the authority to consider appeals of state marriage laws, or to define the meaning of marriage.

Congress hasn't taken those steps. But now there's a move afoot to take courts out of the business of changing the Pledge of Allegiance.

It's not that I'm opposed to the idea. But it is a strange point on which to take a stand. Why now?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 24, 2004 6:49 PM ET USA

    As a Catholic I have "issues" with the Constitution of the United States. But as a citizen, I have to marvel at the sophisticated "checks and balances" the founding fathers built into it. It really is a masterpiece of the natural order.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 24, 2004 1:56 PM ET USA

    The questions are: Why now? AND Why not? Pro-life legal experts, some famous professors of constitutional law, never mentioned Article II Section 2.