Sometimes North Dakota legislators court trouble by approving legislation they know will face a legal challenge. They have done it a number of times this session, and it could be costly to taxpayers.
There are times when it makes sense to risk a lawsuit, but most times it’s a false sense of righteousness.
A Madison, Wisconsin, group has promised to challenge a law approved this session that allows school districts to display the Ten Commandments if they do so with other historical documents. Legislators were warned that if passed the bill could prompt lawsuits because it was considered unconstitutional.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison announced last week it would file a lawsuit if any North Dakota school district displays the Ten Commandments. If opponents of the law, Senate Bill 2308, are correct, the state will lose the case. The state likely would incur legal costs regardless of the outcome.
It’s an effort by legislators to impose their beliefs on everyone. Sadly, it’s unlikely to have any impact on students or staff. Posting the Ten Commandments doesn’t mean anyone will read them. There are many ways schools can instill values in students without selective use of religion.
Gov. Doug Burgum no doubt prevented a lawsuit when he vetoed House Bill 1298, which would have prevented transgender students from playing on elementary and secondary girls sports teams. The House overrode the veto, but the Senate failed to do so. Similar legislation passed in Idaho faces a court challenge, and other states that passed anti-transgender bills likely will be going to court.
The legislation wasn’t needed in the state because the North Dakota High School Activities Association has a policy that addresses the issue. The association knows of no transgender athletes playing in the state. The Burgum veto not only spares the state a lawsuit, it hopefully avoids creating a divisive issue in schools.
Good legislators find ways to craft bills that are satisfactory to everyone or at least acceptable to the point where lawsuits are avoided. There are occasions in which risking lawsuits can be defended.
Too often the bills that generate lawsuits cater to the public’s emotions and don’t have a chance of success. Legislators who boast about passing the bills often know the bills are doomed to failure in the courts. It’s a waste of time and costly to taxpayers.
Legislators are trying to score points with voters while playing what they know is a losing game. The public deserves better.