Constitutional Corner – Why Every American MUST Learn Their Constitution

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There are multiple reasons why every American should know their Constitution, and they are not hard to discern.  I open my Constitution Seminar with a discussion of ten such reasons.  One that usually gets a chuckle is when I say: “There are almost 20 Trillion reasons for knowing the Constitution,” which is to say that, if you needed no other motivation, our unsustainable national debt should provide sufficient interest.  There is a reason we have $20 Trillion in official debt, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the federal government spent more than it received in revenue, it is rooted directly in the Constitution and its current interpretation.

Another reason is suggested by the Preamble’s first three words:  “We the People.”

“What right had they to say, We, the people?… The people gave them no power to use their name,” boomed Patrick Henry on 4 June 1788 as the Virginia Ratifying Convention picked up steam.  Henry was right, of course:  “the people” weren’t asked if they subscribed to that opening, it was the brainchild of Gouverneur Morris, who really had no other practical choice.  But the words were used and the rest, as they say, is history.  Nevertheless, “We the People” conveys great import.  “Whose document is it,” I ask my students.  “Is it the President’s, the Congresses’, the Courts, or does it belong to each and every one of you – the People?”  Certainly something that is ours, something we established and ordained, something we have an ownership right to, as the Preamble suggests, should be known by all its owners, as intimately as we know any of our property.

In 1821, in the case of Cohens v. Virginia, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: “The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it.  It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will.”  This normally elicits surprise in my seminars.  The commonly held view is that the states drafted the document, that it represents a compact of the states.  Henry would certainly have wished it that way.  But Marshall was right, “the people” made the document.  By that he meant that, although the states, acting through their delegates in Philadelphia, drafted the Constitution, it was the people, acting through 13 ratifying conventions (14 if you count both of North Carolina’s) who “breathed life” into the document.  Before then it was mere words on parchment; the people made it a living document,[1] just as it is the signature of the testator which brings a will to life.  The Constitution is the people’s document, their property, and they should know what it says and means.

Future Federalist writer and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, was asked to deliver a “charge” to the Grand Jury of Ulster County on 9 September 1777.  He said:  “Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country and teach the rising generation to be free.  By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.”   Mind you, this was ten years before the U.S. Constitution was drafted and four years before even the Articles of Confederation went into effect.   What “constitution of his country” was Jay speaking of?  The same one that Thomas Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson had written the previous year that “(King George III) has combined with (Parliament) to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:”  (Emphasis added)

By 1776, the American colonies operated under an unwritten constitution that had come together over the previous 157 years of self-government.[2]  The features of this constitution can be discerned by studying the complaints Jefferson makes in the middle of the Declaration: taxing only with consent of the people being one of those features.  But notice the reason John Jay gives for both reading and studying (two separate activities) the “constitution of (our) country:” you will then be equipped to teach the rising generation to be free.  “But isn’t this the job of the schools?” you ask.  Not according to Jay.  “Every member of the State” has this responsibility, not just professional teachers.  Frankly, I think parents are better equipped for this job than “professionals.”  Teaching the rising generation to know, defend and assert their rights is far more effective when taught from a personal than an institutional perspective.  We each have a unique story, a unique perspective to bring to this “classroom.”

I next point to Article 6 of the Constitution where the document self-proclaims to be the “Supreme Law of the Land.”  Since the “rule of law” is so critical to republican society, it behooves us to know what the Supreme Law of the Land contains.  The Founders knew well the importance of law.  In a 1794 essay published in the American Daily Advertiser, Alexander Hamilton writes: “If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws — the first growing out of the last. … A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.”[3]  But is the Constitution “and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof” in fact the “Supreme Law of the Land?”  Not according to British jurist Sir William Blackstone, political philosopher Locke and others that the Founders knew well.  “This law of nature, being [co-existent] with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, … from this original.”  In Blackstone’s view, no civil law, no matter how “constitutional,” deserves our obedience if it is not in harmony with natural law.  As Blackstone makes clear, Natural Law is the true “Supreme Law of the Land.”

The very next clause of Article 6 provides more justification for knowing the Constitution: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution…”  I normally confess to my classes that when I took this oath as an Air Force officer I had only a vague notion of what I was agreeing to “support and defend.”  My bad.  I should have diligently studied what I was about to “support” and perhaps,  ultimately, lay my life down for.  Knowing the Constitution better would not have changed my decision to accept commissioning, but it would have definitely made me a better, more informed officer.  Many citizens have never been called upon to take such an oath, but many have and many more will in the future.

I next point to the apparent contradiction of the following two statements: in 1788, as James Madison tried to convince the Virginia Ratifying Convention to accept the document on behalf of the good people of the state, he fought desperately to counter the Anti-federalist argument that the Constitution gave the new central government too much power.   “[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects.”  Other Founders, in other conventions, echoed this view.  Yet in 2010, (former) Representative Peter Stark (D-CA) was asked in a Townhall meeting: “If [Congress] can [pass the Affordable Care Act with its individual mandate], what can’t they do?  His answer: “The federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country” was met with jeers and catcalls.  But Stark spoke the truth, today the federal government can indeed do most anything it desires.  You will understand how this view of a Constitution of limited and enumerated powers changed to one of near plenary power once you begin to study the document, including the 200+ years of Supreme Court decisions which followed.

I conclude my seminar discussion with this question: “How can someone make sense of today’s headlines without an understanding of the Constitution?”  “NSA eavesdropping program ruled unconstitutional” read the headline.  Was it?  Did the NSA’s bulk collection of raw phone numbers called from and to (not the content of each call) actually violate the meaning of the Constitution?  A federal court thought so, so that settles it, right?  Perhaps, if you believe that the Constitution’s interpretation by the courts is sacrosanct, infallible and immutable.  But there were well-informed constitution scholars who came down on both sides of this issue, so I don’t believe it is as clear cut as the headline’s sparse words reveal.  Don’t the owners of the document get a say?  How can they even form an opinion without first knowing the Constitution?

Our country has never been more fractured, more polarized than perhaps the War for Southern independence.  Voices on both the Left and the Right complain of an “out of control” government, one seemingly disconnected from the people it was designed to serve; and certainly our out-of-control debt provides evidence.  I’ve yet to meet a citizen who feels they consented to being placed in such economic bondage (or who agreed to place subsequent generations in such debt).

There is a constitutional reason we have such debt.  There is a constitutional reason for the opposing views of Representatives Madison and Stark.  There is a constitutional reason why we today have more than 4500 federal crimes when the original Constitution describes only four.[4] Do we really need a federal statute making it a federal crime to pretend to be a member of a 4-H Club, or to disrupt a rodeo?

We have lost our way as a people, we have lost our mooring, our anchor.  I don’t care how you characterize it, we no longer know what the Constitution says or means.  It wasn’t always this way in this country, but it is now – and it must be fixed.

When I began to consider holding classes on the Constitution, I naively thought I would be turning people away at the door, trying to keep the class size small and manageable – conducive to vibrant discussion.  Now it seems no one can be bothered to take time to learn their “Supreme Law of the Land.”  This does not bode well for a republic that must be “kept” by the exertions of the people.[5]  There are plenty of people today willing to shout and contend for their “rights.”  Yet sixty-four percent of those people can’t name all three branches of government.[6]

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.  The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.  And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved …” wrote Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia.  The American people need to improve their minds with a knowledge of their Constitution, and soon.

If you can’t make up your mind which reason cited above makes more sense for you, call me.

“Constitutional Corner” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc.  To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.

[1] No, I don’t believe in the “Living Constitution.”

[2] Measured from 1619 when Virginia convened the first representative government in the colonies.

[3] You’ll search in vain on Brainy Quotes™ for even a single quote on law from the Founders, apparently the views of the likes of Susan Rice and Julian Assange are far more important.  Founders’ quotes abound elsewhere.

[4] Counterfeiting, Piracy, Treason, and Bribery.

[5] Ben Franklin, 17 September 1787: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”


The Constitution’s Week in Review – 16 Apr 2016

Article 2. Natural Born Citizen Clause (to be continued until it is definitively settled).

As I reported last week, many of the challenges to Ted Cruz’ claim to be a natural-born citizen and thus eligible to assume the presidency have been dismissed by courts and election commissions on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing.  In the eyes of the court, this means the plaintiff could not prove he or she would be personally harmed should they lose the case.

A Washington, D.C. law professor found a way to remedy the problem of standing: he decided to run for President himself.  By filing suit as a co-contender for the office[1] rather than a “lowly” citizen, Victor Williams, who teaches law at Catholic University, hoped the court will agree that he would suffer “a direct and concrete injury if an unqualified candidate were to be allowed” to run.  He was right, but his victory was short-lived.  An administrative law judge in New Jersey, Judge Jeff Masin, heard arguments on Monday and on Tuesday announced[2] that Cruz is indeed a natural-born citizen under the U.S. Constitution and therefore can run in the June 7 New Jersey primary.

The Judge further agreed with what I’ve been saying all along on this issue: that the NBC question “can never be entirely free of doubt, at least barring a definitive ruling” by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Absolute certainty as to this issue is only available to those who actually sat in Philadelphia and themselves thought on the issue” Amen.  Stay tuned.

Article 3.  Replacing Scalia

By a vote of 92-0, the U.S. Senate confirmed Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr.[3] on Monday to be a U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Tennessee. Crenshaw is the sixth judicial nominee confirmed in 2016, bringing President Barack Obama’s total to 324, just two shy of the total number of confirmations during President George W. Bush’s entire eight-year term.  Who says the Senate is stonewalling?

First Amendment. 

I found this article[4] interesting: turns out the Bible is among the ten most challenged books in school libraries these days (holding down position #6), ostensibly for its depictions of “sex and violence,” charges that are obvious smokescreens for the real complaint: that it is a book of religious faith, which an increasing number of atheists find “offensive.”  I predict that those who wish to remove the Bible from all public view will eventually succeed.  Why?  Because they want their result more than those who revere the Bible want it to remain in the public eye.  The opportunity to speak up is slowly slipping away.

The backlash against attempts by some states which have taken steps to protect the religious faith of their citizens and their right to act in accordance with that faith has been nothing short of breathtaking.  Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina are now in the LGBT community’s cross-hairs over attempts to pass Religious Freedom Restoration bills and so-called “bathroom bills,” which attempt to keep gender-confused individuals from using a bathroom of preference.  “Offended” states have begun prohibiting their employees from traveling to those states in question, companies are promising to take their business elsewhere and, finally, rock stars are now cancelling concerts.[5]

Personally, I find the rock stars’ actions inconsequential, I have more important uses for my time than going to rock concerts, but I know that some of these performers enjoy large followings and thus their actions will undoubtedly have some effect.  Reaction from the Christian community which sought the bills in question? Crickets.

Second Amendment

In an ominous turn, a state judge has decided[6] that a lawsuit filed against Remington Arms, Corporation, the firm that made one of the weapons ostensibly used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, can proceed despite a 2005 federal law prohibiting such lawsuits.  The families pursuing the suit argued that an exemption feature of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,[7] Section 4, Paragraph (5)(A) (ii), covers their suit.  This paragraph allows suits brought under charges that a gun manufacturer engaged in “negligent entrustment or negligence per se” in allowing the AR-15 weapon to be sold on the open market.   In her decision, Connecticut State Judge Barbara Bellis said the broad immunity granted by the 2005 law to the gun industry doesn’t mean this particular case can’t be heard in court.  I think the judge can be rightfully be criticized for wasting the court’s valuable time; the charge of “negligent entrustment” seems to me to be nearly impossible to prove.  But naturally, gun control advocates will grasp at any straw. The judge’s decision brought Congress’ 2005 law back into the spotlight, with Hillary Clinton supporters pointing to her promise to repeal the law if elected.[8]  I note that absent from Clinton’s promise was an explanation of how a President can unilaterally repeal a law of Congress.  If Clinton, however, were to be elected President and Democrats placed back in the majority in both Houses of Congress, it is likely the act will be repealed, and then the deluge of suits will force many gun manufacturers, perhaps all of them, out of business.  It is also likely that this unfortunate constellation will herald the end of freedom in America.

Fifth Amendment

When confronted by the police, when does your right to remain silent take effect?  According to this case reported in a Richmond newspaper,[9] the criteria is whether or not you are officially in custody.  Portsmouth, Virginia resident Wayne McClellan learned that the act of asking for an attorney or even saying you’d like to remain silent does not force police to end an interview.  Why? In the eyes of the police, McClellan was never in custody, he was not under arrest, he was free to leave at any time.  McClellan apparently didn’t see it that way and eventually confessed to the crime of murder.  In the 2013 case of Salinas v. Texas[10] the Supreme Court said that your right to remain silent must be verbally invoked.  If you simply remain silent without stating your reason for doing so, this act can be presented as evidence against you.

So in summary: If confronted by police, ask whether or not you are under arrest.  If not, insist on your right to leave or resume your travel.  If you are placed under arrest, verbally indicate you are asserting your 5th Amendment right to remain silent and then actually do so.  Also note that the Supreme Court decided in 2012 that Miranda warnings[11] are not required when a person is not in custody.  So don’t expect them until you’ve been placed under arrest.

Government waste:

The 2016 version of the Pig Book[12] is out.  Read and weep.

In a somewhat related announcement, it has been discovered at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that an employee, even an intern, can’t be fired for work-related misconduct without being first convicted of a crime.  Meanwhile, as the cited article points out, over at the Veterans Administration, they have decided that being tried and convicted of criminal activity does not disqualify you from continuing as an employee.  You can’t make this stuff up.

 Upcoming Events:

Constitution Seminar in Virginia Beach, VA.  Southside Hampton Roads residents can learn what their Constitution says and means by coming to a CLI Saturday Seminar on 21 May sponsored by Concerned Veterans for America.  There will be no charge for this event and participants will receive a 150-page Student workbook, free pocket Constitution, and lunch.  There is no better deal around.  Location: TBD.

The “Constitution’s Week in Review” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc.  To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.













The Constitution’s Week in Review – 19 March 2016

Article 2. Natural Born Citizen Clause (to be continued until it is definitively settled).

Finally! A judge has ruled on Ted Cruz’s status as a Natural Born Citizen and not dismissed the case on procedural grounds.

Pennsylvania Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote that a natural born citizen “includes any person who is a United States citizen from birth,” and ordered Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth to keep Cruz’s name on the April 26th primary ballot. You can download the Judge’s ruling here.[1] Judge Pellegrini’s decision will not appease those clinging to Vattel’s definition nor those who subscribe to the British Natural Born Subject criteria with its paternity element for those born “outside the realm,” but it certainly sets an important precedent for the two cases that remain pending in Texas and Utah. The Judges’ opinion is also worth reading for its treatment of the “political question” doctrine. I doubt that Judge Pellegrini’s definition is what the Founders had in mind, at least not his specific wording; I’m waiting to see whether this opinion gets appealed higher.

Article 3. Replacing Scalia

One of my regrets since starting to study the Constitution is that I never took time to travel to Washington to hear Supreme Court oral arguments. I’m reading a biography on Antonin Scalia and I realize what a pleasure it would have been to hear him jousting from the bench. I’m going to try to remedy that while Justice Thomas remains on the Court.

If I had heard Scalia “live” I suspect I would feel much like this writer,[2] who notes the blandness she felt at a recent hearing on abortion. Attending oral arguments at the Supreme Court is, I’m led to believe, worth the trouble it involves. The procedures are spelled out on the Supreme Court’s website[3] and elsewhere.[4]

So the waiting game is over, for now: President Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Judge was appointed to the D.C. Circuit in 1997 by Bill Clinton and enjoyed bi-partisan support at his confirmation. Appearing primarily as a moderate (as I predicted Obama would nominate), Garland is already being criticized for an appearance of being far-left on gun control, a touchstone issue for conservatives. The New York Times thinks “A Supreme Court With Merrick Garland Would Be the Most Liberal in Decades.”[5] The Times article comes complete with an interesting graph showing the supposed effect of each replacement that has occurred since the 1930s.

You will find a variety of links to reporters’ views of the nominee on SCOTUSBlog.[6] Read a few and decide for yourself what kind of a Supreme Court Justice Garland would make, keeping in mind that many Justices have turned out quite differently once they took their seat.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley have affirmed their commitment[7] to not hold any confirmation hearings until after the November election; but many are calling the agreement by a handful of Republicans to speak privately with the judge a capitulation.

Meanwhile in the States:

The Idaho Senate has passed a Constitutional Carry bill[8] that would allow open or concealed carry in the state without a permit. .

The New Hampshire House passed a Jury Nullification bill[9] that would require juries in the state to be instructed that they are to decide on both the facts of a case as well as the constitutionality of the law in question. The critical wording of the bill: “Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.”

Both bills now go to the opposite chamber for consideration.

Constituting America’s 90-Day Study

The Civil War was not precipitated overnight. Many trace its roots all the way back to 1787 and the way the Constitution accommodated the continuance of slavery. Nevertheless, ther were certainly other issues involved, beginning in 1836 with tariffs imposed by Congress that the South felt patently unfair. Read more about the issue and its effect on the 1836 election here[10] as part of Constituting America’s 90-Day Study.

 Upcoming Events.

Constitution Seminar for adults – 26 March. Only a few days left to save $10 on your registration for the 26 March Constitution Seminar in York County, VA. Space will be limited. Cost is $30 per adult until 23 March , which gets you a 150-page student workbook, pocket Constitution, 150-page workbook and a whole lot of Constitutional knowledge. Email to register.

Constitution Seminar for Youth – 9 April. Don’t you want your kids (or grandkids) to understand their Constitution better? Here’s an opportunity. On 9 April I’ll teach from Juliette Turner’s “Our Constitution Rocks” at the Foundation for American Christian Education classroom in Chesapeake, VA. There is a nominal $5 charge for students and parents are encouraged to attend as well. Register through email to

Constitution Seminar – 16 April. On Saturday, 16 April, I will be teaching at Pottstown, PA, at the request of WFYL Radio. Valley Forge, PA was CLI’s inaugural 1-day seminar, the success of which led me to adopt the format as my standard. $30 per person until 13 April then it goes to $40. Register for this event as well through email to

The “Constitution’s Week in Review” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.











The Constitution’s Week in Review – 12 March 2016

Article 2. Natural Born Citizen Clause (to be continued until it is definitively settled).

Another suit[1] challenging Ted Cruz’s eligibility and another suit dismissed on a technicality, this time for missing a New York filing deadline. Still no ruling on the merits of the case.

Article 3. Replacing Scalia

Judge Robert L. Wilkins’ name wasn’t on the first list I saw of possible replacements for Antonin Scalia. This article[2] reads like someone is suggesting the President consider Wilkins.

He was nominated by President Obama to a District Court position in 2010 and unanimously confirmed, but three years later, when Obama tried to elevate Wilkins and two others to the District of Columbia Appeals Court, Republicans in the Senate blocked all three nominees, arguing that the court didn’t have sufficient workload to justify filling its three open positions (there are anywhere from 6 [1st Circuit] to 29 [9th Circuit] seats on an appeals court but cases are normally only heard by three-judge panels instead of “en banc,” meaning by the entire court).

Republicans actions infuriated Democrats enough that Harry Reid exercised what’s became known as the “nuclear option,” changing the Senate rules so that only 51, rather than 60, votes were needed to advance a nomination. Wilkins was ultimately confirmed, 55 to 43, a reasonably close vote. This would indicate that, were he to be nominated to the high bench and actually given a confirmation hearing, he would come under close scrutiny.

Apparently not taking the hint over Wilkins, later in the week it was leaked[3] that the President had narrowed his list of potential nominees to five. Surprise, surprise, four of the five donated to his election campaign. Federal judges Sri Srinivasan ($4,250), Jane Kelly ($1,500), Paul Watford ($1,000) and Ketanji Brown Jackson ($450) were all donors. Judge Merrick Garland apparently had enough sense not to do so. I wonder whether these judges could be impartial when hearing a case challenging executive orders. Hmmm.

First Amendment. “It’s not over till its over”

 Those concerned with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (homosexual marriage) can take heart in the Alabama Supreme Court’s opinion this week that Alabama judges are bound to follow existing Alabama law, which prohibits the issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples, rather than the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion. The decision, although lengthy, should be read in its entirety and may be downloaded here.[4] Justice Moore quotes extensively from Chief Justice John Roberts dissent in Obergefell[5] (which you should also have read by now)

Justice Moore’s ruling (and the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling) can be best summed by this statement from Moore’s opinion: “That a majority of the [U.S. Supreme] Court may identify an “injustice” that merits constitutional correction does not dispense with the means the Constitution has provided in Article V for its own amendment. Although the Court could suggest that the Constitution would benefit from a particular amendment, the Court does not possess the authority to insert the amendment into the Constitution by the vehicle of a Court opinion and then to demand compliance with it.”

Please help ensure that Justice Moore’s opinion is passed to all who you think are (or should be) interested. Perhaps other states will take similar action.

 The Gall! I had never encountered the word “hubris[6] before the word was used derogatorily of the last Bush administration.   Now that I know what the word means, I see examples of it all the time, principally in the way the Obama administration acts towards “mere citizens.”

But this takes the cake: apparently the Justice department has held discussions[7] (and may still be doing so, for all I know) over whether it would be appropriate to bring civil charges against those speaking out against “climate change.” Freedom of thought and speech be damned, there is only one “truth” for this administration, and it will be enforced!

Property Rights. Want to build a pond on your land? Have all the state permits required? Be careful before you start digging, the EPA demands you also get their OK. Good luck with that.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers make tens of thousands of determinations each year that private property contains wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). On March 30th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. The case will decide whether landowners have access to the courts to challenge EPA rulings that their property contains such wetlands and thus makes them subject to federal regulation.

This coming Monday, March 14, from 12:00pm – 1:30pm, the CATO Institute will host Shauneen Werlinger, Legal Fellow at the Pacific Legal Foundation; and Steven Eagle, Professor at George Mason University School of Law to discuss this issue, focusing on the question: What recourse do landowners have when federal agencies decide that private property contains wetlands?

Thirty states are now suing to overturn the newest CWA rule expanding power over “waters of the United States,” but invalidating that rule won’t change existing federal control over individual landowners if the agencies continue to assert similarly overbroad judicial review authority. If you are concerned about this issue I encourage you to tune in to the CATO live event. I’m concerned, I’ll see you there.

 Constituting America’s 90-Day Study

There’s talk of the Republicans having a “contested” nominating convention this summer. Ever wonder how political party nominating conventions got their start? This essay by Professor Joseph Postell answers that question, as well as who encouraged the strengthening of the two-party system.

Upcoming Events.

Redefining Humans. It’s not too late to register for Dr. Mark Jumper’s presentation Monday night, 14 March, as part of the Foundation for American Christian Education’s Lessons in Liberty series. $10 will get you into the FACE classroom in Chesapeake, VA or provide you with the online streaming link to watch the presentation from the comfort of home. From the flyer:

“Our times have seen revolutionary changes in the norms of sexual and social beliefs and practices that, far from just changing norms, alter the very definition of human beings and of social structure. Dr. Jumper will name and analyze these trends and propose redemptive Christian responses, both of thought and of practice.” to register.

Constitution Seminar for adults – 26 March. Mark your calendars; I’ll be holding a Constitution Seminar for adults on Saturday, 26 March from 9am to 6pm here in York County, VA. Space will be limited. Cost is $30 per adult, which gets you a 150-page student workbook, pocket Constitution, 150-page workbook and a whole lot of Constitutional knowledge. Email to register.

Constitution Seminar for Youth – 9 April. The Constitution seminar scheduled for March 5th has been postponed to permit more 10-15 year olds to attend. Same time (9-5), same location (Foundation for American Christian Education classroom in Chesapeake, VA), same focus (Juliette Turner’s “Our Constitution Rocks”). Register through email to

Constitution Seminar – 16 April. On Saturday, 16 April, I hope to be in the Valley Forge, PA, area presenting another Constitution Seminar in conjunction with WFYL Radio. Valley Forge was CLI’s inaugural 1-day seminar, the success of which led me to adopt the format as my standard. Save the date if you live in that area; details later.

The “Constitution’s Week in Review” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.








The Constitution’s Week in Review – 27 Feb 16

Constitution – General.

Here’s a recording of a webinar I presented on 22 February for Christian Financial Concepts. The topic: “Which Constitution? America’s Critical Choice.” CFC’s website holds a vast library of recorded webinars on a variety of topics. Take a look; we all have much to learn.

Article 2. Natural Born Citizen Clause (to be continued until it is definitively settled).

Amazingly, I have nothing new to report this week.

Article 3. Replacing Scalia

It’s interesting what people find in video archives. Here’s future Vice-President Joe Biden in June 1992, which I remind you was right in the heart of the presidential election between incumbent George H. W. Bush, and challengers Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot. Biden argued that during a period of divided government (i.e. different parties in control of the Congress and White House) the President should be as interested in the “advice” of the Senate as much as he is its “consent” over Court nominations. Biden complains of President Reagan trying to cast the Court in his ideological mold. He insists that the Senate retains a right to investigate the ideological frame of a nominee. He insists the senate has no obligation to confirm any nominee of the President. He complains that the President’s desire to create an ideological court is an “original sin.” He complains about using Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for assessing a nominee. He affirms (starting at 38:17) the tradition of not confirming a nominee during a presidential election   He confirms twice (at 39:00 and 41:11) that no justice has ever been confirmed in the summer or fall of an election year. While Biden points out that in our history only five Justices have been confirmed during an election year (when their vacancies occurred very early in the year), “Senate consideration of a nominee [for a vacancy that occurs in the summer or early fall of an election year] is not fair to the President, the nominee, or to the Senate itself.” Amazing stuff, these old videos.

Names are starting to pop up (or be leaked) concerning Scalia’s replacement. The name at the top of a list I recently came across (see next item) is Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Scalia’s old haunts). This article warns that all might not be as it seems with Judge Srinivasan.

Meanwhile, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, whose name I had not seen on any lists, has announced that he is not interested. It appears that President Obama was actually considering nominating a Republican – now that would be interesting. It would certainly place the Republican-controlled Senate in a bind over whether or not to hold confirmation hearings.

Here’s a short PowerPoint presentation, sort of an overview of the whole “Scalia Replacement” situation, that I constructed to facilitate a discussion at my church last week.

Jury Nullification.

The topic of Jury Nullification comes up from time to time. The Institute on the Constitution has a whole course devoted to the topic. Now we learn that Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor may actually be in favor of the doctrine. She thinks “There is a place [for it],” without describing the location of that “place.” Maybe the “wise Latina” is indeed wise after all. Anyone who expects they might be called for jury duty should take IOTC’s course.

Government Accountability.

I hope everyone realizes that if they had been a government employee and had done what Hillary Clinton appears to have done with classified information, they would have been fired, fined and possibly jailed long, long ago. Yet the sad saga continues, as additional emails are released which once contained highly classified information, including up to the Special Access Program (SAP) level.

First Amendment.

A small victory in a First Amendment case we’ve reported on in the past. In 2013, St. Francis Xavier Parish hired Colleen Simon as Director of Social Ministries knowing she was in a lesbian relationship. The Director of Religious Education at the time had told Simon that her sexual orientation and marriage to another woman wouldn’t be a problem. New leadership seemed to confirm that view. But when her orientation became public via a magazine article which mentioned where she worked, the diocese fired her. She sued. Now the Circuit Court

of Jackson County, Missouri, has agreed that “the court could not interfere with the diocese’s decision.” It appears there will be no appeal since the diocese settled the remaining issue of the case out of court.

I’ll be the first to admit that the diocese handled this whole affair horribly; giving Simon the appearance that all was well, until her relationship and association with the diocese became public, was unethical. But the court made the right decision; when courts decide to step into church employee hiring/firing decisions, they have crossed a line they shouldn’t. Crossing a constitutional boundary in order to punish the diocese for their inept action would have only made the situation worse.

 Constituting America 90-Day Study

I hope everyone is enjoying Constituting America’s 90-Day Study as much as I am. Here’s one of the essays, covering one of my favorite topics: the election of 1800.

Upcoming Events.

Constitution Seminar for kids – 5 March. Youngsters ages 10-14 in the Tidewater, Virginia, area are encouraged to attend a seminar on the U.S. Constitution from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, 5 March at the Foundation for American Christian Education on Portsmouth Blvd. Held in partnership with Constituting America, the seminar focuses on the book by Juliette Turner: “Our Constitution Rocks.” Juliette will address the class live via Google Hangouts. There is a nominal charge of $5 per student and a box lunch will be served. Every student will receive a copy of “Our Constitution Rocks,” a pocket Constitution, and other informational materials. Email to register.

Constitution Seminar for adults – 26 March. Mark your calendars; I’ll be holding a Constitution Seminar for adults on Saturday, 26 March from 9am to 6pm here in York County, VA. Space will be limited. Cost is $30 per adult, which gets you a 150-page student workbook, pocket Constitution, 150-page workbook and a whole lot of Constitutional knowledge. Email to register.

Constitution Seminar – 16 April. On Saturday, 16 April, I hope to be in the Valley Forge, PA, area presenting another Constitution Seminar in conjunction with WFYL Radio. Valley Forge was CLI’s inaugural 1-day seminar, the success of which lead me to adopt the format as my standard. Save the date if you live in that area; details later.

The “Constitution’s Week in Review” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.

The Constitution’s Week in Review – 20 Feb 16

Article 2. Natural Born Citizen Clause (continued, ad nauseam).

Folks continue to come out of the woodwork, many with stellar conservative credentials, who think the case of Ted Cruz’ citizenship is a “slam dunk.” As I’ve said before in these pages, until the Supreme Court steps in, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but each will remain just that, an opinion. The Framers flat-out didn’t tell us what they meant by the phrase and all the circumstantial evidence remains circumstantial.

As this article points out we may soon have a judicial opinion from an Illinois judge, but if that opinion goes against Cruz he will surely appeal, and the appeals process will take some time. Meanwhile, the other three lawsuits proceed apace.

Article 3.

The world of law, indeed much of America, was shaken this week with the untimely death (at the brisk age of 79) of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. With Scalia gone the court sits with three conservatives (Robert, Alito, and Thomas) one moderate swing vote (Kennedy) and four dyed-in-the-wool liberals (Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayer, and Breyer). As this article points out, the Court has also lost its Chief Mirth-Maker. Note: listening to oral arguments can be taxing but you get a sense for the plight of the poor lawyers who come unprepared.

Until Scalia is replaced you can expect some 4-4 ties; but that’s not to say that all decisions would result in ties; there have been several 9-0 decisions during the last eight years and everything in between. There are some incredibly important cases coming up this term and it is anyone’s guess how this will affect them. That’s not keeping some pundits from guessing.

Three important cases[1] have already been heard, and the Court has the option to order them reheard by the eight remaining Justices or just ignore Scalia’s now moot vote. Three more cases[2] are still to have their hearings, and Scalia would have played a big role in each, perhaps being tasked with writing one of the opinions.

The immediate question is: when will Scalia be replaced and what kind of jurisprudence will his replacement bring to the court? Will they be an originalist, as was Scalia, a moderate, or a progressive? With only one other originalist jurist still on the Court (Thomas) it would certainly be nice to see the President nominate someone of like-mindedness. But I’m not holding my breath on that. This Daily Signal writer thinks all the suspense over this issue proves that we have created a far-too-powerful Supreme Court. I agree; way too powerful.

President Obama will face considerable pressure from the Left to nominate a progressive, and would be disposed himself to do so. But he may surprise us all. If he nominates a “flaming liberal” it is unlikely the Senate will move to confirm at all, at least not until after the November elections and we see which party will be in the White House come January. If Obama actually wants to have his nominee confirmed he will nominate a moderate and thus throw the ball back into the Senate’s court (sorry for the pun).

But must the Court have nine justices? Article 3 of the Constitution provides Congress the exclusive authority to set the number of justices on the Court. The Supreme Court began in 1789 with six justices, moved to seven, then nine, then ten, back to eight, then finally settled once again at nine in 1869. It’s remained there ever since. FDR tried to pack the Court with six additional liberal justices in 1937 when the Court consistently refused to sanction his New Deal legislation. Fortunately, the Congress saw through the thin ruse and did not comply. If Congress wished the Court to remain at its present eight Justices they could pass legislation tomorrow so stating – providing the President didn’t veto it, unfortunately a near certainty.

The longest a Supreme Court seat has gone vacant was 391 days (in 1969-1970 when Abe Fortas resigned unexpectedly). Jeffrey Anderson, writing at the Weekly Standard, believes the Congress should just leave the Court at eight for the foreseeable future, and that there may even be benefits to this. Does the Senate have an obligation to confirm any particular nomination? No, but they will be under considerable pressure to demonstrate why the President’s nomination is singularly unfit for the highest bench. And that may be a tough case to make. Republicans have been castigated for talking delay, even as evidence that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton filibustered the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito.

Replacing Scalia with a liberal or progressive will tip the Court’s balance for quite some time, at least until the death or retirement of Ginsburg (83), Kennedy (79) or Breyer (78) gives the next President another opportunity. If a Democrat succeeds Obama in January all three of these jurists will probably quickly retire, confident their replacements will sustain the liberal presence. Stay tuned for a big fight this summer.

Property Rights.

Some farmers here in Virginia have had long standing fights with conservation easement managers over the proper use of the land the farmer owns or leases. The easement managers have imposed draconian requirements that threaten to put the farmers out of business, perhaps so that manager’s friends can come in and scoop up the land. Farmer Martha Boneta has had some success in getting the Virginia Assembly to come to her aid, and now a Virginia vintner has experienced success in court. The Land Trust will surely appeal, so we haven’t hear the last on this, but I’m certain that such trusts exist in other states and similar battles. Perhaps the citizens of other states can take heart at the successes here.

Upcoming Events.

Constitution Seminar for kids – 5 March. Youngsters ages 10-14 in the Tidewater, Virginia, area are encouraged to attend a seminar on the U.S. Constitution from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, 5 March at the Foundation for American Christian Education on Portsmouth Blvd. Held in partnership with Constituting America, the seminar focuses on the book by Juliette Turner: “Our Constitution Rocks.” Juliette will address the class live via Google Hangouts. There is a nominal charge of $5 per student and a box lunch will be served. Every student will receive a copy of “Our Constitution Rocks,” a pocket Constitution, and other informational materials. Email to register.

Constitution Seminar for adults – 26 March. Mark your calendars; I’ll be holding a Constitution Seminar on Saturday, 26 March from 9am to 6pm here in York County, VA. Space will be limited. Cost is $30 per adult, which gets you a 150-page student workbook, pocket Constitution, 150-page workbook and a whole lot of Constitutional knowledge. Email to register.

The “Constitution’s Week in Review” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.

[1] Voting rights (heard Dec. 8), Affirmative action (heard Dec. 9), Labor unions (heard Jan. 11)

[2] Abortion (to be heard March 2), Contraception (to be heard March 23), Immigration (to be heard in April)

The Constitution’s Week in Review – 13 Feb 16

Article 2. Natural Born Citizen Clause.

The critics pile on. Now we have the claim that Senator Ted Cruz may have entered the country illegally in 1974 as a Canadian citizen. Retired Army Reserve Colonel Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. makes the argument that, according to Public Law 414 (effective June 27, 1952) Cruz’s mother’s citizenship was sufficient to grant him U.S. citizenship (ignoring the natural born citizen criteria for the moment), but only if the proper paperwork had been filed to report the birth to the U.S. officials in Canada. The Cruz campaign insists that a Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America (CRBA) was indeed filed, but has not produced evidence of such (shades of Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate, a blatantly fraudulent copy of which was eventually posted to the White House website). Cruz obtained a U.S. passport in 1986, but he had been brought to the U.S. from Canada in 1974 by his mother. Did the four-year-old Cruz enter the U.S. or, more importantly, remain here legally since it doesn’t look like there was any attempt to establish or validate U.S. citizenship for twelve more years?

Col. Sellin concludes by stating that Cruz appears to be a naturalized U.S. citizen and is thus “not eligible for the Presidency.”

The mainstream media appear to have moved on to other stories. But as long as Cruz remains in the 1-2 spot in the primaries, this story is not going away; and if he somehow wins the Republican nomination, expect a legal challenge from the other side, one that could possibly postpone the November election.

Article 3.

In yet another slap in the face for the Obama Administration (I’ve lost count) the Supreme Court has ordered the EPA to cease and desist from its “Clean Power Plan” until a challenge by the states is adjudicated in a lower court. You may recall that the President was unable to get Congressional Republicans to sign on to his sweeping changes, changes that would have forced many existing power plants to close due to their inability to meet the proposed new emissions standards. Continued resistance from Capitol Hill was met with the President pulling out his “pen and phone.”

I seem to recall an early Stuart King (Charles I) who lost his head when he tried to rule without Parliament. The Founders had a good plan for making government work: each branch “stays in its own lane” and does its job. But that can sometimes get in the way of “progress” and a true Progressive just can’t have that.

2nd Amendment.

Good news for gun rights supporters: the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA, ordered a District Court that had upheld Maryland’s ban on assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazines to re-consider the case while applying “strict-scrutiny,” the most stringent standard of judicial review. Strict-scrutiny requires that a law be narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest — something the lower court didn’t do in upholding Maryland’s law. It is less likely the law will survive strict scrutiny; is the ban really the “least restrictive means” to achieve the government’s ends? But when Maryland loses the review of the case, they will no doubt appeal, so the case could end up in the Courts for some time.

4th Amendment.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also made the news this week by ruling that police who don’t want to setup a booorrrriiing stakeout of a suspect’s house can setup surveillance cameras instead – without a warrant! The court ruled that the use of cameras “did not violate Houston’s reasonable expectations of privacy.” Cometh the surveillance state.

Upcoming Events.

Lessons in Liberty – 15 February. For those both local and not, on Monday, 15 February you will have a wonderful opportunity to hear Pastor David Whitney, Senior Instructor at the Institute on the Constitution, speak on the subject: “The Most Powerful Vote You Will Ever Cast – Your Vote As A Juror.” The presentation will be held at the Foundation for American Christian Education classroom but will also be Livestreamed to anywhere you happen to be. Cost to attend, either locally or via Livestream, is a whopping $10. Most Americans know little to nothing of the real power of a jury, and judges have a vested interest in seeing it stay that way. You should become informed in case you are ever called to serve. Go to to register.

Constitution Seminar – 5 March. Youngsters in the Tidewater, Virginia, area are encouraged to attend a seminar on the U.S. Constitution from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, 5 March at the Foundation for American Christian Education on Portsmouth Blvd. Held in partnership with Constituting America, the seminar focuses on the book by Juliette Turner: “Our Constitution Rocks.” Juliette will address the class live via Google Hangouts. There is a nominal charge or $5 per student ages 10-14 and a box lunch will be served. Every student will receive a copy of “Our Constitution Rocks,” a pocket Constitution, and other informational materials. Email to register.

Constitution Seminar – 26 March. Mark your calendars; I’ll be holding a Constitution Seminar on Saturday, 26 March from 9am to 6pm here in York County, VA. Space will be limited. Cost is $30 per adult, which gets you a 150-page student workbook, pocket Constitution, 150-page workbook and a whole lot of Constitutional knowledge. Email to register.

The “Constitution’s Week in Review” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.

Constitutional Corner – Educating America

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I’ve written often of the need to teach Americans about their Constitution and the fundamental principles upon which it is built. This simply must be done, there is no choice in the matter, and our present resources are wholly inadequate for the job. But there are occasional glimmers of hope. So, instead of dissecting a Constitutional topic, as I usually do on these pages, I’d like instead to tell you about a great organization doing yeoman’s work to teach America’s youth about their Constitution.

There are a few organizations (that I’m aware of) working to wake up Americans and get them familiar with their Constitution. The American View, The National Center for Constitutional Studies, Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Restoration, Constitution Clubs, and my own organization, Constitution Leadership Initiative. I’m certain there are others. We need many more.

One such organization is Constituting America (CA). I had the pleasure of recently interviewing Founder and Co-Director (with Cathy Gillespie) Janine Turner as well as her daughter and CA National Youth Director: Juliette Turner. The interview will air this Friday morning, 12 February, on “We the People – The Constitution Matters.” If you can’t listen to the interview “live” on Friday morning, you will be able to download the podcast later that day or listen later in the weekend to one of the re-broadcasts.

Some of you may be fans of Janine without realizing it. She played the character Maggie O’Connell in the television series Northern Exposure, which earned her both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and, more recently, appeared as Dr. Dana Stowe on the Lifetime original series “Strong Medicine.” Janine has worked with Sylvester Stallone, Anthony Hopkins and (a very young) Demi Moore, among other big names. She’s an author, screenwriter, director, composer, musician, radio talk show host and, finally, Constitutionalist.

For the last five years, Constituting America has sponsored an annual contest aimed at rewarding young musicians, writers and videographers who create songs, Public Service Announcements, videos, and essays (there are several more categories, but you get the picture) extolling the Constitution and why we Americans must know what it says and, more importantly, what it means. Winners in the several age-group contests receive all-expense paid trips to meet mentors in their artistic field, whether in Hollywood, Nashville, or Washington, D.C.

Called “We the Future,” the contest ends, fittingly, on Constitution Day: 17 September 2016. Contest rules and entry procedures can be downloaded here. On CA’s website you’ll find videos of past winner trips so you can see the exciting time the kids have: meeting Gary Sinese, jamming with Vince Gill in his home studio, – simply amazing! And to think, your child or grandchild might be the next winner – but only if someone introduces them to the contest.

CA has not ignored adults. Beginning on Monday, 15 February (by no small coincidence, President’s Day) CA begins a 90-Day study of the Constitution by way of examining each of the Presidential elections we have had since 1789. Along the way you will encounter changes to the Constitution caused by these elections and other events in the Presidency. For instance, did you know we have the 12th Amendment because of a debacle that occurred in the 1800 election?   We have the 22nd Amendment because of FDR’s death in office.

What a fitting preparation for what may turn out to be the most critical election in American history this November. A host of Constitutional scholars will be writing and posting a daily essay that can be either read or listened to being narrated in a podcast. I saw the list of scholars and recognized a lot of their names, having read their books and other essays. I’ve decided to “take the 90-day challenge” and I encourage you to do likewise.

It was one such 90-Day study several years ago that led Juliette Turner to write her ground-breaking book: “Our Constitution Rocks.” Juliette was only 14 at the time and so the book’s content and layout are geared to kids. I liked the format of the book so much I created a seminar for kids using the book as a text; either Janine or Juliette joins each class live for a short “inspirational message” using Google Hangouts. Juliette’s second book, “Our Presidents Rock” is just as well done (I’m told, I have yet to order my copy). And now comes yet another book from this precocious 18-year-old: “That’s Not Hay in My Hair,” a short novel based on real-life adventures Juliette has had on their 300-acre ranch in Texas (it pays to have a mom with a successful film career).

Folks, here’s the deal: we have to get more Americans, particularly young Americans, involved with their foundational documents, and Constituting America has discovered a way to do it. But they need your help. CA is a 501(c)(3), so donations go to a good cause AND get a tax break. But what they need most are more young (and older) Americans to participate in the 90-Day Study and/or enter the “We the Future” contest.

How about passing this information on to everyone you know and let’s make this year’s contest the biggest ever.

“Constitutional Corner” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.

Constitutional Corner – America’s Fundamental Principles: Start the Conversation.

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“Let [the Constitution] be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.” – Abraham Lincoln

I must confess up-front that I put off the writing of this essay until the last moment. Since the middle of last November we’ve been writing and speaking about America’s fundamental principles, those principles imbedded in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence that, combined, have made America the greatest, most powerful nation in the world. What facilitated that national success has been the unparalleled freedom that America’s citizens have enjoyed; freedom to venture, to try, to fail, and to try again; freedom to do these things with a conscience equally free.

Now it came time to discuss how to make these principles once again part of our national dialogue. That they are not, at least not with much regularity, is evidenced by the following quote from Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville. In 1830, Tocqueville observed:

“If you question [an American] respecting his own country … he will inform you what his rights are and by what means he exercises them…. You will find that he is familiar with the mechanism of the laws…. The American learns to know the laws by participating in the act of legislation…. The great work of society is ever going on before his eyes, and, as it were, under his hands. In the United States, politics are the end and aim of education.”

This is clearly no longer the case in America of 2016. The average American struggles to name the three branches of his government, let alone how they function, or should function. Nevertheless, most young Americans can talk endlessly about popular culture, describing the lives of their favorite celebrities in intimate detail. Their fathers can often cite years of sports statistics and talk of their favorite teams equally endlessly. But talk of fundamental principles of freedom? Outside an occasional Tea Party meeting, you’ll not hear much talk on that subject.

In my view, the chief culprit in this obvious decline in awareness of the precepts of liberty is our public education system. There are certainly great, dedicated teachers in that system, but all too frequently we see reports of absolutely bone-headed reactions to “pop-tarts chewed into the shape of a gun,” US Flag T-shirts, blatant Islamic and socialistic indoctrination, etc. The system as a whole has earned our scrutiny. Despite Standards of Learning which require the teaching of what used to be known as civics, high school graduates appear, in poll after poll, video after video, to know nothing of these principles. Once again, in the 1830s:

“… every citizen is taught…the history of his country, and the leading features of its Constitution. … it is extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is sort of a phenomenon.” Today, to encounter someone “wholly ignorant” of these principles is the standard, and to find someone conversant in them is “sort of a phenomenon.”

I’ll venture that if you catch a student today coming out of their AP Government class they might be able to cogently discuss these topics, but catch them a month after graduation and the results will be quite different.

Today we’ve lost sight of the principles that have made us great. They are still imbedded in our structure of government, but that structure is slowly being changed in such a way that the principles are becoming obscured. They are dying by what the Chinese would call: “death by a thousand cuts.” When Orwell’s 1984 so famously missed its prediction everyone went on about their business. But we continue to move in that direction, if somewhat slower than Orwell predicted.

“Although all men are born free, slavery has been the general lot of the human race. Ignorant – they have been cheated; asleep – they have been surprised; divided – the yoke has been forced upon them. But what is the lesson? …the people ought to be enlightened, to be awakened, to be united, that after establishing a government they should watch over it…. It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently free.”

James Madison warns us that we should “watch over” our government and, by implication, the principles of freedom it secures. Franklin warned us that the republic required “keeping.” Weren’t they saying the same thing?

The principles are there, but they must be acknowledged, reinforced, refreshed, and transmitted to new generations. Our freedom simply cannot be preserved any other way.

But there’s the rub – how do we start a discussion of these principles in the national dialogue? Such a dialogue is not going on at the moment, and needs to.

It’s my own fault; I chose the topic, but soon realized what a monumental challenge this will be.

A few things stand out at first blush: such a dialogue can’t be forced – it can’t involve the force of law. You may force a high school student to memorize a few dates and other facts long enough to pass a test, perhaps you can even help him or her to see the long term value of this knowledge; but you cannot force a student (or adult) to internalize or embrace these principles of freedom. That must come willingly and freely, i.e. voluntarily. And this process will be much easier if parents, on whom God places the primary responsibility for the education of their children, would set the stage for understanding these principles at an early age. It can be done.

Second, you’re going to need a patron, a patron who is also a patriot. Any effort to establish a national dialogue, on any topic, will have to involve the national media in all its various forms, and this will take money – lots of it. There are only so many Public Service Announcements these folks are willing to play for free.

People are unlikely to want to get together to just talk, aimlessly, even on such important topics, so there should be something to help facilitate discussion, and standardize it a bit.

Thus the idea: a book with accompanying Study/Discussion Guide. We’ll call it: “Start the Discussion: America’s Fundamental Principles.” Each of the 12-13 chapters (fits in a typical Sunday School cycle) will be devoted to the discussion of a separate fundamental principle. The book will transmit the core knowledge on that principle and the Study Guide will be used to facilitate discussion and include space for people to take notes.

A tentative list of contents would include:

Chapter 1: The principle of one nation under god

Chapter 2: The principle of self-government (including the principle of virtue)

Chapter 3: The principle that all men are created equal

Chapter 4: The principle of inalienable rights: life, liberty & property

Chapter 5: The principle of political power derived from the people

Chapter 6: The principles of republicanism & limited government

Chapter 7: The principle of constitutionalism

Chapter 8: The principle of the rule of law (including natural law)

Chapter 9: The principles of abolishing and reforming government

Chapter 10: The principles of capitalism and free markets

Chapter 11: (TBD)

Chapter 12: Where Do We Go From Here?

Maybe a kids’ version with a colonial period hero and his dog, no?

As the book nears its publishing date there will need to be a promotional project to get it into the public’s eye: interviews on radio/TV, videos which explain its importance, celebrity endorsements, etc.

If we can time the release to coincide with an election year, it might receive some attention in candidate debates, which would be great, and would gel nicely with the books purpose. For those too timid to lead live discussion, there could be a DVD series that takes the students through the highlights of each chapter and poses questions for discussion.

Just think of the effect if we could get large groups of adults and students holding these discussions across the nation. The President comes on TV, perhaps at a White House news conference, and explains how important this dialogue is to the nation’s future.

The book’s authors are presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom and feted at the annual awards banquet in Washington, D.C.

At about this point I wake up from my dream and realize how grandiose this project really is and how resource-less is my organization. Nice idea though.

Beyond this I have no earthly idea what it will take to get people to start talking about the principles of freedom and liberty; perhaps a national calamity is necessary. Yes, that normally brings us together as Americans, but at great initial cost.

We will be discussing this topic on “We the People, The Constitution Matters” on WFYL radio Friday morning, 5 February, 7-8am. You can “Listen Live” at, or, if you are fortunate enough to live in the station’s broadcast area, on the radio as you drive to work that morning. I’m lead to believe that at least one of my co-commentators has a somewhat radical idea to propose.

You can later download the podcast of the show and listen at your leisure, or you can listen to one of the rebroadcasts during the weekend. I would love to hear your ideas on this topic, including your critique of “Start the Conversation.” Hope you’ll join us.

“Constitutional Corner” is a project of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc. To unsubscribe from future mailings by Constitution Leadership Initiative, click here.