We the people don’t have a clue what the Constitution says.
At least, that’s how it seems based on certain people’s foot-in-mouth statements as well as recent declarations from the campaign trail, where three or more of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates appear ready to rip up key portions of the 228-year-old document and its addenda that underpin our national identity.
God help us.
Speaking of a deity, readers of the Constitution’s poetic, single-sentence preamble, its meaty contents, and its 20-plus amendments won’t come across the phrase “one nation under God.” That wording is from the Pledge of Allegiance, with “under God” a belated addition tacked on the original verse in 1954 to pacify Cold War-era concerns.
Constitution Week, which marks the young nation’s adoption of the text in mid-September 1787, came and went this year without the fuss raised for bicentennials and other round-number anniversaries. Too bad, because most of us could use a periodic refresher on the Founding Fathers’ framework for our federal government.
Dr. Ben Carson, for instance, aspires to hold the highest office in the land, yet, based on his recent comments about the viability of a Muslim president, has low regard for Article VI of the Constitution. It states, in part, “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Pundits rightly rebuked Carson’s statements.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump, meanwhile, opposes “birthright citizenship” and therefore wants to trash, or perhaps rewrite, Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. It begins by stating “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.…”
Certainly the Constitution remains open for interpretation; Supreme Court justices do it all the time, albeit, we hope, with great care. President Barack Obama, billed as a constitutional law professor, has taken dubious actions on immigration, the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act and other issues that seemingly flaunted the Constitution and will need to be corrected.
But before you bemoan – much less condone wholesale changes to – this time-tested document, it would be wise to become familiar with its contents and how its notions continue to impact our daily lives.
In the wake of the papal visit to Philadelphia, take a trip to Independence Mall and tour the National Constitution Center. (Among the center’s current exhibits: “Religious Liberty and the Founding of America.”)
Via Civitas Media newspaper The Times Leader.