Subverting the Constitution

Should the U.S. Constitution be considered a “living, breathing” document?

There is a group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA. You may have heard of them. Last year PETA filed a lawsuit that, if successful, would have given new powers to the 13th Amendment that were never intended by its authors. They argued that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished the enslavement of human beings in the U.S., applies to animals as well. PETA’s argument was a gross misrepresentation of an important law. Their specific claim was that SeaWorld was in violation of the 13th Amendment because it was holding wild orca whales in captivity. PETA wanted to use the 13th Amendment to force SeaWorld to return the orcas back to their natural habitat.

Section one of the 13th Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

What perceived flaw in the wording of the 13th Amendment encouraged PETA to file this lawsuit? Jeffrey Kerr, PETA’s lawyer, argued that the text of the 13th Amendment does not specify who or what is a slave. Although he is right about that, it is disingenuous for Kerr to deny that the authors and original supporters of the 13th Amendment understood it to apply to anything other than human beings.

When commenting about PETA’s lawsuit on TV Kerr argued that there are two equally valid ways to interpret the Constitution. The first way to interpret it is to assign to it the meaning its authors assigned to it. The second way to interpret the meaning of the Constitution, Kerr argued, is to give it the meaning that he desires to give to it. He is dead wrong on this second count. The consequence of viewing the law this way is that laws can be twisted to mean anything and thus will come to mean nothing.

Those like Kerr, who act on the claim that the Constitution is a “living” or “breathing” document are trying to undermine the rule of law. For them, the rule of law is flexible, it exists only so that it can be molded and shaped to fit their purposes. If those who share Kerr’s views, and they are numerous, are successful, it will eventually lead to chaos and anarchy in our society. So while PETA’s argument may seem silly and frivolous to us, the general idea behind it is dangerous. If we cherish the relative peace and prosperity we enjoy in this country, then we have our laws and our Constitution to thank. But when we allow those laws to be twisted to mean things they do not, we will begin to see the ruin of our nation.

Thankfully, this time, PETA’s lawsuit was thrown out of court. But this fight between those who believe that our laws and Constitution should be ignored or twisted to fit their agendas and those who do not will continue for a long time. For those of us who wish to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” we had better start teaching our children again about the meaning and importance of our founding documents and the ideas that made the founding of this great nation possible.

Frotho Canutus

“To avoid therefore the evils of inconstancy and versatility, ten thousand times worse than those of obstinacy and the blindest prejudice, we have consecrated the state, that no man should approach to look into its defects or corruptions but with due caution; that he should never dream of beginning its reformation by its subversion.”Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

Thoughts on Freedom

Bill of RightsMany Americans seem much confused about the intent and meaning of our founding documents. For example the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This expression of our right clearly states that the people, not a militia have the right to bear arms. It is because the people are guaranteed the right to defend themselves with arms that made militias possible. The militia was the people! Until the Second Amendment to the Constitution is amended or abolished by three-quarters of our 50 states, we the people will continue to have a constitutional right to bear arms. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Another thing the current generation seems confused about is the so-called “separation of church and state.” Some may be surprised to learn that his phrase does not appear in any of the founding documents or any law. The first amendment to the Constitution, however does address very clearly the issue of religion in relation to the federal government, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Therefore, if people in a community want to erect a Christmas crèche in their local town square, our Constitution does not prevent them from doing so. Erecting a Christmas tree or a menorah or any other religious symbol on public property is not Congressional establishment of religion. This notion that public displays of religion are unconstitutional is only believed by those who are misinformed about our laws or pushed by those attempting to either suppress or destroy the sacred beliefs held by others with whom they disagree. The good people of all faiths in this country need to understand that our constitutional right to “the free exercise” of religion is under attack. We need to stand up to this vocal minority of bossy troublemakers who show so much disdain for Constitutional law and who heap scorn upon our cherished traditions. If we don’t organize and stand up to them now the day will surely come when all sublime and beautiful religious traditions as well as some secular ones are forced into hiding. If we let that happen we will all be poorer for it. If you think me too focused on holiday traditions look at this issue from a broader perspective. This war on religion and tradition in our country is just one example of how our rights are being slowly chipped away. If we cherish our freedom, we must defend it wherever it is under attack.

I will leave you with an unrelated, random thought:

Why is it that President Bush was unfairly blamed by the media for the poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina, while President Obama gets a pass on Hurricane Sandy? Surely the people of New York and New Jersey have endured the same sufferings as the people of Louisiana.

Do the people in media, the great majority of whom are liberal, manipulate the thoughts and feelings of the people for their own political agenda?

Frotho Canutus