Published April 30, 2010
America is getting ready to witness the United States Constitution at work. Currently, many believe the Constitution is an antiquated document. Yet, built upon the bedrock of well thought out principles and practices, the Constitution withstands time and endures the swings of passions. The stipulations of the Constitution designate the process of nominating and confirming a new Supreme Court Justice and the time has come for yet another such selection.
We, the people of our Republic, have a say in this upcoming judicial process, even though as we watch, read and listen, we may feel completely lacking in control. Built into the Constitution’s checks and balances, which are awesome in structure, “We the People” have the ultimate voice, the ultimate check.
We pick the Supreme Court Justices through the president and senators that we elect. Thus, as we watch the process unfold we will be reminded about why the vetting of candidates, and the choices we make at the polls, are two pivotal actions Americans must take seriously. We need to research our candidates’ intentions thoroughly. Unsolved mysteries do not serve the process well. Men (and women) are not angels. It is the Constitution that keeps us honest.
As we watch the nomination process proceed, we may be able to hone our Constitutional skills. One major issue that will be discussed is a topic that does not ever diminish in importance – religion. A recent Rasmussen survey reveals, “Only 21% of Americans think that rulings by judges in recent years regarding religion in public life have correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution.” The survey also states that, “64% of adults believe that judges’ rulings have been more anti-religious than the Founding Fathers intended.”
As the midterm elections draw near, the best way to evaluate our candidates, our only real power in the Republican process, is to truly study and understand our U.S. Constitution. Take for example the phrase “separation of church and state.” This phrase is repeated with such regularity it has become an American mantra. Yet, with a discerning eye upon the words of the Constitution, it is revealed that this is not stated anywhere in the Constitution. Consider Article VI Clause 3 of 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; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States.
This clause states that one has the freedom to be whatever religion he or she chooses and is not bound by a certain religious principle to serve. It does not imply that religion may not be expressed in government. This is further evidenced in Article VII, where it states:
...done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight seven…
By example, the words, “the Year of our Lord,” reveal our Founding Fathers’ intentions. They were brilliant men who premeditated every word of our Constitution. If an all or nothing “separation of church and state” were to be their intention, then our forefathers would not have left the words, “our Lord,” in the Constitution.
Furthermore, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
Much is made of the first part of this phrase, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This was a provision dealing with our founding fathers’ deep desire to avoid the religious domination of their former homelands – the impetus of the majority of early colonial immigration. Thus, an “establishment” of religion by a “law” of the land was prohibited.
However, it does not state that the people may not enjoy the “free exercise thereof” of their religion in any capacity - governmental or social. The six words of this amendment “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” are ignored and dismissed but they must come to the forefront of American's mainstream thinking if the Constitution is to be honestly represented. To deny an American the right to freely exercise his/her religion anywhere is as unconstitutional as it is to make one adhere to a particular religion.
The same Rasmussen poll states that, “by a 60% to 31% spread, voters believe Supreme Court justices should be guided by what’s written in the Constitution rather than on notions of fairness and justice.” This opinion is supported by Article III Section II of the U.S. Constitution,
“The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution…”
It doesn’t state that the judicial power shall extend to all cases in Law and Equity as deemed “fair and just.”
Thus, as we watch the process of the confirmation of the new Supreme Court Justice, we will be reminded why it is so important that we, and our children, understand and comprehend the meaning of our United States Constitution. To quote Thomas Jefferson, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
As a Republic, ruling through our elected officials, our vote is our voice. As we question our political candidates, perhaps it would be prudent to ask them how well they know the Constitution. What is their interpretation of the Constitution on hotbed issues? Do they intend to preserve, protect and defend, and abide by, the Constitution? If we, as citizens, intend to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, then so should our representatives. The future of our country depends upon it.
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