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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A "Living, Breathing Document?" Try Reading It!

by Contributor Tim Siggia

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government, lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." -- Patrick Henry

As we celebrate another Fourth of July, it seems only fitting that we pay at least a passing tribute to the most important of our founding documents, the Constitution of the United States. Some may argue that it was the Declaration of Independence that was officially proclaimed on July 4, 1776, and that the Constitution was not adopted until 11 years later, on Sept. 17, 1787, and they would be right. However, the 11-year hiatus between our nation having declared its independence from the British Crown and adopted the Constitution which would be the bulwark of its existence stands as proof that the Constitution was not drafted overnight, and neither was it lightly considered by those who put it together. It was written, and fully intended by those who wrote it, to stand for time.

What the liberals among us regard as axiomatic, unquestionable truth concerning the Constitution is recognized by conservatives as the Biggest Lie Ever Told. On the evening of June 30, 2011, Democrat strategist Chris Hahn, a former campaign worker for Sen. Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.), repeated the lie once again: that our Constitution is "a living, breathing document that evolves over time." Oh really? To those who not only perpetuate this lie but believe it themselves, may I put forth a question: Have you ever tried reading that living, breathing document? Do you even know how many articles it contains, and how many amendments? (There are seven of the first, and 27 of the second.)

Let me suggest an analogy here, one to which any homeowner -- or, for that matter, any responsible tenant -- can readily relate: Consider the foundation upon which your home is built. Is it a "living, breathing" structure that evolves over time and shifts with the prevailing winds and sands? Of course it isn't! If it were, it would not support your home, and you know it! Well, the Constitution of the United States is the foundation of our representative republic, and the Founding Fathers intended for it to be just that: a firm, rock-solid foundation, not a "living, breathing" anything.

But what about the amendments to the Constitution, I can hear the liberals protesting now? Aren't they evidence of the Constitution being a "living, breathing" entity? Once again, I offer the analogy of a house's foundation. Even the firmest of structures will eventually show signs of decay, and so it is with our Constitution. But note here that as the Constitution itself was not lightly drafted, so the amendment process is not likely taken. In order for the Constitution to be amended, or to have an amendment repealed, the following process must be undertaken. The amendment must be proposed in Congress, and passed by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate -- which means that unless one party totally dominates both houses of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans must be in fundamental agreement with it. Next it must be signed by the president. Even then the process is not over, for the measure must then be ratified by the individual states before it becomes part of our Constitution. It is a most cumbersome process, and intentionally made so by our Founding Fathers for the specific purpose of preventing our most important founding document from becoming the very thing liberals now claim it to be: a living, breathing document that shifts with the prevailing sands of time.

So why, in the face of all this, do liberals still adamantly aver our Constitution to be a "living, breathing document"? May I suggest a translation here from politico-speak to plain, simple English? What they are really saying here is that our Constitution says whatever they want it to say, and means whatever they want it to mean. Two glaring examples of this prevail to this day. The first example is the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973, in which a liberal-dominated Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that a woman has a "constitutional" right to have her unborn child aborted. Yet where in the Constitution is this matter addressed, or, for that matter, even suggested? I have read the Constitution -- more than once -- and I can unequivocally state for the record that it IS NOT THERE! Yet because five liberal Supreme Court justices agreed that it OUGHT to be there, even if it isn't, it was therefore made "constitutional" by judicial fiat. To this day, Democrats and other liberals still glowing cite "a woman's constitutional right to a safe, legal abortion," though their claim has absolutely no basis in fact.

The second is a deliberate misreading of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which supposedly establishes the separation of Church and State. The Establishment Clause simply reads, "The Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion." What it means, and was fully intended to mean, is that there would be no establishment of any one religion to be the national religion in exclusion of all others. There is nothing here about any supposed separation of Church and State, though liberals continually read this into the Establishment Clause. What follows the Establishment Clause -- and about what we never hear a peep out of from liberals -- is the Exercise Clause, which states, "nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is the Exercise Clause, in fact, that liberals have DELIBERATELY ignored, resulting in federal regulations prohibiting school prayer, praying in public places, and displays of the Ten Commandments and other things pertaining to religion.

So where does the phrase, "separation of Church and State," originally appear? Not in the Constitution, nor in any of our other founding documents, but rather, in a private letter from Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut -- a private letter whose contents were never intended to become legislation.

For those who do not have pocket Constitutions (which are available upon request from the Heritage Foundation at, the Constitution may be found online. May I suggest to my liberal friends, as well as anyone else who may be interested in going to the source for the truth, a reading of this wonderful document? May I especially suggest a perusal of Amendments 1-10, known to every school child as the Bill of Rights, to see what every one of these amendments has in common regarding the role of government in our lives, and then compare it to what we hear from the White House today? It all just might result in a most profound education.

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