Constitution

America's History of Amending the Constitution to Expand Democracy (And Overturn the Supreme Court)

The 28th Amendment would overturn cases like Citizens United and enhance political democracy and the First Amendment.
PFAW Foundation

Over 1,000 Law Professors Condemn Senate Vote on Debo Adegbile’s Nomination

Last month, the US Senate failed to invoke cloture on the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department after a right-wing smear campaign that attacked Adegbile for helping provide legal representation at the appellate level to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted murderer, while working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Every Senate Republican and seven Democrats voted to filibuster Adegbile’s nomination, effectively blocking the nomination and throwing out the window the constitutional ideal that all criminal defendants should have access to quality legal representation.

People For the American Way’s vice president Marge Baker called the filibuster a “triumph of demagoguery.”

Last week, over one thousand law professors came together to publicly condemn the vote by writing a letter to the Senate where they explain the ramifications of the vote for law students, lawyers, and the legal profession as a whole. The letter – dated April 25, 2014 – states:

[W]e are deeply concerned that the vote and the rationale publicly articulated by a majority of Senators rejecting Mr. Adegbile sends a message that goes to several core values of the legal profession. These include the right to counsel, the importance of pro bono representation, and the importance of ensuring that constitutional protections are afforded to every criminal defendant regardless of the crimes for which they are accused.

As law teachers we are particularly concerned about the disquieting message conveyed to law students and graduates entering the profession who may fear that their engagement with pro bono representation of unpopular clients may imperil their future eligibility for federal government service.

…We believe that the criticism of Mr. Adegbile, based on his representation of a death row inmate, is unjust and inconsistent with the fundamental tenets of our profession. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the assistance of counsel to persons charged with crimes, and all accused defendants are entitled to zealous representation by competent counsel.

The highest calling of any lawyer is to ensure that the Constitution is applied fairly and in accordance with the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court to every defendant.

…The debate surrounding Mr. Adegbile’s confirmation also threatens to undermine the widely-recognized importance of lawyers providing pro bono representation to meet unmet legal needs. Providing representation to defendants on death row is among the most challenging, resource-intensive and critically important pro bono counsel a lawyer can provide. Lawyers engaged in this work should be commended rather than denounced for their hard-work and commitment to ensuring that the protections of the Constitution are extended even to those accused of heinous crimes.

…Finally, as every lawyer knows – including the 57 in the U.S. Senate – we are not our clients. The constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel would be turned on its head if the contrary view were advanced. Indeed, had past candidates for public office been held to the Senate’s unjust standard, our nation would have been deprived of the likes of President John Adams (who defended British soldiers charged with killing Americans in the Boston Massacre), Justice Thurgood Marshall (who defended countless black men on death row in the Jim Crow South), and Chief Justice John Roberts (who represented convicted serial killer John Errol Ferguson).

Simply put, the rule of law cannot succeed if attorneys are judged guilty by association with their clients. In rejecting a qualified nominee for public service based on conduct which reflects the best of our profession, the Senate has done a grave disservice to the legal profession and those who seek to enter it.

PFAW

Keyes: 'So-Called Homosexual Rights' Incompatible with the Constitution

In his latest WorldNetDaily column, Alan Keyes warns that “so-called libertarians” have a “rebellious arrogance that disdains decent self-government” because they are unable to see “the distinction between liberty and licentiousness.”

Keyes specifically pointed to gay rights as a reason to oppose libertarians: “By promoting so-called homosexual rights, they are engaged in a general offensive to disparage, subvert and ultimately deny the constitutional rights” of the “God-endowed family, the primordial institution that is the paradigm, in terms both of liberty and obligation, for natural justice and human community.”

He concludes that the “regressive elitist faction agenda” will discard “the incomparably successful American experiment in principled self-government” and “give way, first to disorder and dissolution and then, in all likelihood, to the most thoroughly totalitarian elitist despotism humankind has ever known.”

Thus, as a logical consequence of the principles of the Declaration, every valid claim of right is associated with the freedom to exercise the right. But in light of those same principles, not every exercise of freedom entails a valid claim of right. This is the essential point forgotten or willfully rejected by many so-called libertarians these days. As a result, they advocate positions that ignore what America’s founders were determined to respect, to wit, the distinction between liberty and licentiousness; and between the wholesome courage wherewith we stand upon our rights and the rebellious arrogance that disdains decent self-government.

As I point out in the essay on Ninth Amendment rights quoted above, the Declaration’s logic in this respect allows Americans to recognize and properly assert rights not mentioned in the Constitution. The 9th Amendment exists to provide them with clear constitutional grounds upon which to stand as they invoke these rights, as constraints upon government power.

At the moment, the relevance of this constitutional claim is painfully obvious. The elitist faction forces presently controlling the U.S. government and some state governments (including Republicans as well as Democrats) are moving to deny the constitutional right of individuals or states to oppose the taking of human life, as required by the first law of “nature and Nature’s God.” They are doing so in the context of an insidious, persistent assault on Second Amendment rights. They are also doing so in the context of Obamacare, as they prepare, by force of unconstitutional edicts and “laws,” to deny the constitutional right of individuals and States to refuse complicity in so-called health-care practices that disregard this same life-preserving natural law obligation. In addition, by promoting so-called homosexual rights, they are engaged in a general offensive to disparage, subvert and ultimately deny the constitutional rights – rooted in obligations antecedent to any and all humanly instituted law or government – that are inherent in the God-endowed family, the primordial institution that is the paradigm, in terms both of liberty and obligation, for natural justice and human community.

The Constitution’s Ninth Amendment provides the key to recognizing and justifying legal and other moves to oppose what amounts, on every front, to a wholesale assault on the first principle of constitutional self-government in the United States, i.e., the Declaration’s affirmation of God-endowed individual rights. Next week I plan to post an article at my blog in which I will discuss specific instances in which politicians and other public figures, who claim to be conservatives, are cooperating with this assault. By discussing these examples, I hope to awaken Americans committed to our founding principles, and to the constitutional republic based upon them, to a simple fact: No one prominently associated with, or promoted by, either of the so-called major parties appears to shares this commitment. Unless Americans who do share it rouse themselves and unite against the regressive elitist faction agenda, the incomparably successful American experiment in principled self-government will give way, first to disorder and dissolution and then, in all likelihood, to the most thoroughly totalitarian elitist despotism humankind has ever known.

Gaffney & McCarthy: Obama 'Contemptuous' of, 'Taking Out a Contract On' Constitution

The Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney and National Review columnist Andy McCarthy were unimpressed with President Obama’s second inaugural address, despite all its references to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. On yesterday’s edition of Secure Freedom Radio, McCarthy told Gaffney that the president is “taking out a contract on the Constitution as we know it.” Gaffney responded that the president “wrapped himself in a sort of nostalgia for the Constitution” while in fact being “rather contemptuous of it.”

McCarthy: I think what Obama’s trying to do -- and a lot of us who followed his career warned about this back in 2007, 2008 -- is really consummate the ambition of FDR to change the very nation of the American system, and certainly to change the nature of our constitutional framework from a charter of negative liberties, which is the protection of the American people against the adhesions and the extreme maneuvers of government, to basically a contract of the have-nots against the haves with government as the intermediary for demanding what government must do for people. With the big problem with that being, number one, what is your license to take from me, which is certainly not what the country was founded on. And number two, enough is never enough with the left. So even if you were to institute such a system it quickly becomes unsustainable.

Gaffney: Yeah, I take it you don’t mean “contract” in the sense of “taking out a contract” on somebody, but it certainly sounds as though that might be the gist.

McCarthy: It’s certainly taking out a contract, it’s taking out a contract on the Constitution as we know it.

Gaffney: Yeah. Even as we talked about with Dr. Paul Kengor earlier, and even as he wrapped himself in sort of nostalgia for the Constitution, he certainly showed himself to be rather contemptuous of it.

Religious Right Leader: Vote Romney Because Mormons Believe US Constitution is Biblical Truth

As RWW has noted, most Religious Right leaders have cast aside whatever reservations they once had about voting for Mitt Romney, whose Mormonism many do not consider a Christian faith.  Sure, they’d rather have a conservative evangelical or right-wing Catholic as the GOP nominee, but they lost that chance in the primaries.  And they are so eager to defeat Barack Obama, and avoid the divine wrath that his re-election would provoke, that they have circled the wagons around Romney.

In September, more than two dozen Religious Right leaders wrote a letter dismissing differences over doctrine, praising the Republican platform, and saying “it is time to remind ourselves that civil government is not about a particular theology but rather about public policy." Long past time, some might say.
 
Marc Nuttle, a board member of the dominionist Oak Initiative and regular speaker at the Freedom Federation’s Awakening conferences, goes one better. Rather than telling evangelicals they should vote for Romney in spite of his Mormonism, he essentially says in a recent Oak Initiative bulletin that people should vote for Romney because of the Mormon faith’s incorporation of the US Constitution into a particularly potent form of American exceptionalism:
 
Governor Romney has been criticized by some for being a Mormon.  I find this curious given the fact that little criticism has been given to the President who belonged to a church headed by a pastor who condemned the United States of America.  
 
The Mormon Church is the only religion that has canonized the Constitution of the United States as biblical truth.  The scripture in point is Doctrine and Covenants, Section 101, Verses 77-80.  In verse 80 the Lord is speaking, “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.”
 
Mormons believe the principles within the Constitution are eternal principles given to us from God Himself for the benefit of all mankind.  They support the Constitution, they revere it, and they will defend it with all their strength.  It is fundamental to their belief.
 
If you are an evangelical and concerned about the federalization of moral values without consideration of the 9th or 10th Amendment, if you are a small business owner concerned about unfair taxes from a big business viewpoint, if you are a community banker concerned about onerous regulations based upon the concept of “big banks are too big to fail,” if you are worried about federal judges who legislate from the bench and do not respect the Constitution or state laws, then Governor Romney is the answer for your security.

Matt Barber: 'The LGBT Agenda and Constitutional Rights Cannot Exist in Harmony'

Yesterday on Faith and Freedom, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber railed against—what else?—LGBT equality, warning of a “tyranny of sexually deviant rights” that will overthrow the Constitution. Barber, who previously said that the push for equal rights is part of an attempt “to impose a globalist, communist structure” and put conservatives “behind bars,” asserted that the “LGBT agenda and Constitutional rights cannot exist in harmony.”

Watch:

This tyranny of rights, this tyranny of the minority, and we’re not talking about racial minorities, neutral minorities, we’re talking about people who define their identity based upon sexually deviant behaviors and proclivities. This is a tyranny of sexually deviant rights and it’s by design to replace the enumerated Constitutional rights given by our Creator based upon the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, these so-called rights violate the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, and yes violate the expressed guarantees that we have to religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of association granted to us by the United States Constitution. The LGBT agenda and Constitutional rights cannot exist in harmony. At Liberty Counsel, we defend the Constitution.

Steve King Rails Against Right to Privacy, Laments that States Cannot Outlaw Contraceptives

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) today appeared on WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green. King rather incredibly described Green as a “constitutional scholar” and lamented the “manufactured, judicial activist right to privacy” protected in Griswold v. Connecticut. King also bemoaned that inability of states to outlaw contraceptives and even said that King George would not have had the “audacity” of President Obama to mandate that insurance companies cover contraceptives as part of his compromise policy with religiously-affiliated organizations. Green even dubbed the policy “totalitarianism.”

King: I watched another thing happen that is very troubling to me, and we’ve watched that, I’ll just dial this back and as a constitutional scholar you will be very familiar with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. There, the Supreme Court created a right to privacy that didn’t exist in the Constitution and by essentially ruling that contraceptives that were unlawful in Connecticut and Massachusetts, by the way, and a good number of other states, could not be made unlawful by the states.

We’ve come so far from that standpoint that states can’t outlaw contraceptives because of a manufactured, judicial activist right to privacy, and today we see some weeks ago the President of the United States step up to the podium with the great Seal of the United States on it and in a press conference he legislated by press conference. When he did the press conference and said, ‘ok, I’m going to make this accommodation to the Catholic Church and other religious institutions and no longer require you to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs, I’m going to require the health insurance companies to do that for free.’ King George would have not had the audacity to do that, Rick.

Green: If that’s not totalitarianism I don’t know what is.

 

Alabama's Soon-To-Be Chief Justice Roy Moore Doubts Obama's Christian Faith

Roy Moore was removed from his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 after he disobeyed a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he placed in his court house, but last Tuesday he won the Republican nomination for the position, making it extremely likely that Moore will soon have his old job back. Moore celebrated his victory today with Sandy Rios of the American Family Association, where he urged Congress to impeach Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among other judges he would like to see removed from office. The Religious Right went off the rails after Ginsberg suggested in an interview that Egypt look to the South African constitution when drafting its new constitution, acknowledging that what works in the US may not work in Egypt, and ignoring her immense praise for the Constitution in the same interview. Rios even suggested that progressives wanted to do away with the Constitution altogether:

He also told Rios that America has always been based on a “biblical standard” and warned that “if you take away that standard then you have same-sex marriages, marriages between two and three people, or whatever.”

Moore: There is no standard without the biblical standard that we’ve lived under for 225 years. If you take away that standard then you have same-sex marriages, marriages between two and three people, or whatever. You don’t have a standard and moral atheists may want to hold on to the past without any basis of doing so, they’ve got to recognize the basis of why they have the right to believe in whatever they want to believe in and that right comes from God, it is not from government. You can go to governments over in Southeast Asia or the Mideast and you find governments that restrict what you believe and what you think and how you worship and that is because that is what governments will do when you don’t have this freedom.

Moore went on to claim that he doesn’t know the faith of President Obama, a committed Christian, adding he thinks the President does “favor the Muslim faith” and is trying “to remove any acknowledgement of a particular God” in America.

Moore: We have people like Barack Obama who do favor the Muslim faith and there is a reason for this. Do I believe he is a Muslim? I don’t know his faith but he certainly doesn’t represent what this nation is founded upon. He is typical of secular humanists in government that try to remove any acknowledgement of a particular God and say they grant religious freedom and that is entirely opposite to what this country is founded upon.

Dobson and Jeffress Lament the Imminent 'Implosion' of America

Robert Jeffress took his book tour to James Dobson’s Family Talk and the two Religious Right leaders bemoaned that America is doomed as a result of Supreme Court decisions in Engel v. Vitale, Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas. Jeffress falsely claimed that Engel “removed voluntary prayers from the school,” when it actually said it was unconstitutional for public schools to compose and organize prayers. He also claimed that Engel, along with Roe and Lawrence have “so destroyed the spiritual and moral structure of our nation that we are going to collapse on ourselves, we are going to implode, it’s only a question of when.”

Jeffress: I believe there have been three explosive decisions by the Supreme Court in the last fifty years that have so weakened our spiritual and social structure as a nation that our implosion is inevitable. In 1962, Engel v. Vitale which removed voluntary prayers from the school, all of the decisions that have cascaded down from that decision that have made government not neutral but hostile to Christianity. Then in 1973 of course Roe v. Wade that has resulted in 40 million unborn children at least being murdered in the womb.

Dobson: I think it’s closer to 50 [million].

Jeffress: That’s right. Listen, you can’t kill 20 percent almost of your population and not have economic repercussions for that. So that’s the second decision. The third decision in 2003, which our listeners may not be as familiar with, the Lawrence v. Texas decision, where the Supreme Court really paved the way for same-sex marriages.



Jeffress: Now think about it, when you first of all remove prayer and make government hostile toward Christianity, when you allow for the murder of the unborn and when you absolutely redefine the most basic institution of society, marriage and the home, you have so destroyed the spiritual and moral structure of our nation that we are going to collapse on ourselves, we are going to implode, it’s only a question of when.

The Citizens United Era: How the Supreme Court Continues to Put Business First

A new PFAW Foundation report examines how the Supreme Court's conservative majority is working to reshape our Constitution and elevate corporate interests above the rights of individual Americans. Beginning with the 2010 decision in Citizens United, the Roberts Court has handed down a steady stream of decisions that allow enormous corporations to use their significant resource advantage to influence the law in their favor.

The True Spirit of the Union

If you ask people what part of the U.S. Constitution has been most critical for advancing social progress, many would say the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. But a powerful case can be made that the most important constitutional instrument for social progress in our history has been the Commerce Clause

House Reads the Constitution, Should Defend Its Values

Members of the House of Representatives plan to read most of the U.S. Constitution aloud on the House floor today.

Members of the House of Representatives plan to read most of the U.S. Constitution aloud on the House floor today.

Undermining the Bill of Rights: The Bush Administration Detention Policy

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments concerning the Executive Branch's right to unilaterally strip citizens of core constitutional rights. People For the American Way Foundation believes the government's "enemy combatants" and detention policies -- the heart of the case before the high court -- violate fundamental principles enshrined in our Constitution, such as the separation of powers and due process of law, and actually threaten progress in the war on terror and America's campaign for greater freedom and democracy around the world. Read the powerful new PFAWF report on these policies.

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious