I have been talking to people about Article V of the US Constitution concerning amendments. Most of us know that the most common method to amend the Constitution is for Congress to proposes a Constitutional amendment with a 2/3 vote from both chambers of Congress and then if 3/4 of the states ratify the proposal, it becomes an amendment. To date, this is the only method successfully used. Fewer of us know about the second method of amending the Constitution which is parallel, but instead of the proposals coming from a 2/3 vote of Congress, they come from a 2/3 vote of the state legislatures. We have never used this method mainly because fear mongers like the John Birch Society distribute massive amounts of propaganda predicting Constitutional catastrophe if we exercise this founder provided procedure.
Historic writings suggest that the second method was provided as a safeguard against an out of control federal government. Ironically, now that we are experiencing a federal runaway, some very vocal opponents are using disinformation and deception to avoid applying the remedy the founders created. The objections come in two principle forms: one suggesting that the convention to propose amendments might somehow be hijacked by progressive liberals and “runaway” thereby destroying the Constitution. The second suggests that amendments would be futile because the current document is not being followed.
The first objection has been soundly rebuked by Rob Natelson in his excellent series of articles starting with this one. I am more interested in the second objection and would like to offer a few observations and a lesson from Scripture that should serve to rebuff the second. One of the resounding features of 1st world countries is reliance upon the rule of law. I am concerned that so-called conservatives casually assert that our government hasn’t been “following the Constitution” and use that assertion as the basis for objecting to proposals to amend the Constitution.
I submit that the government actually has been following the Constitution. Are we to think that politicians can routinely and overtly violate the law without consequence? I reject that notion on its face. In reality what has happened is that conservatives have been politically out maneuvered. The progressives have used guile and craft, normally in the form of some judicial decision, to slowly and methodically alter the meaning of the Constitution in order to suit their purposes. Once conservatives correctly diagnose the symptoms, I am confident they will come to understand that amending the Constitution is the only method available to right the sinking ship.
I would also like to suggest that since there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9,10), we can presume that evil men have used this tactic before. With respect to the Constitution, conservatives like to tout “original intent” as the only proper method of interpreting the legal truths contained in the document. I believe that the Bible actually provides the lesson we seek when teaching us to worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus taught this lesson to the woman at the well in Samaria memorialized in John 4:7-26. He told her that “God is spirit, and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” I understand this to mean that we must go beyond complying with the written words and also comply with the intent. To do so, however, requires us to know the Author and to understand what he wrote and why.
Is this so different than understanding the founder’s intent when writing the Constitution? We must comply with the original intent in order to comply in spirit and in truth, and that requires us to know and understand what the authors wrote, why they wrote it, and what they understood their words to mean. This lesson was made more sure for me when I compared it to another passage of Scripture. In Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus teaches on traditions and commandments. In this passage, Jesus rebuked the Jewish ruling elites for placing their own traditions over the commandments of God. He said, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Then He quoted the prophet Isaiah saying, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
Essentially, Jesus was saying you are complying with the letter, but not the spirit of the law. Over the last 100 years or so our Constitution has changed in great measure to judicial fiat, but more generally by the concerted efforts of a ruling elite to elevate their traditions over the commandments of the Constitution. The Bible is not flawed, and while the Constitution does not enjoy the verbal plenary inspiration that Scriptures do, it has proven to be the preeminent authority for political discourse in civil societies. We do not need to change the underlying spirit of our Constitution, but we do need to correct the bastardized texts that judges and legislatures have imposed upon the people in clear violation of the original intent of the founders and true spirit of the document.
Amendments such as those proposed by Mark Levin in his latest book The Liberty Amendments would do just that, reset 100 years of jurisprudence and force the progressive liberals to comply with the original intent of the founding fathers. This process would allow us to take the benefit of over 200 years of experience and apply it to a great document in order to prevent evil men from doing harm to our country.