u-s- constitution

The White House's Response To Virginia's Round One Health Care Win

Perusing liberal blogs today has been a hoot. The Left Wing is in hysterics (for example, see Blue Virginia). At least it uses a nice picture of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. More composed, of course, but no less disingenuous, is the White House itself. Stephanie Cutter, writing on its blog, posted the following:

Having failed in the legislative arena, opponents of reform are now turning to the courts in an attempt to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government.

The federal government believes this procedural ruling is in error and conflicts with long-standing and well-established legal precedents . . . designed to preserve the "judiciary’s proper role in our system of government" and to ensure that our courts do not become forums for political debates.

Now that this preliminary stage has ended, the government fully expects to prevail on the merits. The Affordable Care Act falls well within Congress’s power to regulate under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.

So little written, so much nonsense. Regarding activist courts, the Left Wing should know better. Much better. But they often prove not understand the U.S. Constitution — or purposefully misguide: The courts were put in place as a safeguard against government encroachment on individual liberty. So, when the government overreaches (especially when new requirements are established), individuals, localities and states have recourse. It is the check against the ruling class which, if not held back, could easily consolidate all power unto itself. By the White House's logic no law can be overturned as long as it is — by definition — passed by Congress and signed by the president. Absurd!

Real judicial activism is legislating from the bench, rather than undoing a law, or something not previously on the books. So the White House has it only half correct, but it is liberals who, over the decades, when failing to get legislation passed into law, have resorted to seeking decrees from courts to invent laws and "rights" nowhere to be found in the constitution. There was no more frank admission of this than the infamous remark by now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor where she said, "The court of appeals is where policy is made." (See YouTube.)

The White House also cities numerous clauses, a debate it assuredly doesn't want to have — at least not before it finishes debating itself. None of the clauses mentioned empower the government to force people to purchases something they may not use. Knowing this, the Justice Department argued at the hearing to dismiss on July 1 that the law comes under the taxing authority of the constitution. But at every turn, including his campaign and during the shambolic legislative process leading up to the health care vote, Barack Obama and Congressional liberals said it was not a tax bill.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama went so far as to oppose an individual mandate, opposition to which is the thrust of Attorney General Cuccinelli's argument (see news release). That the White House and its own DOJ are on separate pages tells us much and perhaps liberal bloggers need rant at them before taking aim on the attorney general. Even bloggers at the White House.

Warning: Do Not Read These Documents! (Declaration, Constitution, Federalist Papers, Etc.)

As Dave Barry says, "I am not making this up!" Oh, that we were.

A Virginia-based publisher has issued copies of such precious founding documents such as the Declaration of IndependenceU.S. Constitution, Articles of Confederation, The Federalist Papers and Thomas Paine's Common Sense with a disclaimer that reads:

This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.

Okay, we might believe it if it was a California company. But in our very own Virginia? Apologizing for our great founding documents? In the home of Jefferson and Madison? But it's true (see warning label below). The books are published by Wilder Publications which lists its trading name and address as A & D Publishing, P.O. Box 3005, Radford, VA 24143-3005 (click here for its Web site). Embarassment to the commonwealth aside, this small-time left-wing publishing house has been blasted by hundreds of people in reviews on Amazon.com (Federalist Papers and U.S. Constitution) as well as on FoxNews.com, to which Wilder Publishing refused to offer comment. Condemnations also come from sites ranging from the All American Blogger to the Canada Free Press. Everyone, it seems, but liberals. We are not making this up!


Liberal warning: Reading the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution may be dangerous to your mind.

The "Living" Constitution And Supreme Court Precedent

The U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearings of Elena Kagen brought up the same old issues. One, especially dear to pro-abortion liberals, is the legal principle of stare decisis, which is the idea that court precedent is engraved in steel and cannot be overturned by anyone or any body — even the very court that made the ruling. Of course this is absurd. We'd still have separate but equal if courts followed this line of thinking. What stare decisis really means is that the fleeting decision of five people must rule over the entire lifetime of a nation. Stare decisis is precious to liberals because they view Roe v. Wade as sacrosanct. By no means can it ever be re-examined. But while this old principle wasgladly glossed over by both sides during Ms. Kagan's hearing last week, no one thought to broach a new argument to expose the liberal hypocrisy: It is liberals who claim that the constitution is a "living" document, flexible enough to be interpreted any way the government wants it to be. No powers to mandate rules to the states? So what? No powers to take over industries? No problem. No powers to force you to buy something? Too bad. We do what we want. Live with it.

So, where there are defined rules for governing on paper — the U.S. Constitution — ratified and practiced for two centuries, government does what it wants anyway. But where five mortals decide something, no matter how faulty their reasoning or evidence provided, we must do forever what the decision says.

Family Foundation Files Brief In Religious Liberty Case

Recently, The Family Foundation, in conjunction with several other state family policy councils, filed an amicus brief in the religious liberty case of Joyner v. Forsyth County. The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina's Forsyth County Board of Supervisors, in which it stated:

[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.

This is yet another blatant, undisguised attack on the free exercise of Christian faith. But our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund are defending the Board — and our liberty — in this case.

Joyner v. Forsyth County was characterized by legal gymnastics for nearly three years until January when the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina sided with the ACLU. Shortly after, the Board appealed the ruling and the case now in headed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond. Since Virginia also resides in the Fourth Circuit, the decision made in this case could profoundly impact religious liberty in Virginia. Therefore, The Family Foundation felt it imperative to stand up for our freedoms by jointly filing an amicus brief.

As ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson aptly points out:

An invocation according to the dictates of the giver’s conscience is not an establishment of religion. If it was, you’d have to argue that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution were violating the Constitution in the prayers and invocations that they themselves offered.

(Mike testified in committee during the 2009 General Assembly, at our request, on behalf of a bill to allow state police chaplains the religious liberty rights to pray in Jesus' name.)

Several Virginia legislators also signed on to an amicus brief in support of religious liberty in Joyner v. Forsyth County, including Delegtes Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown); and Senators Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester). Unfortunately, due to uncontrollable circumstances, the five-hour window for legislators to sign on precluded many others who expressed a desire to join the brief. Those who could not, given the short deadline, include Delegates Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) and Ed Scott (R-30, Culpeper), and Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest). (There may be an opportunity for to sign on to an amended brief, but if your legislators are not listed here, it may simply be because they weren't able to respond in the short window.

A.G. Cuccinelli Responds To Feds' Motion To Dismiss Health Care Lawsuit

With all the weight of the federal government and its massive megaphone that is the liberal mainstream media, it seems as if there's only one side of the debate over Virginia's lawsuit against the federal health care takeover. But that's why we're here and that's what alternative and new media are for — to provide the other side. It's even better to get the other side straight from the primary source. So, here is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli responding the the federal government's recently filed motion to dismiss Virginia's lawsuit seeking relief from the health care law — an area of governance not specified to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution — and which is in conflict with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli explains and debunks four aspects and criticisms of Virginia's lawsuit against the federal government's health care takeover. 

U.N Treaty To Usurp Parental Rights? House Bill To Prevent It Still Alive After Crossover

Hillary Clinton may think it takes a village to raise your child — a village of her own choosing, of course. But Virginians think otherwise. Just prior to crossover, the House of Delegates passed a resolution affirming parental rights 64-31! This resolution, HJ 193, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown), urges Congress to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that, "the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right." In case you have not yet heard about the Parents Rights amendment, let me give you the facts (see our policy brief, here). In the United States, parents have traditionally held the right to raise their own children according to their own beliefs. This right has been upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court for 70 years. However, recent court rulings on parental rights have shown that the court is becoming divided on this critical issue. In fact, the court issued 6 different opinions in the parental rights case Troxel v. Granville (2000), with only four justices acknowledging that parental rights were protected by the Constitution.

There’s another reason to be concerned about the plight of parental rights: the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (see our preivous post and video about this). Supported by people such as President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), this treaty actually has a chance of passing. Currently, the United States and Somalia are the only countries that have not passed the treaty. If this treaty is passed, it will undermine parental rights unless the Constitution clearly says otherwise.

Delegate Pogge's resolution received enthusiastic support from both sides of the aisle in the House. However, this resolution will not become law unless it is also passed in the Virginia Senate. As many of you know, the Senate is much less receptive to family issues like this than the House of Delegates. When the bill is debated in the Senate, we will ask you to contact your Senators to urge their support of this measure.

Another parental rights effort did not meet with the same success. Several legislators this year introduced bills that would have allowed home school students to participate in public school sports programs. Unfortunately, despite the fact that their parents pay for public schools and their programs through tax dollars, home school students are treated as second-class citizens.

Delegate Rob Bell’s (R-58, Charlottesville) HB 926, which would have directed the Virginia High School League to allow homes school students eligibility, was "carried over" (see vote) until next year by the House Education Committee after a lengthy debate and opposition by the VHSL. This will give Delegate Bell the opportunity to work with the interested parties to seek a solution to the problem.

Interview: Senator Jill Vogel, Part 1

Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester) is in her first term in the Virginia Senate. She is a rising star in the Republican Party of Virgina, let alone in the GOP caucus, and already has led on a number of issues, becoming an effective voice for conservatism in the very liberal Senate. She sits on the General Laws and Technology, Privileges and Elections, and Rehabilitation and Social Services Committees. This year, she was one of three patrons of Senate legislation that protects Virginians from the increasingly long arm and outright girth of the federal government over states and individuals in the area of health care. Her bill, SB 417, with the others, shocked liberals across the state by passing the Democrat controlled Senate and now is on the way to Governor Bob McDonnell's desk for his signature, which will make Virginia the first state to protect itself from ObamaCare. We originally scheduled this interview for one part, but Senator Vogel gave such informative replies, we decided to break it up. So, here, in part one, we ask her about her Health Care Freedom legislation. In part two, we'll cover the state budget and spending, the economic benefit of eliminating corporate taxes, and de-funding Planned Parenthood.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Senator Vogel, thank you very much for spending time with us and answering these questions. They cover a broad range of topics of interest to our readers. As we have just passed "Crossover," we very much look forward to your answers and insights as to what is happening in the General Assembly. Are you ready for some questions?

Senator Jill Vogel: I am ready and I am happy to have an opportunity to be with you. Also, before we begin I should tell you how grateful I am for all that The Family Foundation does to provide support and encouragement on the bills that I have carried. It is a huge help.

With crossover behind us, this is a perfect opportunity to take stock of where we are and for me to answer some questions about progress in the Senate this year. It has been an intense session, but with the help of the newly elected Governor we have made some significant headway on issues affecting jobs and the economy as well as a long list of other issues that are priorities for us.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Thank you for those kind words. That's very high praise. Now, question one: You are one of the leaders in Health Care Freedom legislation to protect Virginians from the federal government's reach into our personal health care decisions. Why did you take on this issue?

Senator Vogel: I took this on because it is time that our state legislature acted on this subject — both to protect our citizens and to reinforce that what the federal government is currently attempting to do with health care is not only bad public policy, but it is unconstitutional.

My bill is simple. It makes it illegal to impose insurance mandates on the citizens of the Commonwealth and forecloses the kinds of mandates that government run health care would dictate. Frankly, never in the history of this country has the federal government attempted such a power grab and I have an obligation to the citizens that I represent to prevent Congress from usurping the authority for decisions that are clearly left to individuals and the states under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Such a scheme by the federal government will never survive a Constitutional challenge and Virginia’s legislation sets us up for that challenge. The United States Supreme Court has never expanded the 10th Amendment or the Commerce Clause or any other category to reach the regulation of the purchase of a private product. We can incentivize certain behavior, we can tie certain requirements to certain funding or other contingencies, but a flat out mandate of this nature is a clear violation of the Constitution.

Other state legislatures around the nation have taken up the charge as well and, at this count, I think more than 38 states are considering similar measures. The point is that states are the breeding ground of innovation and competition for new ideas and solutions about health care should be left to the states. I am proud to say that yesterday marked the passage of the legislation in both the House and Senate of Virginia, bringing us national attention as the first state legislature to fully pass the measure.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Were you prepared for the heated barrage of questions and, quite frankly, the rude treatment from one of your liberal colleagues in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee? Also, tell us about the close vote in the committee — did it surprise you that it even got reported? How much work went in to convincing Senators Colgan and Puckett to crossover?

Senator Vogel: I knew that the issue would be controversial and politically charged and I think the slim margin of the vote made it that much more tense. I was surprised that the bill passed in a committee with such a large Democratic majority on the committee and that merely reinforces that this is not a partisan issue. Also, it was not a hard sell with Senators Colgan and Puckett, whose votes very much reflect the mood of their districts.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Were you surprised at the big margin the Health Care bills passed in the Senate given the liberal control of that chamber? Have you seen an issue like this before that has so galvanized such a large number of people from all across the political spectrum?

Senator Vogel: Once it passed committee, I was less surprised at the amount of bipartisan support in the full Senate. Again, those numbers just reinforce that these concerns about health care are compelling to people across the political spectrum. No matter what, Virginians don’t believe in a one size fits all health care solution that subjects them to the dictates of a federal bureaucracy that manages health care.

How The Historic Senate Vote On Health Care Freedom Happened

It's not hyberbole to say this afternoon's Senate vote was historic. The legislation it passed in three identically worded bills – SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417 – guarantees Virginians the right to freely choose their health care options irregardless of federal government mandates. It also asserts a notion long ignored but firmly ingrained in the U.S. Constitution. It also shows, from a political perspective, that there are Democrats who understand the small government movement isn't limited to "swastika-wearing" thugs as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have us believe. The floor debate wasn't as dramatic as I — and those of us who relish political theater — had hoped. Sure, there were some pointed questions, but judging by the temperment of the questions and their lack of heft, it could have been mistaken for a transportation funding bill. That was an immediate clue the Senate majority knew it had lost more than two defectors from its caucus. If it was only two, there would have been deal making, recesses to sweat them out, arm twisting, all of the above or more.

If there was a surprise, it was in how many Dems defected and who two of them were: Senators Ed Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania) and John Miller (D-1, Newport News). There were rumors about the former last week (acceptable, but believe-it-when-you-see-it) and hope about the latter (no way that's gonna happen). The third new vote, also rumored late last week, Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville), was a more likely possibility. Although the 23-17 margin was a pleasant shock, I rooted for a showdown 20-20 tie that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling would have broken in the affirmative. That would have been more headline grabbing.

Not that the debate wasn't sharp. The questions from Senate liberals to the bills’ patrons — Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), SB 283; Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) SB 311; and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), SB 417 — came from Senators Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico), John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke), and Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-37, Springfield), as well as the more moderate Senator Chap Peterson (D-34, Fairfax). But their questions repeatedly missed the point, including questions about contracts, insurance requirements to join athletic clubs, and ex-spouses providing insurance in divorce settlements. Senator Quayle nailed it in his opening remarks when he said, "This bill attempts to reinforce the Constitution of the United States. … The Constitution doesn’t grant rights to anyone. It puts limits on what government can do to us."

Nothing more needed to be said. This being the Senate, of course, more was. Including this gem from the not-smarting-enough-from-his-November-trip-to-the-shed Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), who complained that with the economy and employment in bad shape, the General Assembly should not be "legislating in theory." A LOL coming from a guy who was shredded primarily because of national issues involving government intervention. Besides, he should know that it's Washington liberals who have ignored the economy and jobs for an entire year in lieu of health care "reform." But it's not theory. The Constitution is the law of the land. Amazing he doesn't understand that, but his comments today make it clear why his campign was a case study in political disasters, prompting comparisons to other campaigns ("Deeds-like").

At the beginning of session, not many people gave this legislation a chance of getting out of a Senate committee, much less passing the Senate floor by a wide margin. But it happened thanks to a large coalition comprised of thousands of activists from across Virginia, many of whom have been here several times to lobby their representatives and attend committee hearings.

But this is the General Assembly, after all, and nothing becomes law until it is signed. So vigilence is needed. We will stay on top of this legislation — and encourage all supporters to do the same — until it passes both chambers and is signed into law.

More On Chaplain-Gate

Here's the news release we issued last week regarding the on-going state police "chaplain-gate" controversy. We'll post more on this shortly and over the next few days. 

Family Foundation Urges Grassroots Action in Response to State Policy Prayer Policy

- Pro-family group reviewing legal and legislative remedies -

RICHMOND — The Family Foundation of Virginia today announced that it is mobilizing its members to urge Governor Tim Kaine (contact here) and State Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty (contact here) to reverse a new policy that forbids chaplains from praying according to their conscience. The pro-family organization is also exploring the possibility of legislative and legal action should the policy remain in place.

"The birthplace of religious freedom in America, Virginia, should not become a graveyard for religious expression," said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation. "This policy decision by the state police is extremely concerning and we believe may be unconstitutional. We are working to seek a solution that protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of those involved."

The Family Foundation has notified its members and the members of its pastors outreach arm, Pastors For Family Values, and urged them to contact Governor Kaine and Superintendent Flaherty. E-mail alerts to both groups went out over the past two days.

When informed of the prayer decision last week, The Family Foundation contacted Alliance Defense Fund, a nationally recognized law group that specializes in religious liberty cases. Representatives from ADF then contacted one of the troopers involved. They are reviewing the facts of the case to consider what action may be appropriate.

"A prayer at public events shouldn't be banned or censored just because a Christian or religious person delivers it. The First Amendment allows public officials to acknowledge our nation's religious heritage and to pray according to the dictates of their own consciences," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson. "The practice of opening public meetings with uncensored prayer dates back to the First Congress. The Constitution clearly protects public officials and appointed chaplains who choose to invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work."

"There is no doubt that Virginians are very concerned that the precious right to religious liberty is being reduced on an almost daily basis," added Cobb. "We urge Governor Kaine and Superintendent Flaherty to reverse this policy decision immediately and restore the right of conscience of the troopers involved. Forbidding chaplains to pray to the God of their faith in the name of political correctness, as this policy does, violates everything this Commonwealth was founded upon."

Constitution 101 Quote Of The Day

It truly is remarkable the lack of understanding some people have of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions. Some of them actually run for, get elected and serve in high office. Case in point: In Friday night's debate between U.S. Senate candidates Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Jim Gilmore, both former governors, Warner was asked a question regarding his veto of a bill which would allow Virginia offshore drilling for oil and natural gas once federal approval is given. Even his Democrat successor, Governor Tim Kaine signed a similar bill. That the question came up surprised us. We posted it Friday afternoon as one of five questions we wanted to hear, although we doubted they would get asked. Gilmore used the veto to blunt Warner's claim that he now supports domestic drilling. 

Defending himself, Warner gave us our Quote Of The Day:

That bill I vetoed because it was the legislature telling the governor what to do in terms of a specific piece of legislation.

But a quick glance at the Constitution verifies that is, in fact, how it works: The legislative branch passes a law and the executive branch executes it (thus the word "executive"). Sort of like a tax increase, where the legislature sets "specific" rates and the executive collects it, something Mr. Warner should know all about. It's as if he was saying he didn't recognize the other two branches of government. Even stranger, this is the same Mark Warner who loves to talk about how bipartisan he and the General Assembly were during his four years in Richmond. All of sudden, it was a partisan machine, trying to roll him over.

(Almost as peculiar, he advocated that "all levels of government . . . local, state and federal" start placing orders for new cars "for 2010 and 2011" from Detroit — cars that get 100 miles per gallon. There are several problems here, perhaps the major one being that they don't exist!)

Also during the debate, adding to his misunderstanding of constitutional matters, Warner repeated the often misstated meaning of overturning Roe vs. Wade. If the case ever gets overturned, it would not end abortion nationwide immediately — a common liberal scare tactic. It simply would return the decision making from the federal courts to each state. 

There are no individual sound bytes of the Quote of the Day that we could find. Instead, you can view the entire debate by clicking here. You can drag the progression bar forward to 40:45 to hear Warner's futuristic 100 mph car claim and to 43:38 to hear the QOD. If you did not see or hear the debate, we encourage you to view it in its entirety in order to make an informed decision this November in this important U.S. Senate contest. It takes less than an hour and is an invigorating give and take.

Constitutional Rights Upheld, Another Victory For Religious Liberty

A federal court recently ruled in favor of Christian students in the Williamsburg-James City County School District after that district's superintendent unfairly charged them a fee for use of the district's facilities (read Richmond Times-Dispatch article here). The district school board ignored advice from Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group, and now will have to cough up more than $20,000 in taxpayer money for legal fees to pay for its discrimination. The case was brought by the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Virginia after it was forced to pay fees for use of school facilities when other groups were allowed free access. Liberty Counsel warned the school district that it was discriminating, but the school district refused to listen. Liberty Counsel then brought suit and won in federal court.

Once again a school administration chose to act against religious liberty in the face of not only advice from a premier legal group, but also the United States Constitution and previous court rulings. It is unfortunate that the school administrator's decision will cost the taxpayers of that school district more $20,000 in  case it was destined to lose in addition to refunding the fees Child Evangelism Fellowship was forced to pay.

As The Family Foundation fought to pass legislation this year to protect the religious liberty rights of students in the classroom we were confronted over and over with the argument that "there isn't a problem" and that "religious expression thrives in Virginia."  We know this is not true. This case proves the point.

Unfortunately, some school administrators are outright hostile to religious expression, to the point of ignoring several cases that have well established "equal access" in case law, including cases that go back to the early 1980s, as well as the high profile Good News Club v. Milford Central School in 2001 (read case synopsis here). Exactly what are these school board attorneys advising if even non-legal experts are aware of this case law?

In Milford, the United States Supreme Court held that an outside religious club could meet at an elementary school after school hours because the school permitted other non-religious groups to meet at the same time and there was no perceived endorsement of the club's religious activity. 

However, unfortunately, many school administrators simply are ignorant. Virginia schools work under religious liberty guidelines drafted by then-Attorney General Jim Gilmore in the mid-1990s as well as the new Religious Liberty law we worked to pass during the 2008 General Assembly. Additionally, we currently are working with Attorney General Bob McDonnell's office in hopes that it will update those decade-old guidelines. 

In Our Continuing Quest

In our continuing quest to educate those who think the U.S. Constitution is a "living" document we, from time to time, have referred to quotes from those who wrote it. After all, who knew better the limits and role of the federal government than those who created it? Unfortunately, there are those who either don't know better (many of whom are in our public school systems, sad) or who do (many of whom are in Congress, sadder still) who intentionally disregard their oath to uphold the Constitution through an intentional misinterpretation of it. The public, in either case, gets a greatly distorted idea of the limits the Constitution places on the feds.

One example is the perpetuation of the myth that the Constitution's preamble calls for the federal government to "provide for the general welfare," thus the rationale for every big-government program Congress can imagine, funded, than you very much, by your hard-earned wages. False! It says "promote the general welfare." (Not to mention that there's nothing about "welfare" in any of the articles or subsequent amendments.) Contrast this with the line "provide for the common defence."

Promote. Provide. The former means to encourage. The latter is a mandate. Which explains precisely the reason the Framers wrote the Constitution: Frustrated by the states' hybrid approach to fighting and funding the War for Independence, they wanted a definitive and unifying form of government to deal with external threats and to conduct diplomacy. Pretty self-evident.

Back to what the Framers themselves said. Wrote James Madison, the Father of the Constitution:

With regard to the two words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the powers connected with them. To take them in a literal sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.

Then, once on the floor of the House of Representatives, during debate on an appropriation for some type of relief:

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on the article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.

In the early years of the republic, bills were debated in Congress as much for their constitutionality as for their policy ramifications. Presidents vetoed bills on constitutional grounds when they saw no constitutional provision granting the federal government authority to impose itself for the remedy being sought. Then, those matters didn't always make it to the courts. In fact, there is nothing in the Constitution that grants the courts the role as sole arbiter of constitutional interpretation. Today, we have too few in public office who are willing to scrutinize the government's constitutional role in anything more than allowing them to get re-elected.

Or Prohibiting The Free Exercise Thereof

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruledthat the Rev. Hashmel Turner, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council, could not open council meetings with a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Former United State Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sat on the panel as a guest judge, and wrote the opinion (click here to read the opinion). At issue was whether government could regulate prayer. Fredericksburg councilmen traditionally take turns offering a prayer to open city council meetings. When it was Turner's turn, he offered prayers "in the name of Jesus Christ." Predictably, the ACLU threatened a lawsuit, so city council changed its policy prohibiting such specificity, allowing a so-called non-sectarian praise of God, instead.

Turner and his lawyers, from the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, plan an appeal to the United State Supreme Court. As Rev. Turner told The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, "I don't believe the last say-so in the matter should be left up to Justice O'Connor, so I intend on going ahead to the Supreme Court."

Here is the First Amendment in its entirety:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

According to The Free Lance-Star, Justice O'Connor wrote "that the city's policy makes the prayers more inclusive and does not violate Turner's First Amendment rights to free speech."

What too many people, including, unfortunately, justices and judges, don't seem to understand is the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" part of the establishment clause (see a good post here from American Sentinel). While they pontificate about a "separation of church and state" which is nowhere mentioned in the amendment, they are dead silent on the non-prohibiting part, which is expressly stated. If the government, which is charged to protect free speech and exercise of faith can't protect such practices on its own grounds, who's to say they will protect it elsewhere?

As far as the establishment clause, so often misapplied, there's nothing in Rev. Tuner's prayer, nor in allowing him to pray, that establishes a state-run church. The Fredericksburg City Council is not Congress, for starters. Second, many faiths worship Jesus Christ, so that doesn't establish a specific church, such as Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. (Sorry, ACLU, "Christian" isn't a church, just like Islam doesn't define all of the denominations within that faith.) Third, it would have to be one powerful prayer to create a national church in such a swoop.

In fact, the council prayer isn't directed to the citizens of Fredericksburg or even public school students — not even Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. It's directed to the councilmen, so that they may have the wisdom to make good decisions. They should be able to pray as they wish. It is a freedom of speech issue as much as a freedom from government mandated or written prayer as anything else. It's funny how liberals scream government should not sanction formal prayers, such as a daily school prayer. But here's government — the city council — going so far as to mandate the deity and phraseology Rev. Turner can reference or use (they allowed "Almighty God" and "Heavenly Father"). What forms of government do state-regulated prayer bring to mind?

It certainly is confounding how such simple and plain language is so wrongly interpreted, especially when the framers of the constitution wrote extensively and clearly about the content of the constitution. We'll keep praying for Rev. Turner and like-minded public officials, as well as for judges to finally learn to get it right. At least as long as the government lets us.