Twenty-seven state legislatures have now submitted an application to Congress to call a Convention of the States. Between seven and nine are expected to add their weight to the list, bringing momentum very close to the two thirds of states required to force Congress to call such a convention. A bill to join was introduced this year into the California legislature but subsequently withdrawn by its sponsor. What’s going on?
What’s going on is that increasing numbers of Americans are tired of being abused and exploited by the very officials they elect to serve them. We do not serve government; it (theoretically) serves us. Keeping borders safe, building roads across a sprawling land, making a level playing field for commerce, and educating our children to take their rightful place in their communities is an enormous job requiring great power. We lend that power to government with a lively appreciation – gleaned solely from our Judeo-Christian heritage – of the tendency of flawed human beings to abuse what they have in terms of power over others. That is why we produced a Constitution – not to rein citizens in but to limit the power of government to stomp us. So what is wrong with the idea of fixing the problem?
“Don’t fix it if it aint broke” comes to mind. There is nothing wrong with the Constitution we have. It limits the central government by restricting its activities to the so-called enumerated powers, those powers actually named in the document. It limits the powers of state and federal governments by requiring their actions to be consistent with the Bill of Rights. It provides for its own modification through the amendment process, and it deliberately complicates the process so that an awful lot of us must want change for a long time before we are able to do something irrevocable. It enshrines respect for due process – procedurally and substantively – before anyone can be deprived of life, liberty, or property even if virtually everyone favors the deprivation. Our governmental problems are not due to a defective instrument but to lawless officials ignoring or defying it.
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President Obama has re-written his own Healthcare Law some thirty times; the Constitution affords that right to Congress alone. He has defied immigration laws by granting unilateral amnesty to millions of illegals; again, only Congress can change law. He keeps up efforts to force businesses to purchase abortions for employees after the Supreme Court has repeatedly stated the First Amendment forbids it. And he is just the head of the executive branch of the federal government. But he does not need a new job description; he needs to be held accountable to the one he has.
The same can be said for state officials like those who work for California’s Department of Managed Healthcare that defies repeated Supreme Court rulings by ordering businesses and ministries to buy abortions for their employees, or its legislature enacting laws forbidding professional counselors from counseling in politically incorrect ways. This same legislature is about to turn the Fourteenth Amendment on its head by enacting an assisted suicide law, while the state’s university system bans Christian groups from its campuses in defiance of the Federal Equal Access Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They don’t need re-visioning; they need disciplining under the structures that have served the nation and its states well for two and a half centuries.
Supporters of a Constitutional Convention assure critics that it will have a limited mandate – whether to balance the budget or restrain government overreach into the private affairs of citizens – because limits have been written into its establishing documents. They forget the first Constitutional Convention was strictly charged with modifying the existing Articles of Confederation only. It took them but days to scrap the Articles altogether. We are in the debt of the delegates and their farsight; the Constitution is orders of magnitude better than the Articles, but there is no reason to suppose – in the present political climate, polarization, and paucity of wisdom and courage – that we would not live to regret turning delegates loose with no inherent limits. Would the Bill of Rights survive such a calamity in the presence of political correctness run amok?
Reality is that – should a convention remain within a mandate to, say, require a balanced budget, there is no guarantee and no reason to suppose government will respect this new constitutional feature. California has such a requirement in her constitution, and her governor and legislature know – and have practiced for years – the creative accounting necessary to sidestep the requirement. The solution is neither new law nor a new constitution. It is an electorate re-awakened to its historic responsibility.
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For the love of God – and for the love of our nation and states – let us address our problems where they live. It is not our foundation that sags. It is the commitment of the electorate to placing good men and women in office – and replacing them if they fail to perform for the good of all – that needs reform. It is the courage of the citizenry to say yes to creative solutions and no to tyranny – in the streets, albeit non-violently, and in the offices and buildings occupied by lawless officials if necessary – just as Martin Luther King and hundreds of thousands, black and white, marched and sang and declared: “This shall not pass without going through us,” that is on the line. It is the faithful Christianity of the Christians in the land at stake. Will we say – as Dr. King said – “Let justice roll like a mighty river and righteousness like a never failing stream”? Will we put our bodies and our hearts on the line because we are made in the image of a God who already did that on our behalf?
In our Governor’s Prayer Team gatherings, we pray for many blessings on our state and nation. Perhaps the two most crucial are for a Damascus Road experience for each of our leaders and the gift of falling in love with the limitations placed on their power in the Constitution and Word of God. The Damascus Road is where the Apostle Paul was knocked on his backside by the overwhelming vision of Jesus loving him and wondering why he did not love back. We who pray for it are just as much in need of it for ourselves. The limitations are self-explanatory, and just as needed by all of us. And it is no coincidence the root of “crucial” is the cross. But it is awfully good news. It means we have real hope in what we have already been given if we will reclaim that gift.
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