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Twenty-Two Minutes Per Year – That's All I Ask

Anyone who’s listens to Sean Hannity’s radio show for any length of time knows that one of his taglines is, “three hours a day, every day, that’s all I ask.” This is, of course, because he wants to promote his radio show, as does any other entrepreneur regarding their own business. So what am I asking of you when I ask for 22 minutes per year?

 

Twenty-two minutes applies to many things. It is the average commute time for most Americans to go to and from work. It is the amount of actual content you get out of an average 30 minute television program. It is also the approximate time that the average adult reader requires to read 6,600 words. This is the approximate length of the current Constitution of the United States, for which today marks the 224th anniversary of the day it was signed.

 

Put it to you this way; in the time it would take you to enjoy your favorite sitcom, you could read through our entire Constitution.

 

Now, ask yourself what kind of America would we be living in today if every citizen sacrificed one episode of their favorite sitcom per year and read through the actual Constitution of the United States? What is the percentage of people who have never read through the Constitution all the way? It’s probably similar to the percentage of people who run around screaming about their constitutional rights being violated. The old saying says, “You can’t fix stupid.” However, you CAN fix ignorance.

 

Is our constitution worth it? Is our country worth it? These are rhetorical questions but necessary nevertheless. How can you truly understand your First Amendment rights if you’ve never read the First Amendment? And judging by the amount of people who actually think that there is a separation of church and state in our Constitution, one can easily guess that many of these people have never actually read over the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.

 

You would think that anyone who has read the second amendment would not have any problems knowing that our founding fathers and framers wanted us to have the right to protect ourselves. When it says, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” it seems rather clear.

 

It also seems clear, at least to me, that when you read through the Constitution in its entirety, especially the Bill of Rights, that the reader’s perspective is not of the people, but of the government. In other words, our Constitution is told from the people TO the government, not the other way around – hence why the first three words of the preamble are “We the People.”

 

Read through the Bill of Rights. You will see that it can also be called a bill of “can’ts.” Congress can’t establish a national religion, Congress can’t prohibit the free exercise thereof. Congress can’t violate the freedom of speech, Congress can’t violate freedom of the press or of assembly or our right to petition. Congress can’t quarter troops in our houses without the owner’s consent, nor can they or anyone under the authority of the executive branch come into our houses and search them without either a warrant or probable cause. They can’t try us in private, they can’t try us without a counselor. They can’t make us testify against ourselves, nor can they postpone a speedy and public trial for 30 years.  And perhaps most important – at least in modern times – Congress can’t micromanage aspects of our society that should be left to the states.

 

Read through amendments 11 to 27 as well. Remember, only four years separated our original Constitution and its first 10 amendments. The other 17 took almost 190 years to come about. And as you read through them, you will discover that many of them are corrections that come from, yes you guessed it, we the people, not us the government or the Supreme Court. In fact, many of them were passed to correct major mistakes of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our federal government. For instance, if the Supreme Court would have ruled in favor of Dred Scott, there would have been no need for a 13th amendment. If the courts or legislatures would have correctly interpreted the phrase, “all men are created equal,” to include, say, ALL MEN (and women), there would have been no need for a 14th, 15th and 19th amendment. Because the amendment process requires a two thirds majority in both houses of Congress and a three fourths majority of all states, it is the closest thing we have to a national referendum. The government didn’t free the slaves, we the people did. The government didn’t give citizenship and voting rights to all naturally born persons over the age of 18, we the people did. The government didn’t stop poll taxes and other things designed to prevent the poor from voting, we the people did!

 

The true genius of the Constitution was that the framers knew from the start that it was flawed and needed to be tweaked from time to time. But they also knew from experience that they would need to establish a set of rules above the government’s ability to change them. They knew the sinful nature of man and that, even in a democratic republic, that nature could destroy their new country faster than any invading force could. The Constitution is the ultimate check and balance.

 

What if? What if the voting public of America (which, by the way, constitutes less than 2% of the people on planet Earth) would actually sit down and read their own constitution – sacrificing 22 minutes out of the 31,536,000 we get per year to read what is perhaps the greatest document ever created by man. How much more informed would the electorate be? And how many more problems that plague us in our society could be solved, not by our government, but once again by We the People?

Rich Mitchell is the Sr. Managing Editor of Conservative Daily News. His posts may contain opinions that are his own and are not necessarily shared by Anomalous Media, CDN, staff or .. much of anyone else. Find him on twitter, facebook and google+

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  1. Brian Cook says:

    Doug,

    Good reply. Thanks for putting in one of the incarnations of the first amendment, which can be found in the public records of debate for the 1st congress. This was the genius behind passing a Constitution and a Bill of Rights in separate bills. The new mechanism was in place, now we could openly debate for the record and have proof of original intent for later legislators and judges to follow.

    My point is that the interpretation of “a wall of separation of church in state” (Danbury letter response), was interpreted correctly for 150 years by the courts as a separation of institution, but not necessarily a separation of influence. Since 1947, there has been a steady flow of misinterpretations whose objective is to flush any influence of religion from the public arena. This is simply wrong.

    Another incarnation of the 1st amendment was more like, “Congress shall make no law establishing one denomination over another”. This is not an exact quote, but it clearly shows the intent was not to ELIMINATE religion, but to keep the government neutral. Many progressives and militant atheists was it eliminated, but the framers clearly did not.

    • Doug Indeap says:

      It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Wake Forest paper nicely summarizes this. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

      The idea that the Constitution sought merely to prevent establishment of one denomination over another simply does not square with the amendment’s language or evidence of the founders’ intent. First, the fact that Congress considered and rejected proposed language to that effect suggests that language did NOT reflect Congress’ intent. Second, (as should be especially appreciated by modern day show-me-the-words-separation-of-church-and-state literalists) note that the text of the First Amendment makes no mention of “Christianity” or “denomination” or anything of the sort. Third, note that the word “religion” is uttered once–setting the scope of both the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. If the text is read so that the term “religion” means only a “national Christian denomination” or the like (thus limiting the scope of the establishment clause as you suppose), violence is done to the free expression clause, which then would merely constrain Congress from making a law prohibiting the free exercise “thereof”–i.e., a national Christian denomination–and leave it free to interfere with the exercise of any and all other religious beliefs. Silly.

      While the founders were, no doubt, confronted with the need to address competition and conflict between a variety of sects (largely but not exclusively Christian) and some (but hardly all) founders were motivated by that perceived need to support separation of church and state, it is a non sequitur to suppose therefore that they intended merely to stop the government from favoring one “sect” (however defined), but leave it free to favor some (also undefined) grouping of sects (e.g., “generic” Christianity or perhaps monotheism, or theism, or deism, or some such).

      Any such interpretation, moreover, would raise so many problems that I tire at the thought of listing them. For instance, where and how would one distinguish sects or groups of sects? Christianity comprises dozens or even hundreds of sects depending on how one draws the lines. And why stop with Christianity since there are other monotheistic religions? Would it be okay for the government to support Islam as long as it refrained from choosing the Sunni or Shiite sect? And even if one wished to stop with Christianity, how does one draw the line around that? For instance, some question whether Mormonism is a “Christian” sect.

  2. Doug Indeap says:

    Separation of church and state is a general principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. They later buttressed this separation with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions.

    That the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    James Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

    • Max says:

      Doug,

      Obviously there is an implied separation of church and state. This was to avoid repeating a church of England scenario that was responsible for religious persecution.

      But nobody can logically make the argument that any reference to God, as we already have in Government (“In God We Trust,” a house chaplain that opens sessions with a prayer, display of the Ten Commandments, reference to a Creator in our Declaration, etc…) is not permitted by an implied separation of church and state. What SCOTUS has done, as well as the other branches, is favor atheism / non-belief by banning religious practices, symbols, prayer in public places. But it isn’t universal, or there would be no House Chaplain; the President would be forbidden by law from seeking spiritual guidance, or Gov. Perry’s public prayer would have been illegal. That isn’t to say it’s a none or all proposition. To the contrary. Instead of banning school prayer, it should be encouraged for ALL FAITHS. That is the true intent of the first amendment. Why else would there be laws prohibiting the “free exercise thereof?” What is good enough for Congress, is good enough for the people in all public facilities.

      • Doug Indeap says:

        Madison discussed just this point in his Detached Memoranda, excerpts of which I quoted earlier. As it happens, he not only stated plainly his understanding that the Constitution prohibits the government from promoting religion by such acts as appointing chaplains for the houses of Congress and the army and navy or by issuing proclamations recommending thanksgiving, he also addressed the question of what to make of the government’s actions doing just that. Ever practical, he answered not with a demand these actions inconsistent with the Constitution be undone, but rather with an explanation to circumscribe their ill effect: “Rather than let this step beyond the landmarks of power have the effect of a legitimate precedent, it will be better to apply to it the legal aphorism de minimis non curat lex [i.e., the law does not concern itself with trifles]: or to class it cum maculis quas aut incuria fudit, aut humana parum cavit natura [i.e., faults proceeding either from negligence or from the imperfection of our nature].” Basically, he recognized that because too many people might be upset by reversing these actions, it would be politically difficult and perhaps infeasible to do so in order to adhere to the constitutional principle, and thus he proposed giving these particular missteps a pass, while at the same time assuring they are not regarded as legitimate precedent of what the Constitution means, so they do not influence future actions.

        In its jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has, in effect, followed Madison’s advice, though not his suggested legal theories. The Court has confirmed the basic constitutional principle of separation of church and state, while also giving a pass to the appointment of chaplains for the house of Congress and army and navy and the issuance of religious proclamations, as well as various governmental statements or actions about religion discounted as “ceremonial deism” or some such.

        You are right to note, though, that the constitutional separation of church and state does not prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect. The Wake Forest paper does a nice job of summarizing this.

        The principle does not favor atheism or ban prayer from public places–as discussed in my reply to Brian above.

        • Max says:

          Doug, I have read both your replies, and would be remiss if I didn’t take this moment to thank you for your well versed knowledge. I really appreciate discussing issues with people who know what they are talking about. And you certainly do.

          You have discussed in great length why things are, with respect to the first amendment. You have quoted Madison, who put much thought into this same issue, and who felt that removing all reference of God from government would anger the public. You go on to discuss SCOTUS jurisprudence on a similar note. Finally, you provide distinction between “public square” and government, and the rights of the “individual” within that context. ALl of this is very good and well.

          However, with full respect given to Madison, it doesn’t mean he was correct, but it does mean that most of his views were adopted. What Madison did was make a very good published argument, whereby interpretation becomes the basis of law.

          I am certainly nobody to challenge Madison. Or SCOTUS, or centuries of legal precedent. But I do wonder why Madison took up such a view, when the alternative of not favoring a single religion, by keeping government “laws” secular, was clearly an option. I do not believe Madison intended there not to be voluntary prayer groups, of any faith, barred from public schools. Madison, by inference of his own conclusion, accepted the idea that there would be laws prohibiting the “free exercise thereof.” And while you are correct to explain the difference in its application (individual rights,) barring prayer is in fact an infringement on the rights of likeminded individuals to peaceably assemble for a religious prayer. What makes this issue significant is the nature of our public school system, whereby our children are required “by law” to have an education. Yet no student is allowed to bring their religion on school grounds (albeit in a very privately held manner). Point being, when government mandates your appearance at a public school, or other physical public place, you have lost your right to freely exercise your religious views.

          There is a very important theme missed by Madison. The Constitution was written, as was the Bill of Rights, to restrict and limit “government,” not its citizens. Instead of banning religious expression (e.g. public schools), they should have been allowed to flourish, with laws written to prevent government from favoring a single religion. This could have been done, what was the counter-arguement?

          A final point, Madison wasn’t dealing with a public school system. Do you think he would have arrived at the same conclusion then, having known what we now know today, concerning the barring of religion in our public schools, and the vast counter-problem parents face with a purposeful morally corrupted school system? For most parents, it’s like throwing their kids into a lake, and taking away the life preserver. Sink or swim.

          • Doug Indeap says:

            You are right to observe that our society and, particularly, the size of federal, state, and local governments and their roles in our daily lives have changed much since the founding, and this obviously affects how the separation of church and state applies in the real world of today. While separation of church and state hardly began with the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson, that case did mark the beginning of a period of more frequent litigation of church-state issues. That trend came about, I think, largely for two reasons. First, with the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868 and the Court’s decision in 1947 that one effect of the amendment is to extend the First Amendment’s principles to the states, the occasions for church-state issues to arise multiplied greatly. Second, as governments, federal and state and local, have grown in modern times and have played an increasing role in more and more aspects of our daily lives, the occasions for church-state issues to arise multiplied even further.

            The issue for courts is not so much to try to guess what Madison would have done or thought had he been presented with modern society and, particularly, public schools. Rather, the issue is to decide how the separation of church and state that he and the other founders established applies to today’s world.

          • Max says:

            Doug stated,

            “The issue for courts is not so much to try to guess what Madison would have done or thought had he been presented with modern society and, particularly, public schools. Rather, the issue is to decide how the separation of church and state that he and the other founders established applies to today’s world.”

            Well stated. I have learned something here, thank you.

  3. DJ says:

    Excellent article pointing out the need for all Americans to read and UNDERSTAND the U.S Constitution, Brian. The secularists , as Max points perfectly. out have denigrated and desecrated the entire theme of the Constitution by undermining it at state and local levels. Calif creating sanctuary cities for one and also banning crosses in schools and the ever-increasing attemts to change such iconic things as our National anthem and pledge of allegiance. Once they break down our society and true American culture, the door is wide open for the creeping Communism that hides behind the false mantra that Socialism is for the good of all the people.

    Thisarticle should be mandatory reading in all of our schools, IMO. That way future generations of Americans can nail the door to secular communism shut to protect American freedoms and liberty. Sadly the secularists and wanna-be Socialists are embedded with the Unions in our government-run educational system, who will never let this article be shown to students as it exposes their unamerican agenda.

  4. Max says:

    The Constitution is a most excellent read. It proves, among other things, how liberals have hijacked it, manipulated it, and twisted it to suit their perverted agenda.

    Need an example? Here is one,

    Take our First Amendment in it’s 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.”

    Of all these freedoms listed (religion, speech, press, peaceful assemblage, petition) religion is banned from public property. The interpretation could not be any clearer. It means there will be no state-endorsed religion above all others, that all faiths will be freely exercised. This means that not only crosses are acceptable in our schools, but so are menorahs and crescents, with prayer groups from all faiths. It means that no single religion will trump the other. It means that the words “Under God,” “In God We Trust,” “Creator,” are acceptable as they apply to all faiths.
    The problem is, in defense of the faithless, atheism, and communism, liberals have taken their side to ban God altogether in the name of secularism, when secularism isn’t even in our constitution. Why is this a threat to us all? Look at how many foreclosed properties are now owned by the federal government, qualifying as public property. Add that to public schools, public libraries, public lands, and now public housing… the list keeps getting longer and longer where no public demonstration of “faith” is legal. If only Stalin knew what our Government knows now… he would have pursued a bloodless revolution, given the people everything, then slowly take it all back one square foot at a time.