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Thursday, September 17, 2009

222 Years Ago Today…

...the Constitution was signed and sent to the states for ratification. Five years ago, Congress passed the Byrd Amendment declaring every September 17 “Constitution Day” and requiring all schools and universities receiving federal funding to provide an educational program on the U.S. Constitution on or around that date. (Interestingly, some have claimed that this mandate is itself unconstitutional since the document, which describes the limited powers of the federal government, has no role for the federal government in education).

This year, timed to Constitution Day, the National Constitution Center released the results of a poll it conducted in association with the Associated Press examining, among other things, Americans’ attitudes toward government intervention in domestic affairs. The most heartening discovery was that three-quarters of those surveyed agree with the statement that the Constitution is “an enduring document that remains relevant today.” But, as might be expected, a sharp division of opinion was evident in those constitutional questions at the heart of the pubic debate today: More than a third of the respondents believe it is “sometimes okay to break the law” when public safety may be at risk. The group was more or less evenly split over whether the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all with 47 percent saying yes and 50 percent no. The same break occurred on the question of whether amnesty should be provided to illegal aliens – 47, for; 50, against – and while 46 percent believe that same-sex marriages should be given legal recognition, 52 percent say they should not.

A suspicion of executive authority was evident in the reaction to other questions. Only 24 percent of Americans believe that an economic crisis would prompt them to give more power to the president at the expense of the Congress and Courts. And even when the failure of a company would seriously harm the economy, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed still opposed the federal government taking partial ownership of private companies. You can read the entire study (here).


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