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Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 PJP Fellow Lion Calandra Asks: "Why do Americans get the Constitution so wrong?"

"Recently, I was standing in line at a movie house behind a woman who objected to the theater’s policy of searching purses and backpacks. She indignantly told a theater employee that her purse could not be inspected, citing the Fourth Amendment’s protection against illegal searches. She did not know that, in general, the Fourth Amendment does not apply to private businesses – only to governments. The movie theater has a right to require a bag search; she has the right to take her business elsewhere."

So writes 2010 PJP Fellow Lion Calandra in a piece published in the Christian Science Monitor. But Calandra's fellow moviegoer pales in her constitutional ignorance when compared to many government servants. Calandra cites Sen. Roland Burris "quoting" the Constitution's as providing "for the health, welfare, and defense of the country." No such words appear in the document. She cites Sen. John Conyers of Michigan referencing the "good and welfare clause" of the U.S. Constitution. There is no such clause. Even President Barack Obama has tripped up, referencing, in his first State of the Union speech, "the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we’re all created equal." The "all men are created equal" line is actually from the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Constitution in "Quotes"

“Nothing in the Constitution or any other law requires the U.S. government to defend a law in court or to appeal an adverse ruling. Executive officials at all levels of government have discretion as to how, if at all, to proceed in court. All government officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and it would be inconsistent with that oath to require them to defend a law that they believe is unconstitutional..."

Former PJP Faculty Member Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law, in a piece in The Los Angeles Times,in which he asks why the Obama administration feels it necessary to defend “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Pentagon’s policy on gays in the military, after a federal judge ruled it an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech. To read Dean Chemerinsky’s entire piece, follow this link.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Constitution in "Quotes"

“The Tea Partiers would be well advised to devote their efforts to achieving significant limits on the federal government — such as limiting federal spending, cutting taxes, and reversing Obamacare — that don’t demand an amendment to the Constitution. They will have a limited political window to apply their political capital; constitutional amendments will only waste it..."

Former PJP faculty member John Yoo, writing in the National Review Online, on a movement among Tea Party members to repeal the 17th amendment to the Constitution, which required popular election of US senators. Prior to the 17th amendment, senators were elected by state legislatures. Many Tea Partiers believe that popular election undermines federalism, since the people are more likely to encourage federal involvement in state business than state legislatures would.To read the entire piece, follow this link.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Constitution in "Quotes"

“The issue is not one of Thomas's First Amendment rights. She has them just like every other American. The question is one of civility and respect for the very powerful office her husband holds..."

From PJP Board member Sherrilyn Ifill's piece in ARENA, reacting to the news that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had left a telephone message on Anita Hill's answering machine, looking to send "an olive branch" to her husband's accuser. Hill's accusations of sexual harassment dominated Thomas's 1991 senate confirmation hearings. To read the entire piece by Ifill, follow this link.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Jennings Fellow Accepts Fulbright to Teach in Kenya

Anna Clark, a 2010 Fellow of the Peter Jennings Project, is about to go to Kenya on a Fulbright grant where she will teach creative writing to Kenyans and report regularly for the Detroit News. An article in the local Michigan Herald-Palladium detailed her achievement. PJP has asked Anna to post reflections on constitutional issues during her visit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Featured Guest Blogger Sarah Hinchliff Pearson


Without realizing it, we have all entered into hundreds of legal contracts online. Nearly every website contains “terms of service” or “terms of use,” which dictate the rules under which you are allowed to access that site. Some websites require you to click to agree to the terms (so-called “clickwrap agreements”), while others simply state that by using the site, you agree to all of the terms listed (“browsewrap agreements”). In nearly all cases, the terms are dense, filled with legalese, and universally unread. But, despite being largely ignored by the public, these online contracts can have serious implications.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Test Revealing Ignorance About Religion Also Reveals Ignorance About the Constitution

A few years ago, attending my son's elementary school's December "Holiday Concert," I was surprised to examine the program and find no recognizable titles. The "holiday" reference was to, well, whatever holiday you might be celebrating at that time of year: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or something else, though you would have to keep the specifics of your enthusiasm to yourself for the musical numbers were chosen under the mistaken guidance that the First Amendment demands that nothing of any religious origin could be performed in a public school. Since that requirement pretty much eliminates all the great holiday music I can think of, the school turned to the works of a cottage industry of modern composers who turn out "music" that references the season without referencing a religious thought. I put the term "music" in quotes because this stuff barely met the standard for the word.