Posts tagged with: United States Constitution

republican-powerBecause of the recent election, Republicans now control the White House, the U.S. Senate (51 percent), the House of Representatives (54 percent), 31 of the 50 state governorships (62 percent), and a record 67 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation (68 percent).

What will they do with all that power and influence?

To predict what policies the GOP will champion over the next two to four years we can turn to the most recent party platform. Although the document is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans.

Here are the agenda items that are related to issues covered by the Acton Institute. (Note: This level of government that would handle each item is not designated, so some issues may be handled at the state level and others by the U.S. Congress.)

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
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 Today, Americans will be electing the 44th President of the United States. To give you something to read while you stand in line at the polling places, here are five interesting facts about elections and voting:

1. In colonial times, a common “get out the vote” strategy was for candidates to offer alcohol at the polling places. When George Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 he brought out 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider royal. Although it was almost enough for every voter to half a half-gallon of booze, Washington worried his campaign manager had “spent with too sparing a hand” and wouldn’t have enough. (It worked: Washington got 331 votes, more than his three rivals.)

2. The Ohio Constitution includes a clause (Article V, Section 6) that prohibits “idiots” from voting (No idiot, or insane persons, shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector). The provision was added in 1851 to prevent people of diminished mental capacity from voting. In 1970, the Ohio Constitutional Revision Commission noted that, “The lack of procedure for determining who is ‘insane’ or an ‘idiot’ could allow persons whose opinions are unpopular or whose lifestyles are disapproved to be challenged at the polls, and they may lose their right to vote without the presentation of any medical evidence whatsoever.” Despite this concern, the language remains unchanged.
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 16, 2016
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US CONSTITUTION iStock_000007427085XSmall-300x214Tomorrow is Constitution Day, a holiday celebrated in America every year on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. Here are five facts you should know about the U.S. Constitution:

1. The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.

2. Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams, who at the time was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention, also did not attend the signing. The only men who both became presidents and signed the Constitution were George Washington and James Madison.

3. There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops.
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0701whitefieldpreachingHow did religious freedom develop in America? It didn’t happen the way most of us were taught in school—whether in elementary school or law school. In fact, notes legal scholar Richard Garnett, the “standard story” about religious freedom in Early America is profoundly misleading:

In my experience, this “standard story” is familiar to most Americans, whether or not they are historians or constitutional lawyers, though lawyers have probably been more exposed to and influenced by it than most. In this account, our sophisticated and “enlightened” Founding Fathers—with far-seeing Virginians like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the lead—took special care to write and design a “godless” constitution so as to spare our new political community and experiment from the superstition and strife that, they knew all too well, had ravaged and torn Europe in the preceding centuries. In this story, the First Amendment was crafted and constitutionalized so as to entrench a principle—a “wall”—of church-state separation and ensure a secular “public” sphere, with religion protected, but confined within, the “private” realm.

This story is not true. In fact, America’s revolution and constitution were shaped not only by the Enlightenment but also by the Great Awakening, by preachers as well as pamphleteers. And, as John Witte describes in Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, the Founding-era arguments about religious freedom under law included not just “Enlightenment thinkers” but also “congregational Puritans,” “Free Church Evangelicals,” and “Civic Republicans.” It would not have been difficult to identify a consensus in favor of the liberty of religious conscience and a distinction between religious and political authority and office, but this consensus obtained at a high level of generality and allowed for variation and disagreement with respect to many—indeed most—questions and applications. And, it seems very unlikely that the First Amendment was widely seen as embodying, let alone entrenching, much beyond an aversion to a nationally established church, backed and propped up by legal coercion, of the kind they knew existed elsewhere. Hardly anyone, if anyone, thought that the ratification of the First Amendment meant that something called “religion” was now legally barred from the “public” or that, as a result of that provision, the constitutional validity of laws and policies was contingent on a judicial determination that they did not rest on “religious” beliefs or motives.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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hist-ff-first-amendment-7195911“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment,” says Zack Pruitt in today’s Acton Commentary, “will generate huge conflicts—in some cases unforeseen—with the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” Fortunately, some legislators are already attempting to do something to prevent such conflicts.

Even before the recent Supreme Court ruling, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) introduced legislation to clarify and strengthen religious liberty protections in federal law, by “safeguarding those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.” The First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.
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scaliaOver the past hundred years few judges have been able to match the wit, wisdom, and intellectual rigor of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. During his thirty year career he has been an indefatigable champion of originalism (a principle of interpretation that views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed as of the time of enactment) and a vociferous critic of the slippery “living constitution” school of jurisprudence. When future historians assess his career Scalia will be viewed as one of the most thoughtful, principled, and important jurists of his era.

But even a legal genius can produce a disastrous opinion, and Scalia delivered his worst twenty-five years ago this week in Employment Division v. Smith. As Michael Stokes Paulsen explains, this ruling has “proven to be one of the most devastatingly long-term harmful Supreme Court constitutional decisions of the past half century.”
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RFRA1Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Social media went a bit, well, bonkers. Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT.” The CEO of SalesForce, headquartered in Indiana, says they will pull out. Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, has called religious freedom laws “dangerous” and likens them to Jim Crow laws.

What’s all of this about?

First, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993. This act re-instated what is known as the Sherbert Act, in which the Supreme Court:

…set out a three-prong test for courts to use in determining whether the government has violated an individual’s constitutionally-protected right to the free exercise of religion. (more…)