An earthquake occurred in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago. It was not actual movement of the earth. It was a Supreme Court decision which caused the cracking of the federal power structure built over the past sixty years without constitutional authority. The case was U.S. vs. Lopez.
A Texas high school student, Alphonso Lopez, was charged under a state law for carrying a gun at school. When the feds stepped in and charged him under the federal Gun-Free School Zone statute, the state backed off and dropped its charges. Now, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision that the federal law is unconstitutional, the student walks free. This is another one of those many examples of where a good thing done at the wrong level amounts to a bad thing.
For sixty years now, federal officials, backed by Supreme Court decisions have invoked the commerce clause of the Constitution as authority to involve itself in nearly every aspect of American life. The Commerce Clause, which is “to regulate Commerce.among the several States (Art. I, Section 8, U.S. Constitution) originally meant that the federal government could ensure the free flow of goods between states. Since the 1930s, the Supreme Court has twisted the Founders’ intent to say the federal government has power over the production and sales of goods and over anything that could affect interstate commerce indirectly. Hence, the commerce clause has been used to justify wage and price controls, environmental regulation and dozens of other areas.
Federal regulators even obtained a favorable ruling of the federal courts against a land developer “because it found that the Army Corps of Engineers had jurisdiction over an isolated wetland based on the so-called ‘glancing goose test’.. The U.S. maintained that commerce was involved because flying geese or ducks might see a pond and possibly try to land there. Since hunters cross state lines to shoot geese, interstate commerce came into play.The developer was barred from building homes on the land.” (Cited in Human Events, May 19, 1995, page 13)
In one of its most significant rulings in decades, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Lopez case, ruled that a federal statute outlawing gun possession within 1000 feet of a school was unconstitutional because it was premised on an improper reading of the Constitution’s commerce clause. Of this ruling, former Attorney General Edwin Meese said: “It’s a tremendously significant decision, this recognition of limits on the commerce clause and what the federal government can do based on it. Now you’ll see any number of challenges to federal power from those who take encouragement from the ruling.”July letter-Page 2
Although joining the majority (5-4) in the Lopez case, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote his opinion separately “to observe that our case law has drifted far from the original understanding of the Commerce Clause.” He then proceeds to brilliantly prove the Founders’ narrow definition of Commerce-that the power given to the federal government was only the power to ensure the free flow of goods between states and not everything that affects commerce activity. “Put simply,” he says, “much if not all of Art. I, Section 8 would be surplusage if Congress had been given authority over matters that substantially affect interstate commerce. An interpretation of clause 3 that makes the rest of Section 8 superfluous simply cannot be correct. Yet this court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence has endorsed just such an interpretation: The power we have accorded Congress (through case law and ignoring the limited intent of the Founders) has swallowed Art. I, Section 8.”
Justice Thomas then proceeded to identify cases up until the 1930s which show how the High Court still heeded the Founders. “These cases all establish a simple point: From the time of the ratification of the Constitution to the mid 1930s, it was widely understood that the Constitution granted Congress only limited powers, notwithstanding the Commerce Clause. Moreover, there was no question that activities wholly separated from business, such as gun possession, were beyond the reach of the commerce power. If anything, the “wrong-turn” (a phrase used by the minority in Lopez to indicate a departure of the court from established policy) was the court’s dramatic departure in the 1930s from a century and a half of precedent.” He then summarized his writing by saying, “If we wish to be true to a Constitution that does not cede a police power to the federal government, our Common Clause’s boundaries simply cannot be ‘defined’ as being ‘commensurate with the national needs’or self-consciously intended to let the federal government ‘defend itself against economic forces that Congress decrees inimical or destructive of the national economy’.. Such a formulation of federal power is no test at all: It is a blank check.”
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot limit the terms of congressmen and senators they sent to Washington, even though 23 states have already done so. Without discussing the merits of term limits, Justice Thomas again brilliantly shows that the Constitution does not give any power to the federal government to involve itself in the issue. Says he: “where the Constitution is silent (as it is on term limits), it raises no bar to action by the states or the people.. As far as the federal Constitution is concerned, the states can exercise all powers that the Constitution does not withhold from them.. Where the Constitution does not speak either expressly or by necessary implication, the federal government lacks that power and the states enjoy it.”The Founders have a friend on today’s Supreme Court.
Have you noticed how, with increased frequency, the Constitution is talked about everywhere? With all that’s happening, more and more people are wondering if maybe the Constitution does have answers after all.Our job is to respond with the ability to teach when asked to do so. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote. “The people make the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their own will. And lives only by their will.”
On August 2, 1956, Congress requested the President to proclaim 17-23 of each year as Constitution Week. This year Constitution Week is from Sunday, September 17th through Saturday, September 23rd. What is your community doing to celebrate the Constitution? As a citizen, it is relatively easy to start a tradition of Constitution Week recognition. Your mayor will most likely be thrilled to help you implement your suggestions. Nearly every time citizens have approached town or city leaders with a suggested Constitution Week proclamation, it has happened.
NCCS has recently updated and reprinted our publication entitled, “Celebrating Constitution Week in Your Community.” It contains copies of actual city Constitution Week proclamations of the past, how to organize Constitution Week committees, both with and without official city approval. Suggestions on how to set up subcommittees to work with businesses, clubs and organizations, schools, and churches are also included. Lists of specific ideas which each kind of organization can immediately implement are given. Finally, a suggested agenda and step-by-step checklist are included to help you stage a community celebration event. Its all in there!
If you have the desire to get something going for Constitution Week in your area, request this packet from NCCS immediately. There is still time to get it going.
Recognizing the growing number of young people attending our seminars and showing interest in the study and applications of constitutional principles, NCCS announces the First Annual Constitution Essay Contest for Youth. This is meant to be a summertime activity for youth and results will be published in our September letter in recognition of Constitution Week.
Contest rules are as follows:
Many NCCS supporters have expressed a desire to receive a concise, one-page discussion of one or more constitutional principles which they can, in turn, send to public officials, law enforcement personnel, teachers, etc. on a regular basis.
Beginning this month you will find included with our newsletter, our monthly “Constitution Focus” insert. This one-page (front and back) document may be photocopied and distributed as our supporters may wish. It provides a short discussion of constitutional provisions and principles together with suggested reading for further study. You will notice this monthly insert also correlates with our “Give an Evening a Month for America” study guides and can be a useful supplement to these monthly discussion groups. Several supporters have made the commitment to send “Constitution Focus” sheets to every member of their state legislature.
While our newsletters will continue to address current items and NCCS related matters and activities, you’ll find the “Constitution Focus” sheets to be very concise and “focused” on constitution principles. Think of the impact if supporters in every state would distribute these to their elected officials!
Also enclosed with this letter you will find a sample of one of NCCS’s new product offerings-attractive stationery featuring color portraits and thought-provoking quotations of America’s leading Founders. Most of us have looked for ways to gently share our patriotic feelings with family and friends. Constantly exposing them to the wisdom of the Founders is an effective way to spread the freedom message. Thirty-two sheets and 16 envelopes are included in each packet. See ordering instructions on enclosed product flyer. Suggestions: You might send a personal note to a public official on the stationery with the enclosed Focus article. How about sending a thank you note to Honorable Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Washington D.C. 20543!
A hearty thanks to Diana Knight of Louisville, Kentucky for hosting Kentucky’s first Making of America seminars this past month. Many people gathered on the Shelby campus of the University of Louisville to hear the exciting message of the Founders. Diana, who also publishes The Liberty Standard newspaper, says the seminar has ignited such enthusiasm for the freedom story that people in other cities in Kentucky will now be hosting similar events.
Especially appreciated were a number of ministers and other civic and business leaders who were in attendance at the Louisville seminar. On Friday evening before the seminar, I was particularly pleased to have dinner with a few invited guests, including Senator Dan Kelly, who serves in the Senate of the Kentucky General Assembly as the Minority Leader (soon to be Majority Leader, he says, as Kentucky is on the verge of an historic change of majority parties). As I visited with Senator Kelly, I particularly noticed his eagerness for the teaching of correct principles of government in his state.
Returning home from successful seminars such as the one in Louisville, I cannot help but reflect on the number of really sincere and enlightened people I have come to know who are really spread throughout this land. I thought again of my conviction that this Constitution will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom- those who subscribe to and abide by the principles of the Constitution. One of the side benefits of teaching around the nation is to get to see how these great people seem to be sprinkled out all over and are rising to the forefront of service and influence in their communities.
One of my goals each month is to share with you the enthusiasm I see as more people catch fire with the Founders’ message. Something is happening out there even amidst the swirling waters of opposition. The Spirit of Liberty seems to be awakening in the hearts of good people everywhere.
Please refer to the reverse side of our enclosed product flyer and let us know if you can sponsor a seminar in your area, or if you can only attend when one does come to your area. We also hope each of you can see fit to financially support this cause by pledging a monthly donation amount.
Last minute note!! We have just scheduled a Making of America Seminar during Constitution Week, on Saturday, Sept 23, near Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Hostess is Catherine Bonaventura at 215-750-1703.