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Archive for the ‘Original Intent’ Category

The Constitution: Original Intent or ‘Living Document’?

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

(First published in the October 2004 issue of The American Legion magazine)

The subject of constitutional interpretation may seem like a topic best fitted for an ivory-tower debate, but it actually has a very real and dramatic impact on daily life (as will be demonstrated shortly). In recent years, two competing viewpoints have emerged.

Probably the first exposure most citizens had to the two views came during the 2000 presidential debates. When asked what type of judges should be placed on the bench, candidate Bush responded: “I believe that the judges ought not to take the place of the legislative branch of government … and that they ought to look at the Constitution as sacred.… I don’t believe in liberal, activist judges; I believe in strict constructionists.”1 Candidate Gore countered, “The Constitution ought to be interpreted as a document that grows.”2 Gore later stated, “I believe the Constitution is a living and breathing document.… We have interpreted our founding charter over the years, and found deeper meanings in it in light of the subsequent experience in American life.”3 So, the two choices are … follow original intent, or construct a living constitution.

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Separation of Church and State

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

In 1947, in the case Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The “separation of church and state” phrase which they invoked, and which has today become so familiar, was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President.

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The United States: Republic Vs. Democracy

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

We have grown accustomed to hearing that we are a democracy; such was never the intent. The form of government entrusted to us by our Founders was a republic, not a democracy.1 Our Founders had an opportunity to establish a democracy in America and chose not to. In fact, the Founders made clear that we were not, and were never to become, a democracy:

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Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by Matt 1 Comment

In recent years, right-thinking Americans have been repeatedly shocked and perplexed by unimaginable random acts of violence. The numbers of mass shootings at schools, cafeterias, subways, postal facilities, and churches, and bombings at government and private office buildings have been almost mind-boggling. And who would have imagined that an unpopular court decision in California and a victorious basketball game in Illinois would each cause widespread rioting and looting with human casualties and massive property destruction?

Such events not only offend the sensibilities of normal citizens but they also serve as reminders of the unhappy fact that far too many among us no longer possess the time-honored qualities of civility and decency—

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Original Intent: Why Read The Founding Fathers?

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

Our Constitution operates on long-standing principles which were recognized and incorporated into our government over two hundred years ago; each constitutional provision reflects a specific philosophy implemented to avoid a specific problem. Therefore, grasping the purpose for any clause of the Constitution is possible only through a proper historical understanding of the debates and the conclusions reached two hundred years ago.

For example, when adjudging the permissible in the realm of public religious expressions, courts revert to what they perceive to be the intent of those who, in 1789, drafted the religion clauses of the Constitution. Likewise, the perception of historical intent similarly affects the debates on gun control and the Second Amendment, States’ Rights and the Tenth Amendment, abortion and the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, flag-burning and the First Amendment; etc. Therefore, if our understanding of historical facts and constitutional intent becomes confused or mistaken, the resulting policies may be not only ill-founded but may actually create the very abuses that the Founders originally intended to avoid.

Because the portrayal of history so affects current policy, some groups have found it advantageous to their political agenda to distort historical facts intentionally. Those particularly adept at this are termed “revisionists.” (A thorough discussion of revisionism is presented in Chapter 16.) Not all dissemination of incorrect information, however, is deliberately intended to misinform; in many cases, it is the result of individuals innocently repeating what others have mistakenly reported.

In fact, there is an unhealthy tendency in many current books on the Founders—a tendency confirmed in their concluding bibliographies—to cite predominately contemporary “authorities” speaking about the Founders rather than citing the Founders’ own words. Such evidence is termed “hearsay” and would never stand up in a court of law. Original Intent, however, has pursued the practice of “best evidence”: it lets the Founders speak for themselves in accordance with the legal rules of evidence.

Furthermore, not only does Original Intent document the original intent on a number of constitutional issues debated today, it also documents how this essential information is often ignored under today’s standard of “political correctness.” Indicative of this deletion of information, the following questions are raised—and answered—in this book.

•     Although there were fifty-five Founders who drafted the Constitution, and ninety more who drafted the Bill of Rights, why does the current Court invoke only Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as its spokesmen? Are there no constitutional authorities among the other one-hundred-forty-plus who framed those documents? Or, is it possible that their words would directly contradict the current Court’s conclusions?

•     Since Jefferson has over sixty volumes of written works and Madison has over twenty, why does the Court continually invoke only one or two select sentences from these exhaustive works? Is it perhaps that the rest of the statements made by Madison and Jefferson reveal the Court’s intentional misportrayal of their intent?

•     Since several signers of the Constitution were also Justices on the U. S. Supreme Court, why does the current Court avoid citing the declarations of those Justices on today’s issues? Is it perhaps that the concise rulings of those who so clearly understood constitutional intent would contradict and thus embarrass the Court for its current positions?

Not only are these questions answered in this book, but the answers are established from the expansive writings of scores of Founders, not just inferred by narrow references from only a select few.

As more and more of the primary-source information documenting the views of the Founders has been publicized, it clearly has contradicted what the courts and some “scholars” have claimed. In fact, those individuals, to protect their own views and to diffuse growing criticism against them, have characterized the irrefutable historical facts which confront them as nothing more than “revisionism.” Ironically, it is quite the contrary; for by reverting to primary-source historical documents, the true historical and legal revisionism which has occurred over recent generations is now being systematically exposed and rebutted.

Original Intent will provide hundreds of the Founders’ direct declarations on many of the constitutional issues which America continues to face today. Their words, their conclusions, and especially their intent is clear; their wisdom is still applicable for today. Since these clear views may be new to many Americans, this work has been heavily footnoted, and the reader is strongly encouraged to investigate the sources cited in order to confirm the accuracy of the conclusions which have been reached.

Forward From:  David Barton, Original Intent : The Courts, the Constitution & Religion, 1st ed. (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press, 1996), 4.

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