Saturday, January 30, 2010

Constitutional Law Degrees Must Not Be What They Used To Be

I know the biggest takeaway moment from President Obama’s State of the Union address has been his indecorous criticism of the Supreme Court. But I think there was another moment that deserves some attention as well. At one point, he said,

“We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.”
I find three things worthy of mention here.

1) Um, the Constitution says nothing about us being created equal – that would be the Declaration of Independence, Mr. President. Specifically,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”
2) The Constitution is designed to protect U.S. citizens, even if they don’t abide by the law. Our civil protection is not jeopardized if we break the law. In fact, much of the law is written to ensure the fair treatment of those who have broken it. That makes us a pretty rare find in the political world. Or, at least, I hope it still does.

3) The President said that if we “adhere to common values”, then we should not be treated differently, and that this is “enshrined in our Constitution”. Again, a search on the word “values” or its synonyms turns up nothing like this in the document. And the idea of “common values” is completely in conflict with the first part of his statement – that “we find unity in our incredible diversity”. Even more disturbing, is he implying that some of us will lose the privilege of equitable treatment if we stray from this generic set of common values? Hmmmm…he may actually be right about that one. I’m thinking of Tim Tebow and the upcoming Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad.

One would think that a Constitutional law scholar from Harvard would have a better grasp of what the document actually says. But maybe, an Ivy League degree isn’t worth as much as it used to be. Perhaps he should consider sitting down for a moment to read the Constitution…
If you are interested in learning more about the principles in The U.S. Constitution, please visit the Constitutional Education series.

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