Promises made while on the campaign trail don’t always come full circle. Nothing is easier for an office seeker to promise government benefits that cannot be delivered. During Joanne Stehr’s rookie campaign last autumn for state representative from Pennsylvania’s 107th District, one request by her ensuing constituents stood out.
“People requested a class on the Constitution,” said the first-term representative. “The Constitution is the foundation on what this country was built upon; a roadmap that protects all of the nation’s people.”
In order to get things done, Stehr enlisted the help of Johnathan McLaughlin, a Central Pennsylvania native who volunteers as a constitutional coach, a title he earned as a graduate of the Patriot Academy in Dripping Springs, Texas.
McLaughlin is a realist who understands his volunteerism and outreach will not change anything overnight but is a solid first step.
“So many people are unfamiliar with what the Constitution says and what it represents,” McLaughlin underscored. He cited the citizenship test all immigrants must pass to obtain citizenship while pointing out Prager University’s video on YouTube that questioned college students’ civic knowledge that was anything but flattering.
A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center highlighted how Americans are woefully misinformed about basic constitutional provisions. Three-quarters of Americans can’t name all three branches of government, while nearly one-third can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Such abysmal results do not bode well for public education, which exists to produce a well-informed citizenry.
McLaughlin summarized his mission in one sentence: “People who don’t understand or know what their rights are will certainly lose them.” The erudite McLaughlin is well aware that a proper understanding of the Constitution is critical in preserving our longstanding liberty.
When James Madison authored the Bill of Rights, he understood how our rights do not come from government. The Constitution does not grant rights. Rather, it restricts the government’s power over our God-given natural rights that are extensions of our humanity. That is greatly misunderstood either by design or plain ignorance and is certainly one of the foremost reasons the American republic is teetering.
When one believes their rights are secure and can’t be relinquished, they are taken for granted. Rights quickly nod off when someone gets woke as the diversity, equity, and inclusion phenomenon is diametrically opposed to our Constitution. We could learn a much-needed lesson from ancient Rome, which was doomed when it believed its city and empire were “eternal.”
The course will also be amid Constitution Day, one of the lesser-known federal holidays on Sept. 17, commemorating its signing in 1787. Without this pioneering and historic document, it is doubtful America is still celebrating July 4th in the second decade of the 21st century.
One poison fruit of the Sexual Revolution was desires and rights became interchangeable. To wit, abortion, and gay marriage are not constitutional rights. Such misinterpretation is a direct link to the metastasizing dysfunctional American family. In addition, unelected, bureaucratic government agencies make decisions that affect all Americans. How can one know if they are acting within the law – or if they are taking advantage by pushing the limits, as those entrusted with power often do – if the Constitution is so unfamiliar?
Both Stehr and McLaughlin stressed the six-week course is strictly apolitical, and all are welcomed regardless of political affiliation. The class commences Thursday, Sept. 7, and will be held each Thursday, concluding Oct. 12. The course is free, with registration required. The two-hour classes run from 6-8 p.m. at the Northumberland County CareerLink at 2 E. Arch St. in Shamokin.
The Heritage Foundation has a free online guide if you can’t attend class. The interactive booklet provides a clause-by-clause explanation from over 100 legal scholars. Moreover, Hillsdale College, one of only a handful of American colleges and universities still requiring a Constitution class, offers a free online course.
Stehr hinted that a second class may be in the offing in another district. Stehr is certainly on to something, and her colleagues in Harrisburg should follow her lead in trying to enlighten the electorate.