Constitutional Convention: A Bad Idea?
An Opportunity to Re-Write the Constitution?
Time is Running Out: Action Needed Now
Requests calling for a Constitutional Convention have been filed by Rep.Brett Hildabrand and Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook. (SCR 1613 and HCR 5016) These requests deal with upholding state sovereignty in those areas not specifically assigned to the federal government; in light of the many intrusions by the federal government recently, this may seem like a reasonable request. Attempts to entice states to file these resolutions are popping up all over the country. Recently in South Dakota three lobbyists from Washington, D.C., descended upon the state to promote and testify in favor of the “Con Con” requests. CWA of South Dakota’s State Director Linda Schauer worked closely with Eagle Forum and the John Birch Society to stop these measures. Similar proposals have emerged in Ohio—there the effort was primarily opposed by the American Policy Center and the Institute for Principled Policy.
You may be asking why calling for such a convention would be such a bad idea. Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum states, “We already have a U.S. Constitution that has withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for more than two centuries, and we don’t need a new constitution. There is nothing wrong with the one we have except that politicians are not obeying it and judges are indulging in too much activism—” Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center states, “—As I have reported many times, this (calling for a ConCon) is a very dangerous thing to do. But proponents simply reject our arguments that a Con Con cannot be controlled. There are powerful forces with lots of money who are telling these officials that it can be controlled simply by passing a resolution saying so. And they argue that even if bad things come out of a Con Con, they still have to be ratified by a majority of states and so that is the safe-guard. They are wrong on all counts.”
Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, Congress “shall call” a Constitutional Convention to propose “Amendments” (s) if two-thirds (34) of the states request one. The U.S. Constitution which George Washington and James Madison called a “miracle” would be subjected to not just the will of the people, but to powerful groups who have their own agenda and to the media hype that has not only prevailed in influencing elections but in persuading the culture to change through cleverly crafted media campaigns.
Assurances by Secretary of State Kris Kobach aside, there are no guarantees that only one issue would be considered. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger stated, “The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda—After the Convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don’t like its agenda.”
The only rules, according to Phyllis Schlafly, for a new convention are that if two-thirds of the states pass resolutions calling for it, then Congress has the authority to issue the Call for a convention to consider “amendments” (in the plural). There are no other rules in the Constitution or in federal law to limit the convention’s purpose, procedure, agenda, or election of delegates. For example, the Call could prescribe a one-state vote or possibly apportionment by population with similar lobbying and the electioneering witnessed in the last election to entice the bigger states’ populations. According to Schlafly many constitutional authorities say it is impossible for Congress or even state legislatures to restrict what a called convention can do.
We all know the calls for “change” and the references to the Constitution as an “evolving document” so what other issues might be added? Changing freedom of religion into “freedom of worship”; getting rid of the Electoral College; term limitation or in the case of the presidency, extension; modification of the separation of powers toward a more Parliamentary form of government, or codifying same-sex marriage and abortion into the Constitution.
The Kansas Legislature has adjourned, but will be back in May for the “veto session” which means action could take place soon on these measures.
It is imperative that you contact your legislator about this issue and let them know that you oppose calling for a Constitutional Convention. All e-mails can be addressed to: firstname.lastname@house orsenate.ks.gov. It would also be a good idea to contact your own legislator. If you don’t know who that is, you can find out by going to: www.kslegislature.org and click on ‘Find Your Legislator’ by inserting your address.