Thomas Dyer: Of course Constitution changes
I agree with the beginning of her premise that Claudia Taylor espouses in her letter to the editor in the April 27 edition of The Union that “the only responsibility of the Supreme Court of the United States is to reflect and uphold constitutional law.”
The next statement in her letter that “the U.S. Constitution embodies principles that are timeless and do not change …” might imply that the Constitution cannot or should not change due to the values of our ever-changing culture. That is obviously false.
Our ever-changing culture added amendments to the Constitution that:
1. Prohibited slavery or involuntary servitude via the 13th Amendment.
2. Granted citizenship to prior slaves and indeed, all persons born or naturalized in the United States via the 14th Amendment.
3. Citizens of all races, colors or previous condition of servitude have the right to vote via the 15th Amendment.
4. Congress has the power to levy taxes on income.
5. The manufacture, sale, transportation, importation to or exportation of intoxicating liquors from the United States is prohibited via the 18th Amendment.
6. Women have the right to vote via the 19th Amendment.
7. Forget the 18th Amendment. We changed our mind via the 21st Amendment.
8. No person can be elected president more than twice via the 22nd Amendment.
9. Included electors from the District of Columbia within the Electoral College when voting for president and vice president via the 23rd Amendment.
10. In any federal election, the right to vote shall not be denied due to non-payment of poll taxes or any other tax via the 24th Amendment.
11. Citizens 18 years or older have the right to vote via the 26th Amendment.
If there was no Article V of the Constitution, which describes the two ways that our governing document can be changed, then what we would currently have is slavery would still exist, only white male land-owners not living in D.C. who have paid all poll taxes and other taxes and who meet the age requirement set by their state’s legislature could vote in federal elections, Congress would have to find other sources of income other than levying tax on income, and we could have a president for life if we keep voting for him or her.
So just what principles exist within the Constitution that are timeless and do not change, Ms. Taylor?
By the way, I do agree with your statement that “the Supreme Court has mistakenly made decisions,” but not due to anti-constitutional values of society that you suggest.
Throughout the history of our nation, landmark decisions made by the Supreme Court have failed to protect our liberties from big business and big government.
We’ve all read about the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision in the 1850s, which prohibited any person of African descent, whether slave or free, to ever become a citizen of the United States.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 prohibited discrimination in access to hotels, trains and other public spaces. It was struck down by the Supreme Court that same year.
In the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case, the Supreme Court decision served as the legal foundation for “separate but equal.” It took 58 years for the court to overturn that idea in Brown vs. Board of Education.
In 1918 in Hammer vs. Dagenhart, the Supreme Court struck down the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916, which would have prohibited the interstate commerce of goods manufactured by children under the age of 14. This decision violated Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce via Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
In 1944 in Koramatsu vs. United States, the Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans, many of them U.S. citizens, thus violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
I could go on and on. A good read on this subject is “The Case Against the Supreme Court,” by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of law school at the University of California, Berkeley.
Through these and many other important cases, the Supreme Court has mistakenly made decisions, not based on the “reflection of the increasingly anti-constitutional values of society,” as suggested by Ms. Taylor, but in direct conflict with specific sections, articles and amendments that were in existence at the time these decisions were made.
I thank the framers of the Constitution not just for their original document but for their foresight in including Article V, which gives an ever-changing society the ability to adapt our governing document to meet our collective needs.
Thomas Dyer is a retired teacher of mathematics, having taught at Sierra College and Folsom Lake College for 27 years. He lives in Grass Valley.
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