“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Yup, it's the very first line of the American Declaration of Independence. And, yes, we know that the Declaration is not part of the Constitution. Sheesh. Give us a break - it's still pretty important. In fact, it's so important that we wonder: just what are these "Laws of Nature" and who is this “Nature’s God?” Jesus? Vishnu? Zeus? Or perhaps someone else? Author Matthew Stewart digs deep into history and philosophy and shares his findings with us in his new book, "Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic."
Mitt Romney thinks so, and the Supreme Court agrees with him, at least in some circumstances.
But others disagree. And they want to definitively reject "corporate personhood" by amending our Constitution. We'll speak with one of them, Jeff Clements, the author of a book entitled, appropriately enough, "Corporations are Not People."
States have constitutions, too. And sometimes those constitutions are amended.
For example, Tennessee voters will go to the polls on November 4, 2014, to determine the fate of four proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution. We don't have time to discuss all four, so we've picked one that might otherwise be overlooked: Amendment 2, which will, if approved, change the way that Tennessee appellate judges are selected.
For the proponents: Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.
For the opponents: Political columnist Frank Daniels of The Tennessean.
Let the constitutional debate begin!
Citizens United is perhaps the most-criticized Supreme Court decision in recent memory. But what's all the fuss about?
We'll speak with two leading critics of Citizens United, John Bonifaz and Ron Fein of Free Speech for People, who began their efforts to overturn the decision on the very day it was announced.
Please note: this episode was originally broadcast as part of the WETS fall fundraiser in 2014, so you'll hear a reference or two to donations. The episode is also a bit shorter than most, since several fundraising announcements have been removed from the podcast version. But never fear: you can always donate at www.wets.org.
Affirmative action, in various forms, has been around for decades. In a number of famous cases, from Bakke in 1978 to Grutter in 2003, the Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of affirmative action in higher education admissions programs, within limits.
But does the Supreme Court's approval of affirmative action mean that a state must keep such programs in place?
That was the issue in the 2014 Supreme Court case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. One of Stewart's students at the University of Tennessee has recently written about the Schuette case. The student's name is Russ Swafford, and his "case note" is so good that it will soon be published in the Tennessee Law Review.
Please join us for a fascinating discussion about this controversial area of constitutional law.
Of the many constitutional issues we've followed over the past several years, two stand out as the most dynamic: gay marriage and marijuana legalization. We can hardly keep up with the many changes to the laws and attitudes surrounding them.
But we keep trying. And here's our latest effort, courtesy of Howard "Cowboy" Wooldridge of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and COP, Citizens Opposed to Prohibition.
How do we know so much about James Madison? Telepathy? Osmosis?
Actually, our knowledge about the Father of the Constitution is the product of hard work - hard work done by a number of dedicated Madison scholars, men and women who take the time to read Madison's papers, unearth his artifacts and tell his story. One of the most important of these hard-working scholars is Ralph Ketcham, who wrote the definitive one-volume biography of Madison over forty years ago, in 1971.
That's why Stewart was so thrilled to meet Ralph at Montpelier during a recent visit. The two of them sat down for a long talk in the Constitutional Village, and Stewart turned on his microphone.
When Stewart made a reservation at the historic Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, he didn't fully appreciate just how historic the hotel is. It turns out that the Irish Constitution was drafted there, and he heard all about the process from the hotel’s unofficial historian, Denis O’Brien.
Benjamin Franklin has been called the first American. We might also call him the last American Englishman, because he was one of the last of our Founders to abandon his hope that, somehow, America and England could patch up their differences and avoid armed conflict. Indeed, our Founding Grandfather spent sixteen years in London just prior to the American Revolution, trying to keep the American colonies British.
Stewart recently travelled to London, where he visited the house where Franklin lived, near Trafalgar Square. He spoke with the staff at what is now called the Benjamin Franklin House, who told him the whole story. They even played a musical instrument that Franklin invented while he was there, the Glass Armonica.
In 1940, one constitutional democracy stood alone against the onslaught of Nazi aggression. And one man led that nation, alone, for the next year, until, "in God's good time," the New World came to the aid of the Old.
That nation was the United Kingdom, and that leader was Winston Spencer Churchill. Stewart recently visited Churchill’s home, Chartwell, in the South of England, and spoke to a number of knowledgeable and helpful volunteers there. Now he wants to share that visit with you.