Wild Ideas

Thank goodness that it is difficult to change the Constitution because the mood of the country at this time could lead to some un-American additions to our sacred and practical governing document. Over the last few years there have been some serious efforts to use the Constitution to make marriage illegal between individuals of the same sex, bring prayer back into public schools, mandate the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in science classes, and of course the regulars, stopping all abortions and balancing the federal budget.

But if you think that these constitutional amendment proposals are a bit out of sync, the history of constitutional change is filled with the bizarre, if not plain crazy proposals. In 1893 there was an amendment brought forth to rename the country The United States of Earth and one year later there was a change proposed to make God and Jesus Christ the supreme authorities in human affairs.

As a prelude to the anti-alcohol 18th amendment ( Prohibition), which was the first and only attempt to legislate moral behavior, in 1914 there was an amendment to make divorce illegal. Obviously, this was a pipe dream. Then after Prohibition was overturned and we went back to legal alcohol in 1933, the teetoadlers did not give up as they proposed in 1938 an amendment that would forbid drunkenness in the United States and its territories. If this amendment ever passed, the cops would have to arrest at any one time over 50% of the American population.

Thankfully, the founding fathers required that amending the Constitution would necessitate in most cases a two-thirds vote of both houses and a three-fourths vote of the state legislatures. As a result, there are only 27 changes to our constitution, some important like the Bill of Rights, the freeing of slaves and womens suffrage, but others adjustments to the governing process such as only two terms for Presidents, the direct election of senators and giving the citizens of the District of Columbia the right to vote. 

What the demanding amendment process has done over time is weed out the proposals that are clearly designed not to strengthen or improve the governing process in this country but rather to change the way people think, live and manage their personal affairs.  Unfortunately, we live in a time when there are too many Americans who think the Constitution is a document that is the best path to impose extreme ideas, religious ideas, wild ideas. Thankfully, the founding fathers had other ideas.


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