Months ago, when The Daily Triplicate published a story for the local Tea Party announcing that it had booked a Constitution seminar for Crescent City, I was curious to find out about the origins and principles of the National Center for Constitutional Studies that was presenting the seminar.
I was kind of wishing the Triplicate had been similarly curious, as it was printing a news article at the request of local initiators who, it appeared, had not received sufficient response to their own publicity. I propose to offer a little balance by way of information.
I found the NCCS home page and there were the chubby, pink jowls of Glenn ("God spoke to me") Beck!Turns out, he is the one who now peddles this course and all the other stuff featured at this site.Aha! So this seminar has his brand of "authenticity" for this interpretation of what the Constitution "really means." Glenn Beck-ons and the Tea Party now knows what to think.
I am sensitive to any threat to the present delicate but definite
existence in our Constitution of the separation of church and state, and
will not casually regard this seemingly innocent stress on the Glenn
Beck version of our government and Constitution.
It seems that when Beck went shopping for a religion a few years
back, he figuredthat he would choose, in his great wisdom, the one
brand he deems suitable for us all - and that was the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints - and that is the basis of this NCCS seminar
and to Beck and therefore, to the Tea Party, the last word on the
The NCCS was founded by Cleon Skousen (1913-2006). While a professor
at BYU, he began the constitution seminars, initially known as the
Freeman Institute.He was a politically active Mormon who, as a frequent
speaker for the John Birch Society, stood fast with it in its
contentions, e.g., that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist
agent and that fluoride in the water gives potential access for
governmental mind control.
At this site and elsewhere, Glen Beck pushes the related book "The
5000 Year Leap," also by Skousen. The promotional ad at the NCCS site
shows a list of the chapters and the principles that will be expanded
upon in each chapter. All of it is derived from a Christian/
Mormon perspective, which would effectively render the Constitution a
protector of only those who hold the same views.
Key words to pick up on - as they are fundamental to the purpose of
the book and the seminars - describe the Constitution and the governance
of man in society as derived from "Natural Law," which is, according to
Skousen and the Mormons, "derived from God." I note the national Tea
Party specifically uses this definition of Natural Law as the basis for
their Constitution philosophy on its web page of "Mission Statement and
Natural Law, as defined by the NCCS, focuses and interprets the
Constitution - and governing man in general - through the lens of
(Mormon/Christian) morality, a concept initially formulated and
expressed by Thomas Aquinas.
This would effectively dictate how each of us should live and should
think in our society - in the narrowest moralistic terms - and render
our First Amendment null and void. It has even been suggested that
Thomas Jefferson, according to the current conservative Christian
mindset, would be demoted as a foremost founding father for his
reference to the need of a "wall of separation" between church and
Note that this "Natural Law" is not to be confused with the term as
used by American law schools, as I found the term defined at Cornell
andStanford law school sites. There the concept is applied to the
Constitution and U.S. law as to the governing of human beings based
on"the nature of human beings" and, simply put, uses an ethical base,
i.e., a universal overview, to promote the freedom of the individual to
conduct himself in society in his "pursuit of happiness" without
restraint nor harm from other individuals to his person and property and
likewise, inflicting no such restraint nor harm on others.
I am not quibbling over a small detail here. The distinction between a
Constitution viewed through the narrow moral perspective of a religious
sect as opposed to the more universal ethically based standard as
applied to the functioning of all persons, no matter their religious
views, is a vital matter. That Glenn Beck has decided what religion we
are to apply to the functioning of our Constitution is absurd. That his
congregation unquestioningly swallows this entirely is thoroughly
After all these years, we still have many who claim that, since the
majority of our population is Christian, those tenets and symbols should
prevail throughout our government. The Tea Party should come to realize
that its claims of "too much government" would also preclude its slant
on the Constitution. It has not understood the important distinction
between a religion's morality-based government and one that is ethically
We should not mindlessly sign on to a Constitution twisted to fit
whatever religion/moral code is currently in the majority. It leads only
to the abuse of the rights of all who differ. I maintain that our
freedoms are best protected by those ethical values that recognize that
an individual should be free to do and believe as he will until and
unless he infringes on that ability of any other individual to do the
Celebrate the right to your own religious belief, but keep it to
yourself where it properly belongs, thank you.
Sybil Saxelby is a Smith River resident.