Tag: The Constitution

Shouldn't Senators understand the Constitution?

By Phil Plait | October 19, 2010 12:00 pm

OK, this should be pretty obvious: the first official act of someone who is elected Senator of these United States of America is to swear to uphold the Constitution. So it stands to reason that maybe, just maybe, the person doing the swearing should understand the Constitution. Right?


Yeah. Watch this:

OK, first off: I know that picking on Christine O’Donnell, Republican candidate for the Senate in Delaware, is like shooting fish in a barrel, but easier. However, the media is screwing this up: personally, I don’t care what she believed ten years ago in college. Everyone does stupid stuff in college. It’s college. I’m far more concerned with what she believes now. And she’s emblematic for the rest of the Tea Party as well.

There are a lot of things to note in this video. The first is that multiple times she ducks Wolf Blitzer’s question about whether or not she thinks evolution is a myth, saying that her beliefs about evolution and creationism aren’t important; what’s important are local schools and what they can teach. That is utter baloney. As a Senator, she might be asked to vote on bills that are directly or indirectly involved with this issue, and her personal belief is very important indeed.

And why duck the question? Is she ashamed of being a creationist, or simply trying to avoid looking foolish on television?
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Renew your freedom

By Phil Plait | July 4, 2010 7:00 am

Every year on this date, I take a few minutes and read The Declaration of Independence*. For my money, it’s one of the greatest documents ever written in the English language.

I know not all of my readers are Americans. Even if you’re not, the Declaration is a fantastic work and you should read it. And if you have the time — and you should make the time — read The Bill of Rights, too. You may not be from a country with the same laws we do, the same values we do, or the same attitudes we do, but the Founders of the United States of America had some pretty good ideas about what the citizens have the right to do, and what the government does not.

Living up to those ideas, those ideals, is what America is about. These freedoms are not given, they are earned, and must always be protected. Remember:

Happy 234th, America.

* I was not surprised at all to find out that Adam Savage has the same tradition.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics

Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws?

By Phil Plait | June 8, 2010 7:00 am

As we ramp up to the mid-term elections in November 2010 — sure to be just a warmup to the insanity that will be the Presidential election in 2012 — you can bet your bottom shekel that we’ll be hearing from a lot of "family values" politicians decrying our lack of morality. That’s de rigeur for any election, but every cycle it seems to get worse.

heston_10commandmentsA lot of these claim that the United States is either a Christian nation — a ridiculous and easily-disprovable notion — or that it was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (the "Judeo" part is a giveaway that these politicians are Leviticans: they seem to keep their noses buried more in the fiery wrath of the Old Testament than in the actually gentle, politically-correct teachings of Jesus… more on this later, promise). Specifically, they claim quite often that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments.

I was thinking about this recently. People seem to accept that our laws are based on the morals of the Old Testament laid out in the Commandments, but as a proper skeptic, I decided to take a look myself. Why not go over the Commandments, said I to myself, and compare them to our actual laws, as well as the Constitution, the legal document framed by the Founding Fathers, and upon which our laws are actually based?

So I did*.

For those of you not familiar with the Bible — which includes many politicians most willing to thump it, it seems — what follows is the relevant passage from Exodus 20 in the King James Version. I found it online at the University of Michigan’s Digital Library, which matches other online versions I found. Note: apparently, God said some other stuff interspersed among the Commandments, a sort of legal commentary to stress the aspects He felt important. I have highlighted the actual Commandments below.

Let’s take a look:

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Pray for the First Amendment

By Phil Plait | May 31, 2010 7:30 am

Via Hemant Mehta comes this story that could not have happened at a more appropriate time.

church_and_stateOne of the most basic principles of the United States, written out in the very first Amendment of the Bill of Rights, is that the government will neither endorse nor deny any specific religion, or interfere with anyone’s ability to worship or not.

This is pretty straightforward. You have the right to your religion, and I have the right to mine. You even have the right to not have a religion. But no matter what, you have the right to not have your religion interfered with.

Eric Workman, a (now-graduated) high school student in Greenwood, Indiana, understood this. That’s why, when his school administration decided to let the seniors vote on whether they wanted to have an official school-sanctioned prayer at graduation, he tried to get it stopped. He wound up having to take the case to the ACLU, and a judge ordered that no school-sanctioned prayer could be held at the ceremony.

There’s a lot to discuss here, but the most important things to remember during any of it are these:

1) Eric is correct, and

2) Eric is Christian.

That’s right, he’s not some baby-eating atheist waiting to escort the souls of the graduating class to Satan’s doorstep. He’s a Christian, but even in that extremely conservative area he understands that the Constitution, and our Founding Fathers, got it right.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Politics, Religion, Skepticism

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