Activists on both the ends of the political spectrum are calling for an Article V Convention of the States, which is established by the Constitution as a way to propose amendments to the founding document.
But that’s about as far as the agreement goes.
Conservatives supporting the idea argue new constitutional amendments are necessary to rein in federal power. And progressives who support the convention say it’s because the U.S. Constitution is outdated and needs revising.
One issue raised by conservative groups is how the results of a convention would impact religious freedom.
New Hampshire State Rep. Dan Itse, author of “States Have Rights,” a book on the constitutional power delegated to the states, says religious freedom could be impacted, depending on which amendments come from the convention.
“I do not see a great threat in this arena. Remember, the convention doesn’t amend the Constitution; it recommends amendments to be sent to the states for further debate where the people can lobby directly,” Itse said.
While not weighing in on the merits of the convention itself, American Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Jordan Sekulow believes religious liberty is adequately protected by the present Constitution.
“The wisdom of our Founding Fathers is still very apparent today. The U.S. Constitution clearly protects the religious freedom of our citizens. In this country, we are free to believe and worship as we chose. In our view, there’s no reason to amend the Constitution,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow believes vigilance on the part of the people is what will continue to make the existing Constitution work.
“We must remain vigilant and use the legislative and legal opportunities that are in place to continue to ensure that religious freedom is protected. That has been the cornerstone of our work for nearly one quarter of a century, and we remain dedicated to safeguarding these precious freedoms in the years ahead,” Sekulow said.
Former Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler started the group called Convention of the States to advocate for an Article V Convention. Contacted about the convention and its impact on religious liberty, Meckler referred WND to his group’s website, which says the convention is safe and current liberties will be protected.
“The ratification process ensures no amendments will be passed that do not reflect the desires of the American people. In addition to this, there are numerous other safeguards against a runaway convention,” it explains.
A constitutional scholar and attorney for a public interest and religious liberty law group who asked not to be named said religious freedom is being well-preserved under the present constitution.
“We are currently still winning over 99 percent of our cases on religious freedom, but if we have a few bad changes on the Supreme Court, I doubt it would matter what laws we pass. I am praying that will not happen, and working to win all we can for religious freedom in the meantime,” the attorney said.
The attorney says a convention isn’t likely to happen and contends the makeup of the Supreme Court should be the major focus.
“People believe strongly on both sides, and they are good people. In my opinion, it will never happen, and would not result in any change until we change the people on the court and the people we are electing,” the attorney said.
Religious liberty advocates have expressed concern because left-leaning political activists such as billionaire George Soros are pushing for an Article V Convention.
WND reported in 2011 at least three Obama administration advisers and officials, including regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, want a “progressive constitution” by the year 2020.
The Soros-backed Wolf PAC is pushing for a convention, claiming the goal is to take big money out of politics.
However, they’re not the only progressive organization pushing for a constitutional convention. Among the other organizations with progressive leanings that advocate a convention are Alliance for Democracy, Center for Media and Democracy, Code Pink, Independent Progressive Politics Network, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club and Vermont for Single Payer.
Itse says the results from the June Indiana convention organizational meeting show the Soros faction has little support.
“I think the Indiana meeting speaks to this. The meeting voted unanimously that each state would have one vote, however they might arrive at that vote. This means that those meeting to plan a convention are considerably more republican than democratic (principle not party).
“Right now while the population is evenly split conservative/libertarian versus progressive, the majority of the states are conservative/libertarian. The result of the Indiana meeting shows that George Soros and his Wolf PAC have little if any influence in the Convention of the States movement. That movement seems instead to be dominated by the state sovereignty movement,” Itse said.
Hal Shurtleff, director of the group Choose Freedom: Stop a Con-Con, says the Indiana meeting is no guarantee.
“On the Indiana event, all rules and agreements that are made prior to a convention can be changed once a convention meets. Congress may try to control it as well, but it would be impossible to enforce as Robert Bork believed,” Shurtleff said.
While not advocating for or against a convention, Itse says the concept of the convention itself is part of the problem.
“My greatest concern is that these are contemporary amendments and would be hard to push off as the dusty work of old, angry, white men. Probably a greater issue is the ability of a convention to address our most immediately threatening problems,” Itse said.
Missing the biggest problems
Itse says the proposed amendments that could emerge from a convention might cover the major legal or constitutional issues, but they wouldn’t address the country’s biggest problems.
Deficit spending and unfunded liabilities, he said, “pose a clear and present danger of economic collapse.”
Itse also said calls for a convention aren’t cohesive and coherent.
“We have yet to make cohesive calls for a convention. How long will it take to: make the call, schedule the convention and seat delegates, debate and approve (or not) the amendments, send the proposed amendments out to the states. Then any proposed amendments need three quarters of the states to approve them. Then there is the issue of states scheduling state conventions and electing delegates,” Itse said.
Itse said that regardless of assurances to the contrary, Congress will have to be involved in the convention rule-setting process.
“Congress will have to craft and approve laws pursuant to those amendments. Remember the Constitution does not actually cause action but limits or prescribes what those actions should be,” Itse said.
Itse also argued the process would take six to 12 years.
“I think the economic crisis is much nearer than that,” Itse said.
Darrell Castle, the 2012 Constitution Party vice presidential nominee, says his group opposes a convention because the Constitution itself is not the major issue.
“The official position of the Constitution Party is that we are against the Convention of the States. I’m personally adamantly opposed to it, because if the government is acting outside the law, what would make anyone think the government would abide by any new amendments?” Castle asked..
He said he’s also wary of a convention because of the zealous support from the left, which is “waiting for the opportunity to change the Constitution.”