Tell state Senate to shut down a constitutional convention

Wisconsin may bring the country one step closer to a constitutional convention, which deeply distresses the Freedom From Religion Foundation. We need to tell the state Senate to oppose calls for bringing the nation within reach of an unprecedented threat to our republic.

Today, Nov. 7, the Wisconsin Senate plans to consider Assembly Joint Resolution 21, which proposes a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to ensure a balanced budget. FFRF is concerned that any call for a constitutional convention, even one supposedly limited in scope, would necessarily open up our Constitution to far-reaching amendments to eliminate any number of our cherished rights, including the separation of religion and government.

It’s best to leave our Constitution, the spine of American democracy, alone. Please reach out to your state senator now and tell him or her to oppose this reckless proposal.

(For more information, read this excellent editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal.)

CONTACT

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(Keep reading if you wish to learn more about the constitutional convention.)

BACKGROUND

There are two basic ways to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. First, two-thirds of each house of Congress can vote for the proposed amendments. This is the only way our Constitution has ever been amended. The other way, which has never been used, is for two-thirds of the state legislatures to call for a convention. Then that convention would propose amendments. In either case, the proposed amendments would require three-quarters of the states to ratify them to become part of the Constitution.

It is this second, unused method that Wisconsin is set to vote on.

Because it is untested, there is considerable debate and argument about how the process is governed. For instance, Wisconsin is set to vote on proposing an amendment for a balanced budget. But it is not clear that any constitutional convention would be so limited in the amendments it could propose. Such a convention could easily morph into a runaway convention imperiling the foundational document of the United States — today at 230 years the longest-lived constitution in the world. As Georgetown University law professor David Super has noted, “A constitutional convention is the last thing America needs.”

Once the convention is convened, it might be able to propose amendments dealing with the right to choose an abortion or the free exercise of religion. The current push to redefine religious freedom, which culminated in the Hobby Lobby decision, has been using legislation to do so. But if we open the Constitution to amendments, what’s to stop the Religious Right from removing the hallowed separation of state and church?

State legislatures will be the central players. Thirty-two state legislatures are Republican controlled. That means with two defections, perhaps from one of the seven states with Republican governors but Democratic legislatures, the Constitution could be changed.

Read more here