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Convention of States – fear versus faith

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Jessica Russell. Click here to read the full piece.

Numerous American citizens who were once engaged in politics have walked away because they believe the federal government is broken beyond repair. This assumption is correct, and yet they ignore the fact that our own Constitution offers a way to rein in tyrannical leaders. Robert (Bob) Menges–South Carolina State Director for the Convention of States project and Constitution consultant and expert–is attempting to eliminate the fear that stops people from embracing this tool.

A Gift From the Founding Fathers

It is always sad when solutions are readily available, but not embraced because of fear or ignorance. The reality is, we have access to a solution designed by a group of extraordinarily intelligent men–otherwise known as the Founding Fathers: Article V can be used to stop the abuse of federal power, but unfortunately, it is gathering dust in a corner as the Framers turn in their graves. Why? Because of that arch enemy of every great and noble person or cause–fear. Recently, I had the pleasure of an interview with Bob Menges, who has tirelessly taken up this campaign.

The Stranglehold of Fear

Faith is of God, fear is of the Devil. We the People have recourse against an overreaching federal government that is top heavy, out of control, oppressive, intoxicated with their own power and no longer operating within the guidelines of the Constitution. Yet the recourse– which is calling a Convention of States–COS–is ignored and indeed when it is mentioned, certain individuals immediately put their fingers in their mouths and begin to babble “but what if, what if, what if?” As my husband often said during his years as a pastor, “'what if' is the badge of doubt.”

Imagine if our Founding Fathers went down the “what if?” road when it came time to sign that document of treason called the Declaration of Independence?

Article V of the United States Constitution

To understand the viewpoint of both fear mongers and those operating in faith and courage, you must first understand Article V of the United States Constitution, which details the process through which the Constitution may be amended. To do so, an amendment must be proposed, and subsequently ratified. Amendments may be adopted and forwarded to the states for ratification by either a national convention or a supermajority vote in Congress. With the former, a minimum of 34 states legislatures–two thirds of the states–must request the convention for a specific topic. With the latter, both chambers of Congress must agree through a supermajority vote–two thirds in each chamber–to propose an amendment. When either of these two actions are taken, the amendment must then be ratified by three fourths–38–of the states to become a permanent part of the United States Constitution.

To date there have been 33 amendments to the Constitution sent to the states and 27 were ratified. The first 10 make up the Bill of Rights. Congress initiated all 33 amendments. We the People have yet to use this powerful tool.

Difficult by Design

Amending the Constitution via the United States Congress or via a Convention of States is difficult by design. The Founding Fathers knew that if it were easy, it may be used one day for the wrong motive. With the COS process, 34 states must apply for the United States Congress to call an amending convention. All 34 must apply under the same subject matter, which means in simplified terms that there must be a specific focus for the Convention, not a jumble of different proposals from each state–something feared by those who have never listened with an open mind to the process. Once 34 states have applied, Congress must call the Convention.

The power to refuse was taken out of their hands. (see

Any proposed amendments resulting from the COS must be sent to each state for ratification. It takes 38 states to ratify any proposed amendment before it can become part of the Constitution, and only 13 states to stop a proposed amendment.

Two Arguments–One Based on Fact and One on Fear

When fear mongers are asked to explain their viewpoint, their answers are anemic. They revert to “ooh..oooh....a runaway convention,” the latter of which is a term used to describe a COS that essentially runs out of control and proposes amendments that have nothing to do with the subject matter for which it was called. However, when asked for facts, the fearful are at an utter loss–interestingly, they also offer no alternative of their own. They completely ignore the many firewalls built into Article V to prevent a runaway convention, the latter of which is an occurrence Bob Menges calls “just north of impossible.” One such firewall is subject matter limitations.

Fear: The COS will end up being a free-for-all on a variety of subjects that have nothing to do with why it was called.

Fact: The argument that Article V leaves the Convention process open to anything is right up there with fear of the Boogieman. More than 400 applications for a convention have been submitted throughout America's history and a COS has never been called. This is because the subject matter was never agreed upon. If the firewall of subject matter limitations was irrelevant, multiple conventions would have been called by now.

According to Menges, another entirely unfounded fear that makes people scared of a COS is actually based on the biggest historical lie ever perpetrated on the American public:

Fear: a runaway convention occurred in 1787–and therefore could happen again.

Fact: 1787 was not a runaway convention. The idea that the 1787 Philadelphia Convention was called merely for the purpose of making minor amendments–and then subsequently ran out of control–is simply not true. This is proven beyond a doubt by Madison's statements in a document called the Federalist 40. In Philadelphia in 1787, the charge given to the Convention by Madison was “In the opinion of Congress it is expedient, that on the second Monday of May next a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several States, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the States, render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”

What this last part means in modern English is that because the Union was in a state of emergency and coming apart at the seams, Madison told attendees of the convention to do whatever necessary to render it once again adequate. For this reason, they were obviously not commissioned to merely make “minor changes,” as many have been lead to believe. The Convention of 1787 had an extraordinarily broad mandate from Congress. (read Madison's charge in the Federalist 40 to forever settle this debate.)

Fear: rogue groups may call a COS to propose outlandish amendments that would be harmful to the country.

Fact: another firewall in Articles V is that 38 states must ratify any proposed amendment. Fear mongers must ask themselves what are the chances of 38 state legislatures approving a rogue amendment? But let's go back into the dark and fearful world of “what if” for just a moment. What if it did happen?”

Fact: It only takes 13 states to vote “no” to defeat any proposed amendment. Therefore, as an example, if 38 states lost their collective mind and voted to impose Sharia law nationwide or something equally as absurd, it would only take 13 states to shut it down. Do you think at least 13 states would protest Sharia law? Here, we have yet another firewall against a runaway convention.

This is where the fear peddlers' argument completely unravels.

Additionally, if this process could be used effectively for an evil purpose, we have to admit our out-of-control government would have used it to that end by now. Remember, Congress can propose amendments too, so why haven't they proposed to confiscate the firearms they have unsuccessfully attempted to grab through gun control legislation? Because they know 38 states would not ratify a rogue amendment such as that and if they know it, so should we. Let's not be exposed for being less intelligent than the Congress we all despise.

The positive aspects of calling for a Convention of States are backed by sound, solid facts. Where are the facts of those who choose instead to live in fear? (Other than the runaway convention in 1787 that never took place?) According to Menges, it is either ignorance or intentional deception of the part of those who oppose a COS. A certain group recently refused to let Menges even give his presentation. Yikes! I always thought that was a liberal thing: "you will hear and see only what we deem best for you."

Amending the Constitution is bad, really?

Those arguing against a COS often chant “defend it, don't amend it.” That rhymes, but that's about it. What about the 13th and 19th amendments–you know, those inconsequential amendments that abolished slavery and gave women the right to vote. Were those amendments a bad thing? See how fear distorts and destroys?