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Home / News and Information / News - September 2005 / BPC professors present forum on U.S. Constitution

BPC professors present forum on U.S. Constitution

By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations

An examination of the U.S. Constitution was presented Thursday, Sept. 22, by three professors in Brewton-Parker College’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Division in the Terry Parker Building.

“Taking the Constitution Seriously: A Forum on American Constitutionalism” celebrated the drafting of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 and was attended by Brewton-Parker students, faculty and staff.

Dr. H. Lee Cheek Jr., division chair and political science and philosophy professor, led a session on the lessons, goals and limits of the Constitution.

Dr. Sid Johnson, political science professor and vice president emeritus, directed a session on constitutional models. Dr. Bill Faw, psychology professor, led a comparison of the newly drafted Iraqi Constitution to the long-standing American version.

Cheek presented the Constitution as representing the American experience, that its goals are to build a more perfect union and serve as fundamental law. He said the U.S. Constitution is considered one of the greatest examples, with its effort to impose order and fill a vacuum, and that its framers assumed a “virtuous citizenry” when they drafted it.

In presenting the goals of the Constitution, Cheek noted its stability and continuity in governing a country for more than 200 years, along with its efforts to restrain government by establishing permanent arrangements of public officials and others to represent the people and holds those public officials accountable.

Cheek said the Constitution’s limits should only be first principles, that they should not cover everything, and noted two states’ constitutions that are rather lengthy and thus could be deemed less effective. He also said the Constitution should not conflict with the “invisible constitution” of values and should be able to be easily changed or amended, which it has 27 times over the years.

Dr. H. Lee Cheek Jr. (standing), Social and Behavioral Sciences Division chair and political science and philosophy professor at Brewton-Parker College, leads a session on the lessons, goals and limits of the U.S. Constitution during “Taking the Constitution Seriously: A Forum on American Constitutionalism” on Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Terry Parker Building on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon. (BPC Photo by Amber Swartzlander)

Johnson began his session by remarking that Article II of the Constitution, that dealing with the role of the presidency, was modeled with George Washington in mind to become the first president.

Johnson also presented the separation of powers among the president, representatives, senators and Supreme Court justices, and the varying terms each serve. Concerning the justices’ unlimited terms based on “good behavior,” Johnson quoted The Federalist: “The justices have the least opportunity to do bad.”

Johnson also spoke on the checks and balances provided for in the Constitution among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, using as an example the president’s power to appoint officials – for example, the timely issue of Supreme Court justices – while Congress must approve the president’s choices. “Chips of power are taken from one and given to the others,” he said.

Johnson also spoke on the creating of the Preamble by what was known as the Committee on Style. “Everything that is good, noble, progressive and positive has served at least one of those six objectives,” he said, then, as segue to Faw’s Iraq-U.S. presentation, he called the Preamble “The mother of all mission statements.”

Faw noted that Iraq’s preamble was rather lengthy and based largely on the area’s link to history. Generally speaking, Faw also noted that the Iraqi constitution provides for a weaker executive branch and a stronger parliamentary format, which he said may be appropriate following the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Faw then began his comparison with the free exercise clause of religion, noting that the U.S. Constitution’s is contained in the First Amendment but Iraq’s, in which “followers of every religion and sect are free,” does not appear until Article 40.

Faw also presented a comparison of an establishment clause of religion. The U.S. Constitution contains no such establishment, although Faw said five states’ constitutions beforehand had such provisions.

Iraq’s document clearly states that Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation, and that the law cannot contradict the rules of Islam. However, neither can it contradict the principles of democracy or the rights of basic freedoms.

Faw examined Iraq’s provisions for its Supreme Court, which will be composed of “a number” of judges and experts in Sharia (Islamic Law) and law, while America’s justices are, in reverting to Johnson’s statement, are rewarded for good behavior.

Faw compared the methods for representation, noting the U.S. Senate has two representatives from each state while the House of Representatives’ membership is based on population. Iraq’s Constitution allows for the merging of provinces into regions, which Faw said could ultimately lead to national division because of the different sentiments among the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.

“The American Constitution is not an example of immediate success, since we have amended it 27 times in over 200 years,” Cheek said. “So it may take the Iraqis time to get their Constitution in order.”

At the forum’s conclusion, Johnson again quoted from The Federalist: “This instrument is not perfect but may be the best we can do. But we have the opportunity to determine what the affairs of men will be determined by accident or reflections of men.” Ultimately, the latter option resulted in the Constitution, he added.


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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
Updated on: April 15, 2010 8:26 PM