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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
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
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
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,