Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fundamentals of Our Constitution

Yesterday Elder Oaks gave a speech that I would recommend reading.* 

My favorite part (in all seriousness): 

The principles I describe apply regardless of who holds the offices and regardless of party affiliation. Our loyalty is to the institution. If we oppose persons who hold particular offices or the policies they pursue, we are free to vote against them or work against their policies. But we should not carry our opposition to the point of opposing their offices, or we weaken the institution of constitutional government. 

Some of the things said by various persons in recent public discourse cause me to urge that we be more careful in the way we throw around the idea that something is unconstitutional. A constitution should not be used as a weapon to end debate. A public policy or a proposed law that is unwise is not necessarily unconstitutional. Even if it is a stupid proposal, it is not necessarily unconstitutional. A constitution gives the people and their elected leaders the opportunity to make many decisions that are unwise or even reckless. When that happens — when the government or one of its officials engages in some kind of action that we consider to be wrong — we should engage in vigorous public debate about it. But we should not use up a constitution by attempting to strike down every ill-conceived act of government or to discredit every unwise official. A constitution is the ultimate weapon, and we preserve that weapon best by using it sparingly and carefully. If we call some action unconstitutional, we should be prepared to explain what provision or principle of a constitution it violates. In this way, a constitution can be used to stimulate discussion and to seek unity.

My second-favorite part (I say, somewhat in jest): The part where Elder Oaks mentions -- and then slams -- the book I helped research and edit in law school.  Booyah!  (I wonder if he made it all the way to the end, where I have a credit?  That would be awesome.)

*(News coverage will most likely not cover the speech adequately, since I thought it focused heavily on judicial independence, respectful disagreement, and protection for minority group civil liberties ... but was apparently all about gay marriage.  Yay news media.)  (And there was an unpleasant reference to the long-ago lampooned Equal Rights Amendment, but I'm good at mentally editing out things I dislike.  It really helps me get by in life.)  (Still, it's interesting, you should read it.)  (Don't you like how waffly I can be on Saturday mornings?)

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