Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Monument to constitution should honor document

Letter written January 4, 2010 to Allegany County Commissioners. Published January 10 in Cumberland Times-News.

Dear Sirs:

Thank you for (assistant county attorney) Barry Lavine’s prompt response to my December 21 letter to you. I appreciate the chance to see the proposed Constitution monument inscription in full, and to read Mr. Lavine’s rationale for its acceptance.

Sadly, Mr. Lavine overlooks the obvious: “The meaning conveyed by a monument is generally not a simple one like ‘Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner,’” writes Justice Samuel Alito in the unanimous Supreme Court decision in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum (February 25, 2009).

The proposed inscription, innocuous as it may seem to Mr. Lavine (and it contains two typos in the Preamble), is a commentary, a viewpoint, an interpretation by one group that has a right, under the Constitution, to take a slant on that document. However, as ruled by the Supreme Court, one group does not have the right to present their slant, as a foregone conclusion for everyone, on a public monument.

Our society’s Judeo-Christian grounding is the philosophical “backbone of our country.” God endows the rights and dignities ensured by the Constitution. The Constitution generated from our forefathers’ gratitude for God’s graces, to establish a framework to order our society toward a balance that keeps the people free from tyranny.

A monument is a sort of fine art object, intended to inspire us and bring us to pause and reflect, in a personal or communal way, on matters of individual or social significance. A monument to the Constitution, then, should lift viewers’ minds and hearts to ponder the document’s significance, not draw us into one viewpoint.

Therefore, I urge you to reconsider the inscription for a monument to the Constitution. I ask you to choose one that presents facts about the document’s genesis, rather than a viewpoint, along with the Preamble:

The United States Constitution

“We the People of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Drafted by Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, the United States Constitution joined thirteen states under one government and established a framework for the nation’s growth and stability.

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, after a summer of study and debate in a convention presided by General George Washington, and eleven years after the Revolution won under General Washington’s leadership, fifty-five delegates signed the United States Constitution.

“Having conducted these states to independence and peace,
he now appears to assist in framing a Government to make the People happy.”
-- William Pierce of Georgia, about General George Washington,
from Character Sketches of Delegates to the Federal Convention

A committee is in place to review proposals. The board of commissioners has final say on how such a project should take form. Please consider my proposal.

I hope this note finds you well and in agreement, that such an important project as a monument to the Constitution on the courthouse lawn deserves great deliberation.

Thank you for your consideration.


Nancy E. Thoerig