Guest Column: Constitution is the law of the land

Kudos to Chandler Lasch for taking on an internship at a local newspaper.  I hope she learns and benefits much from the experience.

I would like to express my disagreement with several points in her editorial “Celebrate American Values,” Sun Newspapers, Thursday, July 13, 2017.  The overriding issue is that she appears to be conflating the Declaration of Independence with the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.  The Declaration is the document that declared our freedom from British rule.   This document references a “Creator” and specifically “Nature’s God” as a source of our rights.  This was a common way of referring to God by many during the enlightenment period—God as a force that set the universe and natural laws in motion as opposed to the personal, Abrahamic or biblical God most think of.

That said, the Constitution is the law of the land and makes zero references to any god except when it conveys the clear message that we are not a theocratic society or government.  It clearly states there can be no religious test for public office and enshrines in the First Amendment what Thomas Jefferson described as “separation of church and state.”  The source of the power of our laws comes in the first three words of the Constitution – We the People.

Everything that follows in Ms. Lasch’s editorial should be looked at through the prism of the Constitution—not the Declaration—as many of his points have to do with the interpretation of that document. She references the case of the religious baker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.  This is a case where one person’s liberty is another person’s perceived infringement on their rights, liberties and pursuit of “happiness.” It is a nuanced case that is going before the Supreme Court this fall because it has to do with the First Amendment – not the Declaration.  It is certainly not yet a given that the baker can withhold services from certain classes of people.

She also references the free speech issue at U.C. Berkeley where a small sub-group engaged in violence.  This is also a First Amendment issue and that amendment does not allow for or protect violence as part of free speech.   While the Declaration notes the value of liberty, the Constitution balances our liberties with our rights under the law of the land.

Ms. Lasch goes off on a tangent with her discussion of “In God We Trust.” Again – the founders referenced Nature’s God or a Creator in the Declaration, but ultimately defer to the people and government as enshrined in the Constitution as the final arbiter.  Tying in a discussion about the economics of raising the minimum wage with God was a non sequitur.  There are good economic arguments on both sides, but to link the decision on wages to whether or not we can find a pronouncement from God is a bit absurd and runs totally counter to our non-theocratic constitution.

Finally, while I heartily agree with Ms. Lasch about the value of E Pluribus Unum, I scratched my head at her aside about promoting the interests of one group over another and giving as an example “women over men.”  Huh?  I would have loved an example! She closes by saying we must remember our rights come from God and so we must come together as one.  Those statements are contradictory as not all believe in the same God (including some of our founders) or believe in a god at all!  It doesn’t matter if the majority of the country does believe in the God of the Bible—the First Amendment protects the rights of the minority from the majority.

I do wish Ms. Lasch much success and hope she thinks about my comments whether she ends up agreeing or not.

Cathy Goldberg is a Seal Beach resident.