Guest opinion: A dangerous movement to change our United States Constitution

By Deseret News Feb 20, 2019, 10:00am MST

Gayle Ruzicka, For the Deseret News

Can you imagine the USA without its inspired Constitution? What if we had 50 Supreme Court justices? What if the states could call themselves into a constitutional convention whenever they wanted, creating a third national governing body dominated by New York, California and the large states?

Article V of the Constitution says that when two-thirds of state legislatures apply to Congress, that Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution. A resolution, SJR9, calling for a convention, has been introduced in the Utah Legislature.

This bill will allow unlimited amendments to be passed at the convention and is of grave concern because it is incredibly broad and vague. It could leave the Constitution open to a complete rewrite.

The Convention of States, or COS, is an organization whose sole purpose is to convince state legislatures to pass their model legislation. The group has proposed over 20 amendments, which by their own words is intentionally vague. Organization attorney Robert Kelly said, “our application is fairly broad … it opens up all the articles, that’s true!”

He said Article V needs to be amended, “so that states don’t have to go through this convoluted process in the future so that if three-quarters of the states agree in advance, they could propose amendments to the constitution.” This change to Article V would completely eliminate Congress from the process and change the intent of the founders who intentionally made the amendment process very difficult.

Michael Farris, the founder of Convention of States said, “I would propose reconfiguring the Supreme Court after the model of the European Court of Human Rights. There are 46 nations in the court’s jurisdiction, and every nation appoints one judge. We should expand the Supreme Court to 50 justices and have the states appoint the justices for a specific term (six to eight years) with no right of reappointment”.

The convention could bring up a broad range of subjects: from election law to energy policy, education and health care. What about religious freedom, marriage equality, gender identity or the Equal Rights Amendment? Conservatives, liberals, Libertarians, Republicans and Democrats will each have long lists of amendments. The list would be endless. How is that not a rewrite of the Constitution? In 228 years since the Bill of Rights, there have only been 17 amendments. They could pass three times that many amendments in just one convention. The convention will last weeks, maybe months. Who is going to pay the millions of dollars necessary for this convention?

Justice Antonin Scalia said, “I certainly wouldn’t want a Constitutional Convention. Who knows what would come out of it?”

Sen. Mike Lee said, “I don’t look upon today’s leaders in the same way that I look upon George Washington and James Madison. … I don’t think we are there yet.”

Gov. Gary Herbert said, “I am against an Article V Convention. I am not convinced that a runaway convention is impossible.”

Because Congress calls the convention, it will decide where, when and the number of delegates from each state. Will the large states have the majority of delegates? Will small states like Utah even have a voice?

Everyone agrees that Congress doesn’t obey the Constitution. Why will Congress obey a new Constitution? The Constitution is not the problem. The problem is that our elected representatives don’t follow it, and we don’t hold them accountable. Benjamin Franklin warned us that when the founders gave us a republic, it was our responsibility to preserve it, meaning we are responsible for replacing our representatives when they violate our trust. There is no quick fix.