HB1194-Who Would Oppose Teaching the Constitution?

By Monte Benham

February 10, 2003

Some teachers claim it is not necessary to require them to "teach the relationship of the Declaration of Independence to the Washington State Constitution" because they already teach civics.

However, schools are not teaching that the Declaration of Independence and the Washington State Constitution explain: "Our rights are free gifts from God and that the purpose of Government is to protect those rights."

The preamble to the Washington State Constitution states: "We the people of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this constitution. Article I, sec. 1 states that "All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights." This principle is taken from the Declaration of Independence.

Washington State law (RCW 28A230.170) states: "The study of the Constitutions of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Washington shall be a condition prerequisite to graduation from the public and private high schools of this state."

Note, the law uses the words "the study of the Constitutions." The courts have determined that "any study constitutes study" so they leave it to the teacher to do the right thing. Unfortunately, most teachers have never been exposed to the state constitution. So it's necessary to define the word "study" with HB 1194. The text of HB 1194 can be read here.

Teachers and elected officials are required to swear an oath "to support the Constitution of the State of Washington." MOST of them have never seen a copy of the State Constitution. (Have you?) There are no student copies of the state constitution in our schools. Were you taught "our rights are free gifts from God and that the purpose of government is to protect those rights?"

Some teachers use the excuse that teaching the preamble to the State Constitution would violate "the wall of separation between church and state." This is not a religion or separation of church and state issue. The issue addressed in HB 1194 is teaching the substance and meaning of liberties provided by the United States Constitution and State of Washington Constitution as outlined by the Declaration of Independence.

Freedom requires maintenance! It is the duty of the Legislature to pass HB 1194.

Article I, sec 32 of the Washington State Constitution states: "A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual right and perpetuity of free government."

Washington State can lead the nation by passing HB 1194. The Legislature's decision to pass this bill will do more for education and our society than any other bill on the legislative agenda.

ACTION ITEM 1: Call the Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000) and tell your state legislators and senator that you support the "Constitution Bill," HB 1194. Tell them you want to know whether they will support the Constitution Bill in the 2003 Legislature. Please e-mail me at RmonteB@aol.com and let me know if your legislator will support or oppose the bill, or is undecided. If it's easier for you, just forward to me the e-mails you receive from your legislators.

ACTION ITEM 2: E-mail the members of the House Education committee. The committee is composed of 6 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Please be respectful, concise, and informative. Tell him or her in a paragraph or two who you are (parent/grandparent, educator, taxpayer) and why you support teaching the relationship of the Declaration of Independence to the Federal and State Constitutions. Include your full name, home address and phone number at the end of your e-mail. Here are the members of the House Education Committee for 2003:

Rep Dave Quall (D-40) (Chair) quall_da@leg.wa.gov

Rep Joe McDermott (D-34) (Vice Chair) mcdermot_jo@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Gigi Talcott (R-33)(Ranking Member) talcott_gi@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Rodney Tom (R-48) (Asst. Ranking Member) tom_ro@leg.wa.gov

Rep Glenn Anderson (R-5) anderson_gl@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Don Cox (R-9) cox_do@leg.wa.gov

Rep Kathy Haigh (D-35) haigh_ka@leg.wa.gov

Rep Ross Hunter (D-48) hunter_ro@leg.wa.gov

Rep Lois McMahan (R-26) mcmahan_lo@leg.wa.gov

Rep Phil Rockerfeller (D-23) rockefel_ph@leg.wa.gov

Rep Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37) santos_sh@leg.wa.gov



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