News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

James L. Evans

Why not rewrite constitution?

The Alabama Senate is considering a bill that would allow voters to decide for themselves whether to convene a constitutional convention.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, does not propose the contents of a new constitution, only whether a convention is called to rewrite it.

While it would seem that allowing voters to make such a decision is a fairly basic democratic exercise, when the Senate began holding public hearings on the issue, you would have thought they were proposing an overthrow of the government.

The usual suspects showed up with their usual fear-mongering nonsense.

According to opponents of the bill, a re-write of the constitution would most certainly lead to higher taxes.

Tax increases have become the latest incarnation of the boogeyman.

Seat of power

These opponents also harped that a rewrite of the constitution will place too much power in the hands of the state Legislature.

Of course, that's sort of the problem now, isn't it?

The way our present constitution functions, everything, even local matters, must pass through Montgomery.

That's why we occasionally have a statewide referendum so residents of some county somewhere in the state can pluck chickens on Sunday.

The fear mongers also say that our present constitution is fine, that amending it 700 times is a good thing — it gives power to the people.

To the people

But Little's bill really does give power to the people.

The passage of this bill would allow citizens to say plainly whether the time has come to re-write our state constitution.

I admit having trouble understanding why there is opposition to allowing the people to have the final say.

Remember, this is not a vote on a final draft of the constitution; it's an effort to find if voters want it re-written.

Invoking boogeymen

For some reason, opponents of a constitutional rewrite want to keep this issue out of the hands of the people.

And I'm not sure why. Even if the bill passes, opponents can still do all the fear-mongering they want. It may cost more money to monger fear during a referendum, what with the cost of advertising.

But that shouldn't be a factor.

They have plenty of money to invoke all the boogeymen necessary to scare folks.

Afraid of the people

Of course, I am beginning to wonder if opponents of rewriting the state constitution are not a little afraid themselves — afraid to let the people choose on our own what to do.

Those who profit from our dysfunctional system fear that if given the chance to do away with this political albatross hanging around our collective necks, we just might do it.

It's really sort of twisted when we think about it. Because people of good will and good faith might rise up and do something creative and helpful for our state, a full court press is on to keep the matter out of our hands.

Maybe I've been too long in Baptist churches where the people have the final say on everything. But it seems to me that giving folks a chance to speak for themselves on this matter does nothing but put sound democratic principles into practice.

If you think so too, why not call your senator and let him know how you feel.

The number for the Senate switchboard is (334) 748-7800. Call your senator and tell him you have a modest proposal to make — let us decide what to do about rewriting our state constitution.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church. He can be contacted at

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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