News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

James L. Evans

Let the people decide about constitution

The minister who mentored me used to say, “Jim, don’t be afraid to trust the people.”

His reference, of course, was to the many decisions Baptist congregations make week in and week out. These decisions range from what color to paint the fellowship hall all the way to who will serve as leaders in the church.

“People who are committed to the well-being of the church,” my mentor would say, “have a way of making the right decision.”

After serving Baptist churches now for more than 30 years, I have no reason to doubt that wisdom. People of good faith and good will can be trusted to do the right thing. We may not be perfect, but for the most part, we manage to stay on a good and faithful path.

I can’t help but believe that the same is true for larger and more diverse communities — like the state of Alabama, for instance. I understand there are special interest groups who are only interested in what affects their interests. I also know that these interest groups often hold great sway over our elected leaders and have significant resources for persuading the public at large. But I believe most of the people in our state who are trying to live meaningful lives are also capable of thinking for themselves.

So why not trust people to do what they think is right? I am thinking in particular of the bill before the state Senate that would let Alabamians decide whether to have a constitutional convention to re-write our outdated state constitution.

As we have public hearings on the bill, opponents of a constitutional convention will trot out all of their usual fear-mongering nonsense. They will invoke the tax increase boogey man and every other scare tactic they can think of to keep the Senate from passing the bill.

But the question I want answered is why are opponents of constitution reform afraid to allow the people of this state to decide for ourselves what we should do? Why are opponents to constitution reform afraid to put the matter before voters and let us vote up or down whether to re-write the constitution?

Opponents to the re-write can still do all the fear-mongering. It may cost more money to monger fear during a referendum, but they can still invoke all the social boogey men they need to. Let the opposition make its case, and let proponents make theirs — then let the people decide.

What’s the problem with that?

Opponents to re-writing the state constitution almost seem adamant about not letting the people of this state to choose what to do.

Twisted issue

They seem overly reluctant to give Alabamians the chance to do away with the albatross that hangs around our collective necks. I wonder if it’s because they fear we just might do it. Could it be that those who profit most from our dysfunctional system don’t want to take the risk of seeing it end?

If that is so, then the whole issue is totally twisted. Because people of good will and good faith can be trusted to do the right thing, the only option the opposition has is to keep the matter out of the hands of the people.

Let me encourage you to call or write your state representatives and tell them to let us decide what to do. Tell them all, “Trust the people.”

James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church. He can be reached at faith

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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