University hosts Constitution day forum

Ashley R. Lynam

On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had their final meeting at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The Constitution of the United States was signed the next day.

Over two centuries later, Americans are still trying to figure it out.

The political science and humanities faculty hosted a Constitution Day forum to discuss the enduring doctrines and potential reform of our country’s constitution.

The forum was led by four faculty members who gave short speeches on their view of the constitution today. After the speeches, the floor was opened for the audience to ask questions and debate about the current status of America’s governing document.

Dr. Robert Langran, a member of the political science department since 1959, opened the discussion by reflecting on what he admires most about the Constitution.

Langran delivered his views on his favorite part of the document, the first amendment, which protects the people from a government-imposed religion.

The first amendment also affords the people the right to free speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble in protest and the right to petition the government.

He considers the clause to be the “bedrock of democracy,” creating a truly egalitarian atmosphere of freedom.

Dr. Colleen Sheehan, who specializes in American political theory and jurisprudence, emphasized the importance of the Preamble, citing “We the people” as the ultimate declaration of power and authority to the American public.

Dr. Sheehan also highlighted the importance of the ninth amendment.

Many more unenumerated rights exist, she said, including the right to privacy, which provided the legal basis for the Roe v. Wade decision, and later Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania.

The Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania case was a watershed one because it legalized abortion and created an ideological rift in this country that is still very alive today.

Next to the podium was Dr. Katherine Wilson, who changed gears by discussing the link between freedom and agitation.

Citing today’s immigration issues as an example, she stressed the importance of exercising Americans’ rights presented in the first amendment.

Wilson, who received her B.A. from Villanova, an M.A. from Georgetown and PhD. from the University of Pennsylvania, sees the traditions of the constitution alive today in the heated immigration debate.

Finally, Dr. Peter Bush ended the forum by bringing an Augustinian approach.

Bush, a professor in the core humanities program and a Lawrence G. Gallen teaching fellow, brought up the dangers in the first amendment.

He cautioned that although the lack of established religion on the country is beneficial in many ways, we must not neglect matters of the soul when it comes to questions of legality.

“Our constitution certainly brings peace to its people by creating a tolerance of religion,” he said. “But that tolerance should not be ignorant of the lessons to be learned from a Catholic or religious way of life.”