Propaganda, misinformation and fake news are abundant in today’s world. A few minutes on social media shows most Americans are lacking knowledge of basic rights and privileges. We see folks bemoaning their freedom of speech, demanding rights to impose their religious views on others, claiming their unfettered right to gun ownership and opining that police killing black men at rates 2.5 times more than white men is the fault of the young black men for not following orders. What rights are we given by our constitution and how does this document written more than 200 years ago apply to us today?
The survival of the United States as a democratic republic is dependent upon a well-informed and well-educated populus. This is what drives us to educate our friends, our neighbors, and even total strangers, both citizens and non-citizens alike. Teaching this course extends far beyond our own interest in the subject matter. Instead, we have taken it on as a matter of civic duty. It is our responsibility as Americans to understand our own laws. The founding fathers of the United States felt that the rights contained within the Constitution are not granted by any government or rule of law, but rather that they already naturally exist, and that it is the duty of the government to protect and preserve those rights. The study of the Constitution is therefore the study of the natural rights of all human beings.
Today’s political climate is marked by both fear and ignorance, deadly threats to any modern democracy. Our rights have been slowly whittled away by our elected governments, and they continue to be put in jeopardy by those in positions of power. By studying the Constitution, we can fight both fear and ignorance simultaneously. Armed with our knowledge about what the government can and cannot do under the Constitution, we can find the courage within ourselves to take a stand for our rights, and it is our civic duty to help guide people to the knowledge that they need to do exactly that.
We began meeting monthly in May starting with the preamble of the constitution and reviewing our nation’s most sacred document piece by piece. Using the “Idiot’s Guide to the US Constitution,” we have discussed pertinent cases and occasionally we will watch a video to give us more perspective. Currently, we are on the 4th and 5th amendment.
Our hope is not to just educate ourselves about the constitution, but to encourage civic action in our community. The more we understand what it really says, the better we can converse and teach others. The more we spread facts and correct information, the more we can combat propaganda and lies. We can better serve our community by understanding how the three branches of government work together and create the best strategy for change. We can help folks see the genius of the Bill of Rights is to protect individual rights and that protecting everyone’s rights as an individual protects their own rights better than imposing the will of the majority on all. In a nutshell, an educated society is a better, freer society!
Our hope is for this class to go viral. We hope other atheist and humanist groups adopt our idea and begin a serious study of the constitution with their members. As they learn, we hope they in turn go out and share the truth of our nation’s true values and purpose. we want us to spread truth and facts to combat the ignorance we are facing today. Together, we want all of us to help make America a great country to be proud of, not because it protects and serves a few, but because it protects and serves everyone!