The need for citizens to become politically educated is one of the main ideas underlying all the many different Tea Party groups. To help work towards this goal locally, the Lehighton Chapter of the 9/12 Project organized an informational meeting on Saturday July 23rd. The meeting featured William Reil, an informal Constitutional expert, as the speaker.
Held at the Mahoning Valley Ambulance Association, the meeting began at 9 a.m. Coffee and donuts were served. Friends exchanged gossip and sat together at long tables. At first glance, it looked more like an American Legion brunch than a political meeting.
Then Reil took the podium, which was decorated with a poster of the Founding Fathers. "Hello," he said, "it is a pleasure to be here amongst patriots, to speak to people interested in the Constitution."
A self-avowed Constitutional Constructionist, Reil believes that state and national laws must be strictly limited to powers explicitly outlined by the Constitution. He spoke several times about how the language of legal documents, such as the Constitution, must be interpreted according to the intention and understandings of the times in which they were first written.
At one point, Reil was disrupted by a woman who questioned his insistence on fidelity to original intent. She challenged the problematic definition of 'person' in that document. "As it's defined in the Constitution, a 'person' is a white, rich, property-owning man. Women, blacks and indians were property," she said.
Reil stated that if the nullifications he proposes were enacted, "we wouldn't go back to those ways. Times do change." The woman pressed him, "but what you're saying is that you have to respect the original intent and that is how 'people' was intended in those times." "We're going to have to agree to disagree," said Reil, moving on to his next topic.
He explained that the government was never intended to have the power to regulate our fundamental rights, most famously, 'the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' "These rights are granted to us by virtue of being human," said Reil, "they are conferred on us directly from God; as such we do not need the permission of government to exercise them."
The loss of the ability to exercise these rights freely began in 1860, with the passing of the 14th Amendment, which granted rights to former slaves. These freedmen were declared citizens of a nation before being citizens of a specific state. This emphasis on national as opposed to state government marked a turn away from Constitutional fidelity, which has culminated in our current society, dominated by the federal government.
"The agenda to socialize this country is done," said Reil. "We are not free. We are enslaved."
The Constitutional Constructionist's plan is to purge the country of unjust laws by citing the enforcement of an unconstitutional law as a violation of public officer's sworn oath to uphold the Constitution, a Federal felony. "We need to start demanding to those in office that they discharge that office in fidelity to the Constitution."
Reil explained how this strategy could help Conservatives win their social battles. He used the 14th Amendment, which was never properly ratified by the states, as an example. Because it is technically unconstitutional, it could be voided, which would also nullify any laws based on it, including Roe vs. Wade.
To emphasize the gravity of the situation, Reil compared today's conditions to those facing the revolutionaries in 1776, saying, "we're back where they were."
Reil valorized sedition and civil disobedience, speaking proudly of the time he has spent in prison because of his beliefs. "A patriot," he said, "is someone who's been to jail, is in jail or is going to jail."
As the lecture ended, a large hat was passed around to collect donations. People gathered around Reil, exchanging business cards, writing down book titles, and taking Oath Keepers pamphlets. The official members of the 9/12 project discussed the groups next activity, a mid-August march on Washington. Gradually the crowd disbursed, secure in the knowledge that whether they believed Reil or not, their participation that day was a step forward in larger process of working to reclaim their country.