Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 9, 2013

Letters to the editor - Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013

Protect Bill of Rights from judges like Bork

There is now historical revisionism by some that the late Robert Bork would have made a good justice on the Supreme Court. No, he would have not.

Robert Bork, even 20-plus years after the civil rights era, believed it was perfectly within the right of state governments to enact segregation laws if they so choose. He not only thought it was fine for government to ban what he perceived as obscene but was an eager supporter of those kinds of laws. In fact, he sung the praises of censorship.

The reason we have a Bill of Rights is to protect us against people like Judge Bork. Men and women like Bork are the type of people who believe we as Americans have a very limited degree of liberty and rights. They believe that if a right isn’t explicit in the Constitution, then it doesn’t exist. This of course ignores the Ninth Amendment which guarantees rights not already previously listed in the Bill of Rights.

By the way, some Founders opposed a Bill of Rights, not because they opposed necessarily a list of rights for Americans, but they realized people like Robert Bork would come around and state that if a right isn’t explicitly listed, then it doesn’t exist for Americans.

Yes, we Americans do have a right of privacy against the government. It is one of our rights left unlisted, but preserved by the Ninth Amendment. We do have a right to read books like “Tropic of Cancer” or magazines like Playboy. We do have a right to bear arms, another right Judge Bork didn’t believe we possessed.

Now, to ensure these rights, we need to be sure judges like Judge Bork never wind up on the Supreme Court.

Colleen Kronquist, Kokomo

Civic literacy should be on Pence agenda

For a country that is saturated 24/7 in media, our ignorance of politics is stunning. Sixty-two percent of us can’t identity the governor, according to a survey by Xavier University. Three-fourths can’t answer the question, “What does the judiciary branch do?”

The Indiana Civic Health Index conducted in 2011 placed Indiana near the bottom on other key indicators of civic responsibility. For example, we rank 48th in the nation in voting and 43rd in the number of citizens registered to vote.

In his new role as Indiana governor, Mike Pence should take the lead in confronting civic illiteracy, which threatens our ability to deal with problems from unemployment to immigration to taxes.

“Civic illiteracy makes us less likely to exercise freedom by understanding and engaging in our public life,” warns Xavier’s Center for the Study of the American Dream. “Failure to achieve and maintain this understanding inevitably makes us more susceptible to manipulation and abuses of power.”

We the People, launched in 1987 with the blessing of Congress to mark the bicentennial of the Constitution, is a curriculum about democracy and constitutional history for elementary, middle and high school students. It uses a simulated congressional hearing format to test students on their analytical skills.

Congress stripped the program of funding in 2011, but it’s continued to reach about 6,000 students a year here thanks to the commitment of the state’s lawyers and the Indiana Bar Foundation. Studies show that students who take part in We the People vote and get involved in politics at higher rates than other citizens.

A $300,000 line item in the state budget would replace what Indiana used to get from the feds and make it possible to expand the program to schools that can’t afford it on their own. The money would help fund textbooks and professional development for teachers.

Winston Churchill famously said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Wouldn’t it be grand for Indiana if the opposite were true?

Andrea Neal, Indiana Policy Review Foundation