Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Weigh in on TIME's controversial Constitution issue

July 12, 2011 by NCC Staff


Update: read this week’s “Constitution Check” for additional commentary on the article.

The July 4 issue of TIME magazine—which featured a shredded Constitution on the cover under the headline “Does It Still Matter?”— has stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy. The cover story, by Managing Editor Richard Stengel, who served as the National Constitution Center’s president and CEO from 2004 to 2006, has come under attack due to what some claim is its liberal bias, factual errors and interpretive mistakes.

You can find Stengel’s article by clicking here: “One Document, Under Siege,”

Here is President and CEO David Eisner’s  response to the controversy:

Seeing the Constitution ominously shredded on Time’s 10th history issue cover made me wonder whether the article would relegate America’s foundational document to the trash. To the contrary, Rick Stengel’s article underscores how much the Constitution does matter, and uses the “long national civics class” of the past decade to prove the point.  What a relief!  As CEO of the National Constitution Center, I identify strongly with the Constitution’s enduring relevance—as may Stengel, who once held this post. Still, he is correct to note the challenges of applying the Constitution to modern life, even as he vouches for its centrality and guidance in our national debates. The Constitution continues to unite and divide us; at the Center, we welcome the controversy as part and parcel of our extraordinary freedom as Americans. Congratulations to Mr. Stengel for bringing the debate to millions of readers—and for creating a cover that’s every bit as provocative as the most eye-popping pic of Lady Gaga.

We’ve gotten a lot of feedback about the TIME article. Among the issues that Stengel’s critics have raised with us:

  • The assertion that “If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn’t say so.”
  • The suggestion that the Constitution is not law.
  • The suggestion that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment emancipated the slaves.
  • The suggestion that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment granted the right to vote to African Americans.
  • The suggestion that the original Constitution declared that black people were to be counted as three-fifths of a person.
  • The suggestion that the original, unamended Constitution prohibited women from voting.
  • The suggestion that the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to tax individuals based on whether they buy a product or service.
  • The suggestion that Social Security is a debt within the meaning of Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment.

To find out whether Stengel made those claims, read his article. To learn what the Constitution says about those issues, you can find an annotated Constitution by clicking here.

So there’s a lot of controversy.  What do you think?  Submit your comments and questions below.


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