Like many conservatives, I hope last week's reading in Congress of the Constitution was more than just political theater.
Let's face it: The fact that the Department of Education survived the Reagan area should be proof enough that the Constitution is regarded by our congressman about the same way the characters in Pirates of the Caribbean described the Pirate Code: "It's more what you'd call 'guidelines.'"
Still, it can't hurt for the people who make our nation's laws to at least hear from the document that provides their ability to exist as a deliberative body.
I couldn't help but wonder, though. New members of Congress took oaths this past week to defend the U.S. Constitution, but so did state and local officials. In addition, those on the state and county level pledged to uphold Georgia's Constitution.
I'm sure quite a few people (many of them fibbing) would claim to have read the U.S. Constitution. But what about the Georgia Constitution? How many people have read it, or even have a clue about what it says?
I hadn't. After hearing county officials swear last week to uphold it, I thought it might not be a bad idea to do so. For them, too.
It's easy enough to find on the secretary of state's Web site. Bound copies also can be purchased through the site for less than $2 each.
One of the things most striking about Georgia's Constitution, compared to the U.S. document, is that it's probably not as old as you think. And it's written in modern English, as it should be: After all, the "founding fathers" of our current Georgia Constitution had it adopted in 1983.
That isn't our first state constitution, of course; that one was adopted in 1777. The New Georgia Encyclopedia notes that we've had 10 altogether, many of them adopted in wartime (particularly before and after the Civil War).
The current state constitution mirrors the U.S. Constitution in many respects, though it's designed to be more readable. For example, the preamble says:
"To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution."
Additionally, while the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights was in the form of a series of amendments added to the original document, Georgia's Constitution begins with its Bill of Rights. Guaranteeing individual rights up front strikes me as preferable.
Unlike the 10 amendments that make up the U.S. Bill of Rights, Georgia's Constitution lays out 29 under the heading "Rights of Persons." They include "Freedom of Conscience" and "Religious opinions; freedom of religion" clauses, free speech and press clauses, and guarantees to court access.
The wording of the equivalent of the Second Amendment is especially interesting. Our nation argues endlessly over every nuance of the difficultly worded U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment. But Georgia's version says this: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne."
Georgia's Constitution also guarantees the right to fish and hunt. Take that, PETA.
Also, unlike the U.S. Constitution, Georgia's Constitution actually includes the phrase "Separation of church and state." In the section on "Origin and structure of government," Paragraph 7 says this: "Separation of church and state: No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution."
There's a lot more, of course - 89 pages, in fact. If, like me, you had not taken time to read it, I'd suggest doing so. You can find it at www.sos.ga.gov.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.