U.S. Constitution gets gagged

Erin Smith

September 24, 2013

If you are a student at Modesto Junior College in California, don’t even think about passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution to your fellow classmates, or else you may face the campus police.

The United States Constitution, the document on which the principles of our government are founded and enumerates our rights as citizens, is apparently at the center of a dispute between a student and the school. It seems that, in honor of Constitution Day on Sept. 17, some students at the college decided to pass out copies of the document — only to be confronted by campus police and ordered to stop.

The entire incident, it seems, was “caught on tape” by student Robert Van Tuinen.

Apparently, the campus does have a policy about doing such things. The students or groups must contact the school a number of days in advance and there is a space designated in a secluded area. The school even told Foxnews that passing materials on campus is allowed so long as it does not disrupt the function of the campus.

So the question to beg here is: How does passing out a copy of the U.S. Constitution cause a disruption on campus?

So far as anyone can tell, there was no disruption and the school says it is investigating the matter.

The point of the matter here is … what exactly constitutes free speech on this campus?

Learning that there are speech codes on the campus is a bit troubling when it runs counter to our First Amendment rights.

Everyone should be concerned about the fact that many students have no idea what their individual rights are or even how to exercise them. While I agree that the school has a right to prevent people from harassing students and faculty and from using vulgar language, there should also be some common sense applied when it comes to passing out a pamphlet which contains the Constitution.

It is important that we all know and understand the Constitution and how it functions. It is also equally important that our rights contained within the Constitution be protected.

So many of our rights have been slowly eroded or curtailed over time to the point that many folks today will tell you that they hardly recognize our governing body or its laws.

Tuinen’s goal was to educate his fellow students in honor of Constitution Day. His intent was to place a copy of the document in everyone’s hands so they may read it and hopefully begin a dialogue about its contents on campus.

Sometimes our good folks at our institutes of higher learning get so caught up in the details they forget that sometimes learning can be as simple as a little spontaneity.

So what were the powers that be afraid of? Did they fear that once students really knew and understood the Constitution that they would soon learn that the wisdom being taught on campus doesn’t quite mesh with what the Constitution says?

Did they fear a free thought in the classrooms of their campus?

The over-zealousness with which political correctness has gone is really quite appalling. I chalk this up to just that — the campus being politically correct. I wonder, who was truly offended by being handed a copy of the U.S. Constitution?

I, for one, have a copy in my den and one on my desk at work. I read it often to remind myself of the principles on which this country was founded and I dare anyone to try to take it from me. We have brave men and women in uniform who have sacrificed much to defend this document and it is high time we started respecting it and its principles.

I cringe when I hear people say it is outdated or “old fashioned.”

It has served this country well for 226 years and it will most likely continue to serve it well for many more years to come. I for one am glad to have it and proud to live under its principles.

— Erin Smith is a staff writer for the Bladen Journal. She can be reached by email at or by telephone at 910-862-4163.