Judging by the rapid succession of “Constitution” Google Alert emails I’ve been getting the past few days, it’s been a really good week for my favorite founding document—or, depending on how you look at it, a really bad week.
The point is, the Constitution has been in the news quite a lot lately. And some might say it’s about time: in September 2011, author Seth Lipsky proposed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that we hold a presidential debate about the Constitution. Todd Brewster, Director of the Constitution Center’s Peter Jennings Project, echoed Lipsky’s sentiment, proclaiming, “This election cycle, it’s the Constitution, stupid.”
Here’s a brief look at the Constitution’s rollercoaster week:
1. The Constitution and… Contraception
On Jan. 7, ABC host George Stephanopoulos pushed the GOP candidates to assess the constitutional rights of states to ban contraception, which was followed by criticism of Stephanopoulos’ odd question and further debate about the general issue of privacy.
2. The Constitution and… Dirty Words
On Jan. 10, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments for Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., to determine whether the FCC’s standards for indecency on television are too vague and inconsistently applied to be constitutional.
3. The Constitution and… Sharia Law
Also on Jan. 10, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declared an Oklahoma ban on Sharia law to be discriminatory and a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
4. The Constitution and… Religious Freedom
On Jan. 11, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment grants religious groups the freedom to hire and fire leaders without government interference.
5. The Constitution and… Executive Power
On Jan. 12, the Justice Department released a memo defending President Obama’s recess appointments, which have been criticized by some as an overreach of the executive’s constitutional powers. Civil liberties groups also continue to criticize Obama for signing the National Defense Authorization Act, which permitted the indefinite detention, without trial, of American citizens suspected of terrorism.
Holly Munson is Assistant Editor of Constitution Daily, the blog of the National Constitution Center.