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Lesson 10: Can Appointees Be Removed from Office by the President?

Americans unacquainted with the Constitution may be surprised to learn that Article I, by far the longest part of the original document, is about Congress. The president is not treated until Article II. Its first words are stark: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United […]

May 1, 2018

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Lesson 9: Freedom of Religion – Government Can’t Ban Religious Schools

After U.S. entry into World War I, several states amended their compulsory school attendance laws by adding provisions aimed at inculcating patriotism. One such law, passed in referendum by Oregon voters in 1922, required all children (except for those home-schooled or incapacitated) to attend public schools after 1926. Two plaintiffs […]

April 10, 2018

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Lesson 8: Congress Has Always Set Limits on Immigration and Citizenship

“We the people of the United States,” are the first seven words, written in large letters, of the United States Constitution, composed in 1787 and formally adopted when ratified by nine states in 1788. It was assumed that “the people”—defined then as free adults—were citizens of both their states of […]

March 30, 2018

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Lesson 6: When Free Exercise of Religion Clashes with the Law

The First Amendment to the Constitution provides that Congress shall make no law restricting freedom of religion or “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. Does this mean that a citizen can refuse to obey an otherwise valid law because to do so would violate his free exercise of his religious […]

March 6, 2018

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Lesson 5: The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution

Is Donald Trump violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, as some people claim or suggest? The reference is to the last clause in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, which reads: “No title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office […]

February 26, 2018

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Lesson 4: The Second Amendment and the Individual Right to Bear Arms

Should citizens be prohibited from owning handguns? In 1959 most Americans apparently believed so: the Gallup Poll that year reported that 60 percent of Americans supported a law to “ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons,” while only 36 percent disagreed. The next two […]

February 16, 2018

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Lesson 3: Independent Counsel

“The executive Power,” begins Article II of the Constitution, “shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” No ifs, ands or buts about it. The Constitution limits the president’s powers here and there: certain of his executive branch appointees (the document leaves Congress and the president […]

January 28, 2018

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Lesson 2: The Filibuster

During the battles over healthcare and tax reform, Republicans have sent themselves into contortions to abide by the “Budget Reconciliation” rules that allow the majority to get around a Democratic filibuster. So what is a filibuster? Technically, it is a threat by a minority of senators to debate an issue […]

January 26, 2018

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Lesson 1: Free Speech

The First Amendment to the Constitution does not impose, as some believe, “a wall of separation between church and state.” That phrase comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Connecticut Baptists, cited approvingly by Supreme Court decisions in 1878 and 1947. The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no […]

January 25, 2018

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