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Were Town Halls on the Convention of States One-Sided in North Carolina?

Lt. Governor Dan Forest of North Carolina is holding a series of “town hall style events” in promoting the message of the Convention of States Project (COSP), a non-profit organization that is aggressively lobbying the North Carolina legislature and other state legislatures to apply to Congress for an Article V Convention of States (COS).

Alarmed at the exponential increase of a centralized federal government, some conservatives have targeted Article V of the U.S. Constitution’s amending process to “limit” the size and actions of the federal government.

It is an age-old pattern of human response. When people reach a point of frustration and desperation they cry out, “We must do something – ANYTHING to stop the problem!” Then they rush impulsively into unknown territory. For example, when Americans felt that the health care system was in crisis, many said, “We must do something!” and we ended up with ObamaCare.

Never heard of a Convention of States? Most people haven’t, although many know the term “constitutional convention” in relation to the Convention of 1787 when the Founding Fathers created our U.S. Constitution. There has not been another “constitutional convention” since that time for fear that we do not have statesmen of the same intellectual and moral caliber today; and also because the brilliant principles of the 1787 document need only to be followed not ignored.

ARTICLE V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress….

But, once again, the question of human motivation and reasoning is raised.

The COSP, a Project of Citizens for Self-Governance founded by conservative grassroots activist Mark Meckler and attorney Dr. Michael Farris, is organizing a grassroots effort to halt federal overreach and abuse of power. COSP is urging the state legislatures to apply to Congress for a Convention of States so that the states can use Article V to amend the Constitution through a purely state-led and state-directed process.

In addition, well-funded advocates from the left that want to promote their particular concerns at the convention have joined the COSP.

It is noteworthy that at a time when conservatives and constitutionalists should be united to protect their liberties, the Convention of States is causing an emotional rift dividing them into two camps.

Supporters of a COS assure us that the new COS process is constitutional and safe.

Opponents, including the John Birch Society, Eagle Forum and individual constitutional scholars, say that the COS process is unconstitutional and unsafe.

Enter Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

Dan Forest Screen Shot 2On Oct. 7, 2014, the newsroom of the office of the lieutenant governor announced, “Lt. Governor Dan Forest will be joined by constitutional scholar Michael Farris at two upcoming town hall style events to discuss the many arguments for and against the Convention of States Project.” The announcement continued, “Lt. Governor Forest organized these events as a public service for the people of North Carolina.” (emphasis mine)

The first COS “town hall-style event” was held on Oct. 14, 2014 in Hendersonville, NC. The second was in Greensboro on Oct. 28, 2014. The formats of the two events were similar. Each had opening and closing remarks by the lieutenant  governor and an “educational” talk by Dr. Michael Farris.

The Greensboro event was sponsored by Conservatives for Guilford County (C4GC). According to C4GC members, Lt. Gov. Forest approached C4GC to sponsor this program. It took place during the time-slot for C4CG’s usual monthly meeting.

The news release for the town halls stated that there was to be a discussion of “the many arguments for and against” the COS. But, when the meeting occurred, there were no formal speakers ‘against’ and only speakers ‘for’ a Convention of States.

In Greensboro, Rep. Bert Jones of Rockingham County took the podium to speak briefly about his experience last June as a delegate to an Indianapolis meeting regarding the COS. This was a follow-up meeting to the Mount Vernon meeting (Dec. 7, 2013), where 100 legislators from 32 states met at the historical home of George Washington in Virginia for the sole purpose of discussing the possibility of a Convention of States.

Rep. Jones and NC Rep. Chris Millis of Onslow and Pender Counties were at both meetings. Jones told the audience that Lt. Gov. Forest sent him and Rep. Millis to Indianapolis where the Mount Vernon Assembly then became the Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL).

Rep. Jones concluded, “One thing that is very important is that we build the grassroots effort. Contact your legislators. Contact your Representatives, your Senators. We need the support so we can pass this resolution [Art. V COS] in North Carolina.”

In Greensboro, Dr. Farris gave what he described as an “educational talk.” Dr. Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), founder of Patrick Henry College, a constitutional scholar, and a court attorney. He emphasized his credentials as an expert and spoke derisively about organizations and individuals who disagree that a Convention of States is the solution to federal overreach.

Mike Farris screenshotDr. Farris told the audience that “time is running out” and that there is “no alternative” to calling for an Article V COS. He claimed that state “nullification” of federal laws is not practical and that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was not a “runaway” convention as we were taught in school.

Farris also said that he is not at all afraid of the progressives and leftists who through funding by the wealthy elite, such as George Soros, are also pushing for a Convention of States to address their own issues. He said, given that we now have 27 Republican-led Houses in the United States, it would be extremely difficult for the progressives to get bad amendments ratified in 38 states.

For the Q&A session, Farris said, “When we get done with the questions, I would love for you to come help me because this is not just a discussion for the sake of discussion. This is an education so that you will help me get going.”

Also in the Q&A session, Farris attempted to dismiss any opposition or ambivalence to the COS that was expressed by the audience. His answers to the questions asked were long and winding. Although he got a standing ovation from the many in the audience, none of the questions asked indicated all-out support for a Convention of States.

Lt. Gov. Forest has insisted that the town halls are merely providing a public service for the people of North Carolina to learn about “the process” of amending the U.S. Constitution through a Convention of States.

It certainly would be his right as a private citizen to encourage others to attend an event that promotes a cause he believes in. The question is: Is it within the boundaries of his assigned duties under the North Carolina Constitution for the Lt. Governor of our state to use the authority of his office to present such “educational seminars;” especially when the only formal speakers are ‘for’ a Convention of States?

The Lt. Governor will hold no more town halls until 2015, after the North Carolina General Assembly convenes. But given the support the Lt. Governor gave to the Convention of States Project, it looks as if speakers who oppose a COS will have to find audiences on their own.

Featured image from Shutterstock; Dan Forest image from screenshot of video; Mike Farris image from sceenshot of video.

 

Wynne Coleman

Wynne is an activist and researcher in support of the U.S. Constitution. She assists her husband in teaching a free 12-week Consitution course. Since 1992, she has been exposing the dangers of Agenda 21-Sustainable Development and other issues that undermine the U.S. Constitution. She was appointed by the Wake County Commissioners to represent the Wake County Taxpayers Association on the Wake County Sustainability Task Force in 2010-2011.

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