Thursday, September 20, 2012
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
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Recent concerns about prayer in schools have helped raise public awareness about the freedoms we all share under the Constitution. It’s timely, in that Monday was the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.
Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville signed a proclamation declaring this Constitution Week in the city.
For many people, the right to pray and freedom of religion are core elements of the values system of America.
In 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time. They signed the document creating the style of government we have today.
As the states debated whether to ratify the Constitution, many people argued for protections for the states and for individuals. Out of that discussion came the Bill of Rights. Of the items proposed, 10 were later adopted.
You might ask yourself, are you smarter than a fifth-grader?
We recently reprinted, with permission, a column written in 1984 by Charley Reese of the Orlando Sentinel.
Reese said this summer that his column is really quite simple, that it’s just a fifth-grade civics lesson.
He notes that on a federal level, just 545 people are responsible for federal laws and regulations, spending and policies.
If you missed it, go back to that Friday’s paper or to the Orlando Sentinel Web site and read his column.
The members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, the President and the nine members of the United States Supreme Court are responsible for all federal laws.
They write the laws, appropriate the money, enforce the laws and interpret the laws.
South Carolina has two United States senators and six — soon to be seven — members of the U.S. House.
For state government, we have one governor, a state Supreme Court with five justices, and 46 senators and 124 representatives.
On a local level, most of us have three or four governmental bodies we deal with.
These are each separate. Each body sets its own budget, enacts ordinances or policies, and is answerable to the voters.
• Georgetown County Council, seven members
• Georgetown City Council, seven members
• Andrews Town Council, seven members
• Pawleys Island Town Council, five members
• Georgetown County School Board, nine members
The county administrator, city administrator and school superintendent are each employees of their respective bodies. The councils and the school board are the governing groups for their jurisdictions. The mayors, the county council and school board chairman, each has one vote.
Many people might make a good case they are “first among equals,” but when it comes to a vote they have just one.
So, if you want to have an impact on schools, city or county government, or the state or federal government, make sure you’re at least as smart as a fifth grader. Do your homework, learn the issues and hold the appropriate people accountable.
There has been and will continue to be much squabbling about how laws are enacted, rules implemented and how they are interpreted.
Ultimately, though, each of us has the power of the ballot box. And it’s our job as citizens to be informed and to hold these elected officials accountable.
If they’re doing a good job, vote ’em back in for another term. If they’re not, vote ’em out.
As Charley Reese wrote, don’t let federal, state or local officials get away with saying it’s somebody else’s fault. It’s their responsibility.
They can take justifiable credit when it’s due, and they need to accept the responsibility when things go wrong.