Freedom of speech, the press, exercise of religion, peaceful assembly and petitioning the government.
Listing the five rights afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution comes easy to Michael Holler.
However, he noted that only a select few Americans can recite the first portion of the Bill of Rights, a number he believes to be far too small.
Holler cited a 2006 telephone survey performed by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum of Chicago in his assessment of Constitutional knowledge.
“Only one person out of 1,000 could name all five rights in the First Amendment,” he said. “Two hundred twenty could name all five family members of ‘The Simpsons.’”
But, he intends to raise the numbers of the first statistic.
Holler, author of “The Constitution Made Easy,” discussed the Constitution on Saturday at American Legion Post 62. A day earlier, he was a speaker at the Tax Day Freedom Rally at the Moffat County Courthouse.
Speaking to a crowd of about 15 people, Holler brought up the intents and outcomes of the Constitution and how it applies to the nation’s present and future.
“Without it, we would not have any effective way to defend our country,” he said. “It’s our birthright as citizens and our freedoms will vanish unless we remain informed and militant.”
The basic focus of Holler’s seminar, sponsored by the Bears Ears Tea Party Patriots, was a breakdown of the lead-up to the Constitution and what makes up its body.
Holler said many people he encounters are unable to correctly answer the question of what it contains, such as the Preamble; the seven major articles detailing the formation of Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court, among other government and legal foundations; 39 signatures; and 27 Amendments.
He added that while many people know certain tidbits outlined in the content, the most well-known information items are the less important ones.
“Every high school civics class can tell you the minimum age of representatives and senators and how long their terms are,” he said. “It’s trivia, it doesn’t tell us anything we really need. You can screw somebody up just as much by teaching them something unimportant as teaching them something untrue.”
Fewer people, he said, are aware of the inspiration for the Constitution, documents like the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact and the precursor, the Articles of Confederation, which eventually became the modern Constitution and the companion piece to the Declaration of Independence.
“The Declaration is the promise and the Constitution is the fulfillment,” he said.
Craig resident Carolyn Culverwell said she attended the class to get a better idea of what the Constitution means today.
“I’ve known the generalities for a long time, but I’ve never really studied it,” she said. “Ignorance is our biggest problem (in America).”
Holler, who works as a firearms instructor in Teller County and has toured as a speaker in conjunction with the tea party movement since 2009, said he believes educating people on a grassroots level is one of the most basic and important ways for Americans to become aware of how the Constitution applies to them.
The difficulty, he said, is in making it applicable.
Holler studied literary interpretation and translation at California schools The Master’s College and Biola University and when writing, he practices hermeneutics, the art of interpreting all the details of works from previous time periods into modern relevance.
He said that despite some of the archaic language in the Constitution, the wording by then-statesman and later President James Madison is one of its most crucial elements.
“Every word they put in there is for a reason,” he said. “Every word they didn’t put in there is for a reason, too. The government we have in Washington, D.C., today is the government our founders feared and wrote the Constitution to prevent.”
Holler said “government creep,” a continued expansion of the federal government, is meant to be halted by the Constitution.
“The federal government exercises vastly more power than the Constitution allows,” he said.
He concluded his presentation by saying that teaching the subject is vital because it alerts citizens to how they can make a difference and halt government from becoming something they don’t approve.
“This town is your project,” he told the crowd. “This is a cause where we can save freedom for the next generation.”
Culverwell said she hopes to enlighten her friends and neighbors with the information she took away from Holler’s class.
“Anything that you learn that benefits you can also benefit everybody else,” she said.
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