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Defending the Constitution | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Defending the Constitution

Earlier this week I wrote about the constitutional crisis we currently face as a result of George Bush's abuse, overreach and lawlessness. (A recent article in the Boston Globe documents how Bush has claimed the right to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office.) Accomplices in this assault on our democracy include the religious right which would intrude into our personal lives to determine our rights and freedoms.

Fortunately, there's an important new online grassroots group fighting these extremists: The Campaign to Defend The Constitution (DefCon). Director Jessica Smith describes the group's mission as this, "DefCon has assumed a leading role in the ever intensifying battle between those who believe in the separation of church and state and those who seek, through political influence, to undo this fundamental American principle." DefCon has a dynamic and committed Board of Directors composed of leading legal scholars, scientists and civil liberty activists, including: Kate Michelman (former head of NARAL), Harold Varmus (former head of NIH), Ira Glasser (former head of ACLU) and Bruce Alberts (former President of the National Academy of Sciences).

The group works with activists from diverse backgrounds, including many people of faith who are tired of seeing their beliefs and values hijacked by right-wing extremists. DefCon focuses on strengthening the separation of church and state; an independent judiciary that safeguards rather than rolls back our rights; science and technology that is not hindered by religious ideology; and the right to privacy--whether protecting choice or combating anti-gay legislation.

Since its inception last fall, 55,000 people have joined DefCon and are already making a real impact. In Ohio, DefCon members helped reverse a Board of Education decision that had allowed pro-intelligent design language into the state's science standards. In Utah, 455,000 emails – no, that is not a typo – 455,000 emails helped thwart a well-organized intelligent design movement in the Utah State Legislature.

DefCon has also exposed the maddening hypocrisy of the religious right in its TV and newspaper advertising campaign on the "unholy alliance" between Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Rev. Louis Sheldon, and James Dobson.

In the fight to defend our Constitution, DefCon offers democracy advocates invaluable tools for these times. Check it out today.

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