Constitution Day at GMU:

George Mason is proud to celebrate the newly-mandated Constitution Day obligations in the appropriate manner by asking whether said Constitution Day obligations are actually constitutional:

The Byrd Rider to this year's Omnibus Appropriations Bill requires schools that receive federal funding -- nearly all of them -- to have ceremonies each year marking Constitution Day.

Join Foundation Professor of Law Ronald Rotunda and Patrick Henry Professor of Law Nelson Lund for as they examine whether it is constitutional for Congress to use its spending power to reach down into the curriculum and culture of every school in the country and dictate what shall be taught, celebrated, or memorialized -- and when. The discussion will be moderated by Paul Mirengoff of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and the Power Line blog.

Is this is what Senator Byrd had in mind in mandating Constitution Day teaching?

Nobody Special:
I would think so, since the Spending Power does not seem to be subject to the same limitations as the Commerce Clause.

Take, for example, tying highway funds to raising the drinking age to 21.

As a counterexample, take efforts to limit OLS-funded social activism in the courts.
9.15.2005 10:00am
Janine (mail):
Is this a real day? When is it? I'm not a GMU student but I live in the area - can I come and listen?

9.15.2005 10:22am
Troy H:
I'm a prof at a Christian liberal arts university and we have the same day mandated -- so we're taking the same tack as GMU and throwing in a little 1st Amendment free speech and religious freedom panel discussion.
9.15.2005 10:51am
Matt E. (mail):
Isn't that one of the advantages of the spending power? To be able to regulate areas that normally could not be regulated? My understanding is they condition the giving of money on any number of agreed activities. If the schools don't like Constitution Day, don't take the money.
9.15.2005 10:57am
Bill N (mail):
At our small college outside Boston, I gave a "brown bag lunch" talk beginning with that very subject (by what authority are we compelled to do this). As only 6 people showed for the talk, we met the mandate without too many people apparantly feeling coerced by the spending power. The school also sponsored a Constitutional trivia contest at dinner in the cafeteria, with tee shirts and movie tickets. I'm not sure that's what Senator Byrd had in mind, either, but it was fun.
9.15.2005 11:22am
William Spieler (mail) (www):
Prof. Zywicki, do you remember Neal McCluskey, the speaker from CATO who participated in the panel discussion on academic freedom last semester at Georgetown?

I think he had a strong argument against that based on the First Amendment.
9.15.2005 11:30am
As a GMU alum and local resident I'd like to know when and were this is. It sounds like a pretty educational discussion.
9.15.2005 11:38am
Craig Oren (mail):
Of course, the irony is that George Mason opposed ratification of the Constitution and, along with Patrick Henry, led the anti-Federalist group in Virginia.
9.15.2005 12:18pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Noon at the law school. See
9.15.2005 12:22pm
Attila (Pillage Idiot) (mail) (www):
It's a heck of a lot better than the causes Byrd has historically been associated with. (Cheap shot.)
9.15.2005 12:47pm
Nobody (mail):
Why are we attacking Senator Byrd rather than, say, the other Senators and Congressmen who voted for the offending bill, or President Bush, who signed the beast?

Just checking.....
9.15.2005 2:24pm
It always struck me as being rather odd - and unlikely - that the Democrats would want people to celebrate the constitution, since they seem to be doing their level best to ignore what it actually says, in favor of an amorphous, generalized concept (as opposed to that outdated, stuffy actual text) called "constitution", which means whatever they want it to mean at any given time.
9.15.2005 3:22pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Maybe I missed something, but aren't unintended consequences pretty much the whole history of the entire regulatory state?
9.15.2005 4:16pm
My understanding is that there is some wiggle room for "persuasion" through use of the spending power, but there are limits- a Republicans-only tax break would run into some constitutional problems.
9.15.2005 4:33pm
Tim Hamilton (mail) (www):
I'm also a professor and just saw today that we're forced to observe this, too. I like the approach GMU is taking. As far as the actual Constitutionality of requiring this under the spending power, I would argue two things: (1) that Congress cannot legally spend money on colleges in the first place, and (2) that using the spending power to regulate sneakily something it is forbidden to regulate overtly is at the least Constitutionally suspect. Imagine if they somehow used the spending power to regulate the freedom of speech or the possession of guns.

Shame on everybody who voted for this and on the President for signing it. Good intentions, but done through coersion.
9.16.2005 4:57pm
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