April 30, 2010
Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is a hero to some and a villain to others.
At least one Bruce endeavor should get support from friends and detractors. For each of the past four years, Bruce has spent his income from service as a county commissioner, and his short stint as a state representative, to buy copies of the Constitution for each graduating senior in Colorado. He distributes them through a nonprofit he established called Active Citizens Together. Considering the various surveys that show widespread constitutional ignorance among high school students, this can only be good. But when Bruce offers the gift, it is sometimes declined or brushed aside.
“They are rude with a capital ‘R’. They stall in getting back to us, and they make up excuses,” Bruce said.
Bruce asks districts to hand out the constitutions to each senior sometime before graduation, and often, he’s ignored.
“It is against our policy to hand out materials from outside groups,” said Robin Adair, community-relations manager for Lewis-Palmer District 38. “These say ‘a gift by Active Citizens Together’ on the back. That makes it marketing material, which violates our policy.”
The district has refused to deliver materials for other nonprofits, including the Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts. Adair said the district also balked because the constitutions contain quotes from founders — including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Samual Adams and John Adams — that speak about morality, God and religion. Examples supplied by Adair include:
• “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” — John Adams
• “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” — Franklin
• “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” — Washington
Adair said district officials offered to make the booklets available on a table of free literature, but Bruce declined.
“They need to be put in the hands of seniors before they graduate and leave the school for good,” Bruce said.
Cherry Creek School District also refused to distribute the booklets. Like D-38, the district has a policy against handing outside materials directly to students.
“We would be filling back packs all the time,” said Tustin Amole, director of communications for the district.
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A variety of other districts have been less than enthusiastic about the constitutions. Bruce ordered 40,000 this year for the roughly 50,000 high school seniors in Colorado. He anticipates having 4,000 copies left over.
“They don’t want to distribute constitutions, and then they make up a bunch of excuses,” Bruce said.
Amole insists her district isn’t anti-Constitution, or anti-Bruce.
“We really don’t have time for a conspiracy,” Amole said.
Probably not. But the gift should be welcomed warmly and handed to each senior. If policies prohibit that, the policies should change. A Constitution, interspersed with quotes from the founders, is not marketing material.
— Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor, for the editorial board