Liberty Amendment Distortions

Reprinted with permission of John Birch Society

“Desperate times call for desperate measures” must be the mantra of some of those organizations working to get a constitutional convention. Their desperate measures include whipping their supporters into a frenzy to malign JBS as their main enemy, responsible for all evils that have befallen this great Republic. Their wild claims include blaming JBS for abortion, the massive U.S. debt, and partnering with George Soros!

Their latest claims are typical of what you would see when a fighter is on the ropes: to try anything and everything to get out and ahead. Distorting history must be an art form to them as they are making it appear that JBS has supported a Con-Con during our support for the Liberty Amendment, as formulated by Willis Stone.

Stone’s Liberty Amendment called for further clarification of keeping government out of any business, professional, commercial, financial or industrial enterprise except as specified in the Constitution. Any existing entities that violated this would be liquidated within three years.

It called for keeping the Constitution and laws in each state free from subjugation from any foreign or domestic agreement. And the amendment repealed the 16th Amendment three years after ratification.

The amendment was first introduced in 1952 and eventually came to the attention of JBS Founder Robert Welch.

The JBS did endorse the Liberty Amendment and in our official member publication, “The John Birch Society Bulletin”, urged our members to work for its adoption back in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the means by which this amendment was promoted was to have states call for a constitutional convention. No JBS official dreamed that this would happen. Rather, agreeing with Mr. Stone, JBS leaders believed that this route to ratification would scare Congress into adopting the Liberty Amendment and then send it to the states for ratification. No one connected to the amendment wanted a Con-Con believing always that it posed a threat to the entire Constitution.

When asked about whether he wanted a Con-Con, Mr. Stone privately told JBS staff that he always felt that Congress would never let it go that far and that no one would be that stupid to actually want to do it. It was a calculated tactic that Mr. Stone promoted.

In the “Bulletin” of January 1963, Mr. Welch reprinted a news release issued by the National Committee for Economic Freedom, led by Mr. Stone, which spelled out the strategy for passing the amendment:

“When 28 more States approve the resolution for the LIBERTY AMENDMENT, Congress will be compelled to submit this basic question of public policy to the American people for decision.”

“Congress will be compelled to submit … ” does not mean to call a convention. “Convene” means to call a convention. “Submit” means passing the proposed amendment to the state legislatures for ratification.

Beginning in the early 1970s, the JBS started to tone down its support for the Liberty Amendment because we felt that it was not wise to use this dangerous strategy of playing chicken with the Constitution.

Neither Mr. Welch nor Congressman Larry McDonald (who became Chairman of the Board of JBS in 1983) wanted to embarrass Willis Stone and his committee with a public disagreement, since we were friends and wanted nothing to prevent us from working together in the future. So the JBS went silent on the issue in our Bulletin after October 1978.

None of our office or field staff personnel worked to promote the Liberty Amendment after this time. Our total efforts on staff had steadily diminished after 1971, the last year that the Liberty Amendment was a stand-alone agenda item in our Bulletin not because we disagreed with its provisions, but from the danger of allowing people to think that we supported a Con-Con and the possibility it may even be initiated.

From 1972 to 1978 we segued into infrequently asking our members to support bills originating in the Congress calling for the Liberty Amendment, but never outside of Congress, or through a convention.

Congressman McDonald continued to support the amendment by trying to get Congress to move the amendment toward ratification in the traditional manner and this led to him entering into the Congressional Record the entire background of the need for the amendment, its provisions, and how it was moving forward in 1975. It was not an endorsement of the Con-Con method but simply a statement of how the process had been moved forward as part of a comprehensive synopsis of the Liberty Amendment movement, what the intent of the Amendment was and how it would curtail government spending, debt, and control over the economy.

He, again, was trying to get the amendment added in the traditional way by submitting a bill in Congress to do so, not by a Constitutional Convention.

The distortionists are claiming that after Congressman McDonald was killed in 1983 that JBS drifted away from supporting a Con-Con. But the Society never wanted a Con-Con in the first place and could never have been said to have “drifted away from supporting one.”

These distortionists have lifted a sentence out of Congressman McDonald’s report (again, a synopsis of the movement) and are relying on it as proof that he supported a Con-Con — a highly unethical and desperate move to win over support. It’s a demonstration of their inner character and motivation.

Unfortunately, members and supporters of The John Birch Society have been doing much of the heavy lifting nearly alone in its 55+ years of educating and organizing for limited government under the Constitution. It’s a slap in the face that these great people are being set up as the enemy by some Con-Con proponents, but then again, we are used to being attacked by both sides. Why? Because we are effective, even though our plan is a hard sell to others. The only way it can be done is to inform the people, teach the principles that led to the Constitution, and do so by organizing enough people to get the job done. This is the whole purpose of The John Birch Society.

This work comes with a measure of headaches. It is work that no one else seems to want to do.

What we are witnessing in the attack against The John Birch Society by some Con-Con proponents is the use of the same tactics of the socialists, establishment party leadership, and media in the 1960s and 1970s in their attempt to try to negate the tremendous influence of the JBS. In reality, what they are doing looks more like what they accuse the JBS of doing. There are many people on the left and right, Democrat and Republican desiring a Con-Con. They work together for a Con-Con but have different goals once the Con-Con is convened. Who’s to say which side will win and who’s to say that the ratification process won’t be rewritten as it was in 1787? We hope this helps to bring to light the desperate tactics of a few.

Editor’s note: As we prepared to finalize this, we were alerted that Senator Coburn and Mark Meckler of the Convention of States were discussing an Article V Convention on the Sean Hannity Show. The two guests made disparaging remarks about JBS and further propagated the false rumor that JBS was working with George Soros. Again, desperate tactics. We contacted the Hannity Show for an interview.

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