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The most popular misconceptions of the Bill of Rights & Constitution

The United States Constitution.
The United States Constitution.

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To help celebrate Presidents' Day (which is called officially "Washington's Birthday" to mark the first president's actual birthday of February 22),  AirTalk will pore over some amendments with two Constitutional scholars - Barry McDonald of Pepperdine University and Aaron Caplan of Loyola Law School.

According to Caplan, a big picture misconception about the document is that it exists to limit the federal government. Caplan says, "Actually, [the Constitution] exists to create a federal government. The Framers wanted an 'energetic' government. To be sure, the Constitution includes limits on what this new government can do, but the main purpose was to create government power."

As for specific misconceptions in the document, the consensus is the First Amendment is the most misunderstood, partially because it governs many areas of American life.


            AMENDMENT 1.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of

religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the

freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably

to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


Which amendments or articles vex you?

 Primary Source: Constitution Annotated   


Barry McDonald, Professor of Law at Pepperdine School of Law; he is an expert on the U.S. Supreme Court, Constitutional and intellectual property law

Aaron Caplan, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School;  former long-time staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington