- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2006

Training for federal employees now includes a congressionally mandated tutorial on the Constitution that must be completed by this week.

The brainchild of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, the Internet class closely follows Constitution Day — a commemorative also legislated by Mr. Byrd to celebrate Sept. 17, 1787, as the day when the nation’s founding document was signed in Philadelphia.

“Constitution Day gives us opportunity to pause and consider the larger purpose behind our professionalism, and the nobility underlying our efforts,” said Daniel Sutherland, officer for civil rights and civil liberties, and George Tanner, chief learning officer, in an e-mail to all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees.

“As Secretary [Michael] Chertoff has stressed, DHS’s strategic mission ‘is no less than this: protect America, while fostering the values of liberty, privacy, and opportunity we all hold dear,’” the e-mail said.

Unlike most federal training, the 25-minute tutorial does not include a test at the end.

“It’s just more of Byrd’s pork,” says one DHS employee. “How will my supervisor even know I completed the course when there is no test?”

Mr. Byrd is never without his copy of the Constitution, which he carries in his coat pocket and often refers to during Senate debates. On his Web site promoting Constitution Day, Mr. Byrd says the Constitution “embodies the vision of the Framers, their dream of freedom. … But we cannot defend and protect this dream if we are ignorant of the Constitution’s history and how it works.”

The 37-page tutorial begins with a historical review and includes a brief summary of the amendments.

“The First Amendment addresses the rights of freedom of speech and the press; the right of peaceful assembly; and the right of petition. It also addresses freedom of religion, both in terms of prohibiting the Congressional establishment of religion and protecting the right to free exercise of religion,” the tutorial said.

“The Second Amendment addresses the right of the people to bear arms. The Third Amendment prohibits the government from using private homes as quarters for soldiers without the consent of the owners. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable search and seizure of property without a specific warrant or a ‘probable cause’ to believe a crime has been committed.”

A second DHS employee called it a “waste of time” but completed the course. “It was stuff I learned in high school,” he said.

“When we raise our hands and stand by the flag and swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic … it’s a good idea that we already know what the Constitution is all about,” the first employee said.

The lesson concludes with an excerpt from President Reagan’s Jan. 11, 1989, farewell address: “Almost all of the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which ‘We the People’ tell the government what it is allowed to do. ‘We the People’ are free.”

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