Political party panelists explained the U.S. Constitution to MCCC students, faculty, and Monroe residents on Constitution Day.
History professor Edmund LaClair moderated the panel, held at the Meyer Theater Sept. 15.
He asked the panelists their parties’ positions on key issues like the Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case, the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, and immigration.
Michael Banerian, the representative for the Republican Party who had been expected, was unable to attend. Panel members commented that his absence resulted in a lack of opposing opinions in some areas.
The panelists were asked to explain their parties’ stands on the issues.
Paul Homeniuk, the Green Party Michigan treasurer, said the Supreme Court did not balance government with the Hobby Lobby case, and had a role that did not address the issue.
Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said his party believes strongly in the 14 amendments, and that they should not be interpreted as a shield to discriminate against people.
Ken Proctor, a Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House, said Hobby Lobby was not a good decision.
Joseph Dunne, MCCC Philosophy professor, said he believed the representatives did not discuss the correct issues of the court case.
The panelists disagreed with the conclusion of Hobby Lobby, but failed to reasonably justify their claims, he said.
“As a teacher and professor, I find it irresponsible to simply assert conclusions — especially to students — without providing good, justifying reasons for believing these conclusions,” Dunne said.
The central point of contention was not whether corporations are legally considered persons who can have or use the same rights as you and I in their business, but whether closely held corporations can be said to possess religious beliefs, he said.
The court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, involved Hobby Lobby possessing a sincere belief of moral wrongdoing by providing abortifacients to their employees based on the full range of health care coverage required by the HHS mandate, Dunne said.
The government had good reason to interfere with Hobby Lobby’s belief because of an interest to provide healthcare to all citizens, he said.
“The reasonable alternative protected Hobby Lobby from having to violate their closely held religious beliefs and also provided a way for their employees to still get covered with the full range of health benefits,” Dunne said.
The panelists, however, discussed the case as if corporations being allowed to possess deeply held religious beliefs was to discriminate against people exercising their right to freedom of speech and the pursuit of happiness.
“To disregard a religion or sexual orientation, might as well hang up a sign saying we don’t sell to blacks,” Proctor said.
“Taking deeply held religious beliefs to hold against people from the LGBT community,” Dillon said. “We need to strike a balance for people to exercise their faith as long as it doesn’t conflict to other peoples’ freedoms and rights.”
The panelists raised points that misled and distracted the audience from the main issues of Hobby Lobby, Dunne said.
Merely claiming to disagree with a conclusion without providing sufficient reasoning is called a logical fallacy, Dunne said.
“Giving adequate, justifying reasons for not accepting the conclusion of Hobby Lobby would require investigating the details of the case and understanding the reasoning of the majority and minority opinions,” he said.
“Unfortunately, evidence of such investigation and understanding were absent from the panelists that evening, and the students suffered most as a result,” Dunne said.
The panelists also shared their views on guns and immigration.
The Green Party believes strongly in our right to self-defense, but putting regulations on guns won’t help with the real issues underlying, like education, economics, and criminal justice, Homeniuk said.
We need simplified policy and laws to leave immigration open because we would not have so many people wanting to immigrate if we didn’t have all these wars, he said.
“You need rules and laws governing immigration, but need control over immigration,” Homeniuk said. “It’s not about controlling immigration and more about lobbying immigration.”
The Democratic Party supports the right to bear arms for hunting and self-defense because it is not only engrained into life, but our amendments, Dillon said.
“Not a right the state can impose restrictions on,” he said. “Keep people safe, watch people who shouldn’t be getting guns, because there are common sense ways to background check.”
“Issues of immigration reform are complicated,” Dillon said. “Reality is we are not going to be able to stop every person from coming into the country, and the cost of trying to round up undocumented people will not be tolerated or something to be proud of.”
The Libertarian Party holds the right to self-defense without the means of self-defense is meaningless, Proctor said.
“Bad people use guns in bad ways, and good people use them in good ways,” he said.
“Reform to immigration — to be able to extend visas to people who can pass background checks, work and pay taxes to be a part of our economy,” Proctor said.
Joe Bellino, chairman of the MCCC Board of Trustees and a candidate for the Michigan House, noted that it’s important to remember that Americans have the power of the vote.
“We make decisions, we push majority through, we make our rules, and then if we can’t get along — we vote somebody else in — and get that person to make the rules,” Bellino said.
“I think it’s very important we don’t get too far left or far right in our decision processes,” he said. “If I’m Republican, I’m supposed to hate Democrats, but I love a lot of Democrats; I believe a lot of democratic values, and I’m a Republican myself.”
Bellino ended by saying we should be able to talk our problems out, work through the legislative system, make our own laws, and get along together.
“Right now, there’s about 60 million people between the ages of 18-29,” Homeniuk said. “The last election for president was decided by about 60 million.”
If everyone between the ages 18-29 were to vote, we could sway this country any direction we wanted if we realized how much power we have, he said.
“If you’re unhappy with the results and you didn’t vote — blame yourself,” Homeniuk said.
The next president will be appointing the next Supreme Court justice, and possibly two to three, Dillon said.
“This election will have significant consequences, not just for the Constitution, but for what kind of country we stand for,” he said.