When I first started dating my wife, a friend of one of my children told her that we could never get married because it was “against the bible.”

You see, my wife is black, and this child’s parents believe that races shouldn’t intermingle. Their biblical support for this belief rests on a few Old Testament verses, which in context warned ancient Jews from intermingling with other nations and ultimately falling to the temptation to adopt their religions, thus forsaking God. Those verses have nothing to do with modern race relations, or race at all for that matter. In context, they address issues of spiritual purity.

But these individuals harbored some racist attitudes and they bolstered those beliefs through a pick and choose smorgasbord approach to biblical interpretation.

We’ve all seen it. Anybody can pick an isolated verse or passage out of context and come up with any such manner of nonsense. To truly understand the intended meaning of any work, the reader must take it as a whole and allow the work to inform their views. But too many put their preconceived notions first and then force the text to support their viewpoint.

Many Americans  follow this practice when interpreting the Constitution. They start with their political agenda and then try to shoehorn it into the Constitution. The intellectual and rhetorical gymnastics can become quite amusing.

Case in point – somebody identified only as Hempy commented on a post on Bluegrass  Institute blog and asserted that the Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate health care and enforce insurance mandates through the clause granting the power to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

I’m not making this up.

Hempy wrote:

There is no provision in the Constitution prohibiting Congress from enacting healthcare legislation.

The article (that he is addressing) misconstrues Madison’s quote. Art I, Sec 8, Clause 8, says, Congress shall have power…

To promote the progress of science and useful arts….

Medical advances are the result of scientific progress. The deliver-mechanisms qualify as useful arts.

So, healthcare is included under the general welfare clause because it is qualified by the details of powers connected with them. Clause 8 provides the details of general welfare powers since it is connected with them.


Of course, debunking this twisted logic proves no more difficult than reading the rest of the particular clause Hempy cites. Here it is in toto.

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

So yes, the Constitution grants Congress the power to promote the progress of science – but clearly not in any way a person can conceive. The clause restricts the federal government’s promotion of science to one specific role: issuing patents and copyrights.

How anyone can twist that clause into a justification for federal control of the health care system soars way beyond me. But it perfectly illustrates how political ideologues subjugate the actual meaning of the Constitution to their own agenda.

At the Tenth Amendment Center, our agenda IS fidelity to the Constitution – Every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses.

Mike Maharrey