By William J. Furney
Last semester I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Douglas Dow on the free exercise clause of the Constitution. I should rephrase. Last semester – due to a requirement for my EPPS freshman course – I decided to attend a lecture by Dr. Douglas Dow on the free exercise clause of the Constitution.
I have to admit, at first I considered attending this event more of a chore than an exciting opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Constitution and would be happy to attend a lecture on some of the sexier clauses of the Constitution. I went into the “Constitution Day” presentation prepared to be bored for about an hour so I could take some pictures to “prove” I attended an EPPS event, but hey at least I’d get free pizza.
To my surprise, Dr. Dow’s presentation was incredible. Among Dr. Dow’s topics was not only the free exercise clause but popular culture, televangelists, and the most interesting of all – the constitutionality of Constitution Day.
If you don’t know, back in 2004 Senator Robert Byrd passed a bill that had a clause mandating all publicly funded educational institutions (pretty much every university in the nation) hold a Constitution Day celebration. So, in other words, every university is required to have an educational event about the Constitution on September 17, the day the document was signed.
Dr. Dow posed a question that intrigued me. Is this type of mandated celebration even constitutional? I started to think about this during the rest of the presentation and am still considering it.
While I enjoyed Dr. Dow’s lecture I came to realize something a little bit later after he was done speaking and I had my free pizza — something that I hadn’t expected to discover. Preconceived notions about something may be completely off base, we know this to be true intuitively, of course, but I would have never expected to be so wrong.
I had preconceived notions on what to expect from the lecture and I am happy to report that they were false. So next time you attend a university event you think you will hate, keep an open mind, you might be surprised.