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“What We Teach Our Kids About the Constitution?

As I stood to wait for an elevator last week in anOrlandooffice building, I heard someone tell a colleague that his son had asked him if he thought poor people should be drug tested. The man told his son that he and his children would be responsible for the large bill incurred by those poor people through the benefits they receive from the government. A drug screen was a small price to pay for the money he would have to pay on their behalves in decades to come.

I already know how dangerous it is for ignorant people to teach their children lessons in government, civil rights and taxes. But it was downright scary to hear an educated professional tell his child that welfare recipients are responsible for our enormous debt. Then, he used that as a reason to show his son why they should have to give up their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Clearly, this is a person who has never had to endure a violation of his rights. He has never been harassed by a police officer, his son has never had his locker searched at school and his wife has never been arrested during a protest. It is precisely the people who don’t have a reason to appreciate their rights who are the most likely to take them for granted. He has never had a “There but for the grace of God go I” moment.

In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s first year in office, his popularity has gone down. It has been difficult to find people who will admit to voting for him, much less supporting him. What you will find, however, are many people who agree with the spirit of the legislation he has championed. That includes most members of the Florida Legislature. Critics say they have taken our state back decades. This includes everything from laws that interfere with a woman’s right to choose to those that create a hardship on 5-million Floridians who want to exercise their right to vote. Of course, it includes this law.

We have been fortunate, in this case, to have a court system that won’t back up such nonsense. When U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven issued a temporary injunction against the new law last week that requires drug testing of welfare applicants, she wasn’t simply righting a wrong.  She was tellingFlorida’s welfare recipients, many of whom are in their predicament because of the lapsed economy, that they aren’t suspected criminals. She was also telling the Governor and the Florida Legislature that the will of the people’s elected representatives on any given day could never trump the U.S. Constitution, which is the blueprint for our governance. That is something we should be teaching our kids.

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