Should elected officials be required to take a test measuring their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution?

Lafayette's governing body is about split on the idea, which was proposed at the City-Parish Council meeting Tuesday. The resolution, if approved, would have made the suggestion to state legislators.

The resolution failed in a 4-4 tie, as District 7 Council Member Don Bertrand was absent. District 9 Council Member William Theriot and Andy Naquin, District 6, authored the resolution, and Jared Bellard, District 5 and Keith Patin, District 8, supported them.

These things become matters of opinion.

Behind the proposal was Ray Green, a District 6 resident who — under the guise of something called the Common Sense 3 Project — brought the idea to the council's attention. He said it was between each council member "and God" if they chose to oppose it, as they were sworn — under God — to uphold the Constitution.

Here are some sample questions proposed on the Common Sense 3 website:

  • The US Constitution is in direct conflict with the Holy Bible. Why?
  • The USA is the greatest example of a Democracy & freedom in the world. Why?
  • Communism is actually a greater threat to our country than losing our constitution. Why?

Jim Crumling of local Tea Party group Acadiana Patriots spoke on Green's side. The proposal's intention, he said, is “to test the knowledge of the people that are going to make decisions in our lives."

District 3 Council Member Brandon Shelvin compared the idea to literacy tests enacted in the Jim Crow South to keep black voters from exercising their democratic rights.

"I think for a legislator, whether state, local or national, to want to propose a test for someone running for public office — (they) should go back in the history books and read where we came from many, many years ago, and how we got to this point," Shelvin said.

Kenneth Boudreaux, District 4, compared the idea to a local junked-car ordinance that was declared unconstitutional a few years back, but has since been reinstated with new language.

"These things become matters of opinion," he said. He told Crumling he'd be better off building up the numbers behind his organization and asking candidates these questions, then basing the group's vote on their answers.

So what do you think? Should elected officials be required to show their knowledge of the Constitution, or would such a measure be discriminatory? Let us know.

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