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The Constitution Now

Thank you for a brilliant article on the relevance of the Constitution for modern times ["One Document, Under Siege," July 4]. I read it a second time, substituting the word Bible for Constitution, and it was a liberating religious experience. Could TIME publish a similar article about the Bible, a 2,000-plus-year-old document?

The Rev. Paul Veliyathil, CORAL SPRINGS, FLA.

TIME's cover photo of the partial shredding of the U.S. Constitution is disgraceful, distasteful--and protected by the very document you shred. Thankfully, the Constitution will survive a dumb cover photo by your magazine.

Fred Walker, PHILADELPHIA

While I enjoyed Richard Stengel's exploration of constitutional issues in the public eye, the real constitutional story lies in Supreme Court decisions that expand corporate influence while insulating corporations from public and governmental attempts to restrain abuses. Those decisions pave the way toward a society of inequality, in which elections are merely window dressing for the control of government by moneyed interests. The Constitution will survive disputes over war powers, debt, health care and immigration, but unless voters regain some influence over the electoral process, our democracy will become a sham.

Jim Lovell, SEATTLE

Stengel refers to the constitutions of the Soviet Union, Cuba, Nazi Germany and Libya. The Bolshevik-inspired Soviet constitution did indeed include a guarantee of the right of free speech, as an example, but a guarantee of and by the government; our Constitution recognizes the right of free speech as inherent to the people and not to be interfered with by the government, except in limited circumstances like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Our Constitution is unique in world history, and that fact should never be diminished.

Ronald M. Smith, WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

Stengel felt compelled to state the obvious: that the framers of the U.S. Constitution were not gods. Ironically, however, as with the Koran, Torah and Bible, our Constitution has so many interpretations as to make its essence more a matter of faith than fact. So better does it provide a continuous guiding light to our liberties as well as to its own preservation.

Craig M. Miller, LAKEWOOD, OHIO

Stengel says the framers "gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being." The three-fifths compromise was indeed a perverse one, but Stengel's misleading phrase perpetuates a popular misconception: that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention negotiated an agreement to declare those of African descent to be inferior to whites by 40%. The admittedly obscene three-fifths fraction was an arbitrary number meant to indicate not the relative value of slaves but the extent to which the whites who owned them would be rewarded with additional political power. Thus it was those who treated black people as less than human who were pushing the number upward and those whose heirs would help free them who tried to reduce it. Stengel's phrasing implies the opposite.

Glen Jordan Spangler, LAUREL, MD.

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