Group voicing Constitutional concerns

Bruce Journagan, CAN DO spokesperson, reads a copy of the Constitution in his home. (Staff writer: Marlena Hartz)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The Constitution is in Bruce Journagan’s back pocket. It isn’t always there, but he does try to keep a copy nearby — sometimes in a pocket, sometimes on his end table, sometimes near his computer.

He ordered 30 copies of the document for distribution at the first meeting of the Constitutional Activism Network for Democratic Objectives, or CAN DO.

Journagan is the spokesperson for the fledgling group.

Though his desk is littered with articles he plans to hand out at the first meeting, Journagan is reluctant to call himself the founder. The Clovis native is reluctant also to be labeled a political person. He is a democrat, but votes according to the “man not the party,” he said.

The impetus for the formation of the grassroots, non-partisan organization is worry over the course of the nation, and what Journagan perceives as the dwindling power of the Constitution.

“The Constitution is the one thing that has stood between the American people and tyranny ever since it was adopted over 200 years ago,” Journagan, 47, said.

The passing of the Patriot Act in 2001 was a “wake-up call,” Journagan said. For the aspiring screenwriter and Eastern New Mexico University graduate, the act represents a deep constitutional trespass.

The Patriot Act was drafted after 9/11 and exists to “deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes,” according to a copy of the act posted on a Web site.

Civil rights organizations have since objected to various sections of the act. Among the most controversial is one that allows the government to search an individual’s library, financial, rental, church, phone and other records without that individual’s consent or knowledge.

“We used to have what you would call due process. … This kind of legislation and the Supreme Court rulings we’ve been getting remind me of Hitler’s rise to power,” Journagan said.

Journagan’s list goes on: Fifteen homes were seized earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled (in Kelo vs. City of New London in New London, Conn.) the land should be given to a private company for the construction of a river-front economic center. It left many states and citizens scrambling to define eminent domain, a rule set up by the government many argue, not for private gain but for projects, such as the construction of a road or a library, that chiefly benefit the public.

Furthermore, Journagan — who, according to neighbor Tony Heiman, is “constantly in the books or on the computer researching things of interest” — alleges the Supreme Court is more and more looking abroad to make decisions here in the states.

His allegations and worries are valid, according Fred Van Soelen, a Clovis Community College political science instructor and a city commissioner. A nationwide backlash against the deterioration of private property rights was ignited after the Kelo decision, Van Soelen said.

“They’ve (CAN DO) got an issue that resonates with a lot of people,” Van Soelen said.

Rube Render, chairman of the Curry County Republican Party, doesn’t agree with the Kelo decision, either. Although Render isn’t alarmed by the Patriot Act — until recently, Render said, a list of past readers was printed on the inside flap of every book — he is concerned by the effect of globalism on the Constitution.

“The Supreme Court has a tendency to view other judicial decisions from outside the country in making decisions for inside this country. I believe the Supreme Court needs to look to the Constitution rather than to Europe (when making decisions),” Render said.

Whether or not Journagan’s efforts will pay off no one knows for sure.

He said six of his friends are already committed CAN DO members, but he communicates with many of them only through e-mail. He isn’t worried about not having enough material to pass out during the first meeting; he is more concerned that he has prepared too much.

His faith in the Constitution, nontheless, cannot be shaken.
“It was an astounding occurrence in human history that so many geniuses were all collected together and were able to hash out the most advanced form of government that has ever existed. Ideas like that don’t come along every 200 years; they don’t come along every 500 years,” Journagan said.

And that touches upon another of his objectives — gathering together like-minded individuals.

“I am hoping that the stimulus of talking with others who are of like mind will spark creativity. I don’t expect to be the answer man, but I feel that if you empower people and get them to think outside the box they can come up with all sorts of ideas,” Journagan said. “There are a lot of people out there concerned (about these issues), but they feel like they are alone.”

• CAN DO will meet at 7 p.m. in the Clovis-Carver Library on Thursday, Oct. 20.
• To contact Journagan, e-mail him at radio.carbon@yucca.net
• A copy of the Constitution can be read at www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/ constitution.overview.html