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Publisher Slaps “Outdated” Warning On U.S. Constitution, Founding Documents

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Warns parents that Declaration of Independence should be contextualised for kids

Steve Watson
Thursday, Jun 10th, 2010

A publishing company is drawing ire for placing a disclaimer on the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents, indicating that they are out of date and do not reflect the values of modern America.

Wilder Publications, which carries reprints of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Common Sense, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federalist Papers, includes a warning on the books that reads:

“This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today.”

The company also provides advice to parents seeking to educate their children on U.S. history:

“Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”

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The clear indication here is that the Constitution and those who value it may be socially inept racists, sexists and homophobes.

In a Fox News article on the story, Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, notes that Wilder may have been forced to place the disclaimers on the documents in order that they not be removed from the shelves by “oversensitive people”:

“Any idea that’s 100 years old will probably offend someone or other,” Olson said. “…But if there’s anything that you ought to be able to take at a first gulp for yourself and then ask your parents if you’re wondering about this or that strange thing, it should be the founding documents of American history.”

Wilder Publications issued the following statement clarifying their position:

“We specialize in classic books and we were receiving complaints about the values depicted in some of the books. We wrote the disclaimer so that we could stop having to point out to our readers that people held different values 100 or 200 years ago. It seems we’re dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t.”

Constitutional attorney Noel Francisco says the idea that the warnings are legally required is ridiculous:

“Would it ever be a legal concern that selling the Constitution would expose you to some kind of liability? No. Never,” Francisco told FoxNews.com. “The Constitution is the founding document of the country, an operative legal document.”

“By putting on the warning, you’re making controversial something that’s not controversial: our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence,” Francisco added.

Angry customers have vented their views at Wilder’s page on Amazon.com

One reviewer notes:

“Really we need to have a disclaimer on our historic documents? The constitution is more important now than any other time in our nations history. I will check every book I purchase and ensure it is not published by Wilder Publications until they stop printing the constitution with a disclaimer.”

Others have vowed to boycott both Wilder and Amazon.

It seems that their anger is somewhat misdirected and should be more focused toward those in positions of authority that have so distorted social and cultural norms to the point where it is considered necessary to place such a disclaimer on freedom.

Take Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan for instance.

Kagan’s has previously argued that the government has a role in policing free speech, that the state should have a remit to censor books and newspaper editorials, as well as the political opinions of radio talk show hosts or television reporters.

In addition, Obama’s information technology czar Cass Sunstein has called for the re-introduction of the “fairness doctrine,” which would force political websites to carry mandatory government propaganda.

While Wilder’s Constitution disclaimer is an alarming story, it is merely part of the fallout of the wider erosion of freedom which, unfortunately, boycotts and one star reviews on Amazon .com will not coming close to fixing.

This article was posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 9:54 am

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