Certainly we’ve all heard several times in our lifetimes about the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We all learned in grade school (supposedly) that the 14th amendment, as the second leg of Congress’ three-pronged Reconstruction based attempt to ‘make Black folk whole” in this country (the 13th ended slavery, the 14th made Black folks citizens, the 15th said Blacks could vote) was part of the Constitution’s golden tablet for civil rights in this country.  

For over 150 years of American history, in fact, the Supreme Court has used the 14th Amendment in public rulings that have built the current edifice of civil rights and liberties in this country.  The 14th amendment confirmed the rights and privileges of citizenship and, for the first time (even though this is still evolving), guaranteed all Americans equal protection under the laws. 

But, similar to other parts of the U.S. Constitution, there is even more in the 14th amendment than what initially meets the eye.         

Last Thursday, a New Mexico state court judge ordered that Couy Griffin, a current state official and the founder of a local pressure group  called “Cowboys for Trump,” must be immediately removed from his elected post as the Otero County Commissioner, and must be prohibited from seeking and from holding any further federal or state office. Mr. Griffin had actively participated in the January 6th attack against the U.S. Capitol, and in so doing he participated in an insurrection against the U.S. government. 

As far as is known, this is virtually the first modern test of what is Section 3 of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Francis Mathew, of the 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico, ordered Griffin to be stripped of his position  immediately forthwith and to be permanently prohibited from seeking or holding any federal or state position. In the ruling, Judge Mathew said Griffin is barred from public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because he “engaged in” the Jan. 6 insurrection and, in so doing, he became disqualified from serving in either federal or state elected positions the day that he participated in the Capitol assault.

That is a modern interpretation of an obscure, little used provision of the 14th Amendment, Section 3, which states that “no person shall be a senator or representative in Congress” or “hold any office, civil or military” if they, after having taken an oath to support the Constitution, “engage in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or gives aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” 

The provision was originally meant to bar members of the Confederacy from holding office after the Civil War, and has very rarely been used since. The last time may have been 1919, when Congress refused to seat a Socialist member who had provided material aid to German forces against the U.S. in WWI.

With this opening gambit by Judge Mathew, it will be interesting to see how this all multiplies, since there are many elected public officials who either actively participated in the January 6th attack on the Capitol; or they participated in the fraudulent state electors scheme; or they performed some other egregious action in support of the attempt to steal an American presidential election. 

And then, of course, there’s Mr. Trump.

Film at 11 !

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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