This week we turn our attention to California. We will begin by looking at the California Constitutions of 1849 and 1879. Here is a brief introduction: Given that the 1879 Constitution is the third longest in the world (after Alabama and India), you will be glad to know I want you to focus only on those parts of the Constitution that address religion or God. Hint: Note the preambles to both constitutions. How is this different that the preamble to the United States Constitution? Why did the US Constitution not have such a preamble? When is religion mentioned in the US Constitution? What about both of the California Constitutions? (An easy way to explore this is to use the “find” tool and include such words as “God” or “religion” or “religious.”) One of the reasons that the California Constitution is so long is explained in this article: To better understand California’s inclusion of direct democracy in its Constitution, this article from Houghton Mifflin History/Social Science page might help: California’s Direct Democracy The United States has a representative democracy. This means citizens vote for people to represent, or speak for, them. California has a representative democracy, too. Californians vote for their governor, senators, and representatives. These elected officials create, uphold, and interpret California laws. In our democracy, people agree to follow the laws, even if the person they vote for doesn’t win the election. California’s voters can also help make laws by creating ballot propositions. Propositions are ideas citizens have for new laws or changes to the Constitution. Voting on whether or not to make a new law is direct democracy. History of Propositions: The system of direct democracy in California started in the early 1900s, when many Californians were unhappy with their state’s government. Wealthy railroad owners controlled the governor and other state officials. The officials made laws to help businesses instead of the people they represented. In 1911, citizens in California changed the state constitution so that voters could help make laws. They created a system of initiatives and referendums. An initiative is a proposal for a new law. If enough citizens sign a petition, or written request, these proposals become propositions and they are added to a ballot. Citizens vote on whether they want propositions to become laws. Another form of direct democracy in California is the referendum. A referendum allows citizens to vote for or against a law that the state assembly has passed. Any California citizen can write a petition to propose a new law. If enough people sign the petition, the government must put the proposition on the ballot and let citizens vote. If enough people vote for the proposition, it becomes a law in the same way the legislature creates new laws. Currently, it takes more than 900,000 signatures to bring an initiative or a referendum before the voters. That is a tough obstacle to overcome. Even so, the number of these propositions has soared in recent years. Too Many Questions? Some people think there are too many initiatives and referendums in California today. To make good decisions, voters need to learn about each issue. This can be hard when there are so many initiatives on the ballot. “Democracy in California is on overload,” said the Fresno Bee newspaper. Many voters like direct democracy, however. Elizabeth Garrett, a law professor at the University of Southern California, says the voters feel better about laws that they pass themselves. People prefer to make changes directly, she says, “rather than hoping that lawmakers, who have an interest in the process, will reform [change] themselves.” Examples of Propositions: One of the most recent and contentious propositions—Proposition 8—promoted serious questions about how much an established religion(s) participate in a political campaign. Prop 8 and Religious Voters These two commentaries give reflect the two sides of this issue: Against religious political activism: Prop 8 Challenge Puts Religion on Trial The complexities of the entry of religion in politics is evident in this video: Although there were church/state issues involved in Prop 8, another was the issue of direct democracy and whether or not it was good for the running of the state: Use your discussions to find out and discuss more information about other court cases involving church/state issues that have arisen in California. ***USE AS REFERENCE- ***ANOTHER REFERENCE WILL BE ATTACHED *****PLEASE make 3 SEPERATE discussions 250 words in length.
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