Former University of Montana law professor Rob Natelson, a constitutional scholar and outspoken conservative, recently advocated the need for state ratifying conventions to more than 200 audience members at a gathering in Kalispell.
The conventions are one of two methods established by Article Five of the United States Constitution for ratifying proposed amendments. Natelson spent two hours explaining the textured process for altering the supreme guiding document on Oct. 21 at the
Outlaw Inn, and said the conventions are still relevant today.
Ratifying conventions have been used on just one occasion – the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition.
Natelson took aim at mainstream conventions that dismiss the relevance of Article Five conventions, saying those antagonists “cherry pick the evidence to try to get the conclusion they want to get.”
“I operate a little differently. I use my skills such as they are to try to get to the bottom of what the truth is. I report the results because that is the standard I try to set for myself,” he said.
Natelson retired from UM in May 2010 after serving 23 years as a professor and tenured faculty member in the law school in order to take a job as a senior fellow with the Independence Institute. The following year, the law school’s faculty denied him emeritus status.
Former state senator and candidate for U.S. Congress Corey Stapleton lavished Natelson with praise during an introduction.
“This is how a government is supposed to work. This is how the founding fathers thought the government should work,” Stapleton said. “It was very difficult for a conservative constitutional scholar to operate in a place like Missoula for 23 years. He has been nicked and scarred by what they could throw at him. But he remains one of the greatest constitutional scholars of our time.”
Flathead District Judge David Ortley, Columbia Falls state legislator Jerry O’Neil and former Montana Gov. Stan Stephens were among the notable community members who attended the forum.
Since the early 1990s, Natelson has been an advocate for the conservative movement in Montana, leading ballot initiatives, hosting radio talk shows and twice running unsuccessfully for governor.
The event was sponsored by Tim Baldwin, who ran unsuccessfully for the legislature in 2012, and his father Chuck Baldwin, the 2008 presidential nominee for the national Constitution Party. The elder Baldwin moved to the Flathead Valley in 2010 after retiring as pastor of the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., and Tim Baldwin subsequently opened a law practice.
Natelson’s presentation was an academic lecture, not a call to arms, and he said it is relevant given that the country’s checks-and-balances system has largely broken down.
“In 50 years the federal government has run a deficit five times. That, I would say, is a sign of trouble,” Natelson said. “I got involved involved with politics 50 years ago during the Cold War campaign at the age of 15. The situation is more broken now than it was then.”
“The rules of the game have broken down and it is time to establish new rules that will make the system better,” he said. “In order to adopt structural rules you need a constitutional amendment. Congress has not proposed an amendment to live within its own mind since 1777, other than to end prohibition.”
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