“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2.
A movement called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is spreading throughout the United States. The association was founded in 2011 by former sheriff Richard Mack. It reportedly has over 4,500 members, including more than 200 sheriffs.
This movement is based on the idea that county sheriffs are the highest governmental authority in the country and that they can overrule federal and state authorities. They believe they have the right to defy any federal or state law they think is unconstitutional.
In Nevada, four counties, Elko, Lander, Lyon, and White Pine, have officially joined this movement, declaring themselves to be Constitutional Counties. A group in Fallon is now pushing for Churchill County to declare itself a Constitutional County.
The people promoting this apparently think they are upholding the U.S. Constitution when in reality they are nullifying everything it stands for. Article VI, Clause 2, quoted above, makes it very clear that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. All other laws, state, county, and city, are subordinate to federal law.
The Nevada Constitution, Article I, Section 2, confirms this. “But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States.”
There’s more, but this clarifies that no person or governmental entity has the right to undermine or resist federal authority.
Those who think that county sheriffs have the authority to resist federal laws apparently don’t realize that the word “sheriff” doesn’t appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. Nowhere does it say that sheriffs can legally impede federal authorities doing their jobs. Richard Mack and his followers invented that claim; by doing so, they are violating the oaths of office they themselves took.
“I, ...., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States, and the Constitution and government of the State of Nevada, against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state notwithstanding….” (NRS 282.020 Official oath)
By claiming ultimate authority over the Constitutions of the United States and Nevada, these people have themselves become the “domestic enemies” they took an oath to defend against.
Some people contend that the framers of the Constitution wanted a weak central government, with states holding more power. That was the situation under the Articles of Confederation, and it failed miserably. In response, the authors of the Constitution worked to ensure we had a strong central government.
James Madison explained the necessity of having a strong, stable central government in Federalist Paper No. 44. He stated that if the states tried to supersede federal power, “… it would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members.”
Members of the Constitutional Sheriffs want to ignore the head, the federal government, and claim that the parts can do what they want. We fought a long and bloody Civil War to abolish that idea. Through their actions, CSPOA members are showing they no longer believe in the Constitution.
On Feb. 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln addressed this issue. “The people are the rightful masters of both Congresses and courts – not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.” He recognized that those who seek to overthrow or disregard the Constitution are our real enemies.
Those who want Churchill County to become a Constitutional County need to understand this actually undermines the Constitution. Those of us who love and respect the Constitution must stand firm against this.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.