Inside Report: Council members support testing for candidates

Two Lafayette city-parish council members are asking seven of their colleagues to back an effort being pushed by strict interpreters of the U.S. Constitution.

A resolution, pushed by councilmen William Theriot and Andy Naquin, would show official Lafayette support for state legislative passage of a law requiring all candidates for public office to take a test.

“The Lafayette City-Parish Council hereby supports the Common Sense 3 Project and requests that the Legislature in the spring 2015 session review a proposal that would require candidates for public office to pass a test demonstrating basic knowledge of the State and Federal Constitution,” reads a section of the resolution proposed by Theriot and Naquin.

The Common Sense 3 Project is the creation of Ray Green, a longtime Lafayette resident who describes himself as a strict constitutional constructionist. Though the resolution mentions the Louisiana Constitution, Green’s emphasis is on the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights and was adopted in 1789.

“The constitution as a written instrument means basically the same today as the day it was written, unless it’s amended,” Green said last week. Green said he is a member of Acadiana Patriots but not a member of the tea party.

Green said he believes all candidates for public office should take a test on what the document contains and what the words mean.

Theriot said the council listened to Green speak about the test on July 15 during a regular council meeting.

“It’s something that would help officials be a little more familiar with the constitution,” Theriot said. “... What the state is going to look at (in spring 2015) is how technical they want (the questions) to be.”

Green’s website — commonsense3project.com — contains sample questions requiring true or false answers. Then it tells the test-taker to justify the answer, which would require essays that by necessity involve religious or philosophical points of view.

One question proposed on the website: The U.S. Constitution is in direct conflict with the Holy Bible. Why? Another: The Federal Reserve is a true government agency or organization. Why? One more: George Washington’s picture, image or replica, is on a U.S. one dollar bill. Why? (Green said the answer is false: Washington’s image or picture is not on an actual $1 bill, it’s on a Federal Reserve note. Green said the Constitution requires real money to be backed by gold. “That is an oxymoron,” Green said. “It cannot be a dollar and a note.”)

Contrast the Common Sense 3 Project questions with those on a sample test that U.S. citizenship-seeking immigrants take, questions that have definite answers: What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution? The Bill of Rights. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment? One of a few answers: freedom of the press.

Green said he and others composed a committee that crafted the questions. He said other committees containing like-minded people would grade the answers given to the thousands of public office-seekers who run each year for elected office in Louisiana.

A state legislator who backs the test suggested to Green and other Acadiana Patriots that the test be voluntary for public office seekers. Green would not name the legislator.

“I’ve had three different political candidates call me and say ‘Look, I’d like to know if my opponent has answered the questions. Because if they haven’t I’m going to use that,’” Green said.

Billy Gunn is a staff writer for The Acadiana Advocate. He can be reached at bgunn@theadvocate.com.