ALEXANDRIA, Va. (BP)–A coalition of leading conservatives has unveiled a document promoting a “constitutional conservatism” and affirming the three legs of the movement: social, economic and national security conservatives.
The Mount Vernon Statement, released at a news conference Wednesday (Feb. 17) at the Collingwood Library and Museum in Alexandria, Va. — on land once owned by George Washington — was modeled after the 1960 Sharon Statement, which was released 40 years ago and spearheaded by the late conservative leader William F. Buckley.
The Mount Vernon Statement was signed by, among others, Richard Land and Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Kathryn J. Lopez of National Review, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, and Ed Meese, attorney general under President Reagan. (A complete list of signees is available at www.themountvernonstatement.com.)
“A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles,” according to the document, which points continually to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. “It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.”
A Constitutional conservatism “based on first principles” supports social, economic and national security conservatism, the document contends.
Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded the Mount Vernon Statement.
“The Mt. Vernon Statement is a superb summary of the first principles that unite conservatives of various stripes in America,” Land said. “It is important for conservatives to remind themselves, as well as the nation, where their first principles come from, namely our founding documents. While different elements of the conservative movement may have differing emphases, we share these first principles. There is more that unites us than divides us.”
The Mount Vernon Statement does not mention any political parties or politicians but it does criticize those who “insist that America must change” and “cast off the old and put on the new.” During his campaign President Obama utilized the word “change” in speeches and commercials.
“Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?” the document asks. “The change we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”
The document does not mention any of the hot button social issues such as abortion or “gay marriage” but it does outline principles that could apply to those issues.
At the outset the document states: “We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.”
The document concludes by listing five ways in which a Constitutional conservatism “based on first principles” leads to a “consistent and meaningful policy agenda”:
— “It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
— “It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
— “It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
— “It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
— “It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. The entire document can be read online at www.themountvernonstatement.com.