Yes, Indiana has a Constitution

Friday, February 8, 2013

Yes, Indiana has a Constitution

One of the great mysteries of living in Indiana is why so many of us have not spent time reading the Indiana Constitution. Indeed, many can recite from memory favored portions of the United States Constitution, such as the Second Amendment, but how many of us can recite Article I, Section 32 of the Indiana Constitution, which states: “The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.” Arguably, our Hoosier Second Amendment is simpler and easier to understand than the federal version.

Indiana’s current constitution dates to 1851, which replaced an earlier constitution that had been utilized to obtain statehood. The fact that it was written sixty-four years after the U.S. Constitution is helpful because the language used in the document is more like present-day English and helps shed light on how the Hoosiers who authored our constitution interpreted the U.S. Constitution – with which the Indiana Constitution needed to be in harmony.

The Indiana Constitution begins with the following Preamble: “TO THE END, that justice be established, public order maintained, and liberty perpetuated: WE, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to ALMIGHTY GOD for the free exercise of the right to choose our own form of government, do ordain this Constitution.” It contains sixteen articles, ranging from a bill of rights (Article 1) to the amendment process (Article 16).

In many respects, the Indiana Constitution provides even more protection against government infringement of liberty than the U.S. Constitution. Some of this is undoubtedly because the federal government’s powers are constitutionally restricted, where a state’s powers are much more general – which gives rise to a need to set forth more protection. For example, the Bill of Rights in our U.S. Constitution has 10 provisions, but Indiana’s bill of rights has 37 sections.

Education is a major focus in Indiana. The Indiana Constitution devotes an entire Article to the subject, which begins: “Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

We have many blessings in Indiana. We must not forget that many of these come down to us through a system of government that our founders took the time to discuss, debate and put down in writing. Whether you come to Indiana by birth or by immigration, we are all Hoosiers and can be proud of our upright, rich heritage.

As a state representative, I took an oath to uphold our Indiana Constitution. This is more than lip service. The limits of our freedom are often not defined by what takes place in Washington but by those serving in Indianapolis. As public officials, we must never forget that Indiana has a constitution – and to thank God that it is a good one.


State Rep. Tom Washburne serves as Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Financial Institutions Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Washburne represents the entirety of Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey counties.