By Evelyn Pyburn

I hate to say it but the court decision regarding the case of Held vs. Montana – kids suing the State of Montana for failing to provide them with a clean environment – was totally in keeping with Montana’s 1972 Constitution.

And I suspect we have more similar decisions to come unless we change the Montana Constitution.

Back in the day when people were all excited to approve the new constitution, as though they were getting a new car – – a small group of people I knew discussed what they saw as the most atrocious part of the new document, which was written based upon a “model” constitution provided to the delegates by the League of Cities and Towns (a very statist organization).Their concern was about such a glaring error that, quite frankly, I am surprised it has taken so long for the legal industry to take advantage of it.

Montana’s current Constitution states: “All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment….” With that declaration the crafters of the constitution set the stage for guaranteed injustices.

It’s a matter of understanding what the term “right” means as it is used in a Constitution. A right is not some “thing,” it is action. It is not a gift card, it is the opportunity to pursue a course of action.

When the word is used as it was in the Montana Constitution it demands an answer to the unspoken question: If a citizen has a right to a clean environment, then who has the obligation to provide it? Who by virtue of nothing more than having been born is inherently obligated to fulfill that right for that citizen? Who is to be that citizen’s slave?

Apparently, considering the recent court decision, it is business owners and market investors, as well as consumers and taxpayers, who are obligated to fulfill the Constitution’s mandate.

In the US Constitution, a “right” is used to allow the freedom to pursue an action. You are given the right to acquire a gun, not “to” a gun.

If the judge in Held vs. Montana were to be consistent, he would also conclude that someone, somehow is required to give every citizen a gun. Or provide them with a podium or air time to fulfill their “right” to free speech.

This use of the word “right” in such an incorrect way in the Montana Constitution is not an aberration. The state constitution also claims that every citizen has a right to an education. Again we must ask, who is responsible to fulfill that “right.” A free country – a free state – does not enslave one person for the sake of another; it provides an environment in which everyone is free to act to acquire that which they need or want. Indeed, everyone should be free to gain an education. But, if it is something that is our due, then President Biden isn’t so far off in paying off college loan debts, and it is somehow fair that other hardworking citizens should pay for it.

The US Constitution makes no mention of education – it was assumed to be no different than acquiring any other commodity and it never occurred to them that it needed to be itemized. Our forefathers would have been horrified at government providing education. It takes little imagination to know where that would lead – exactly as it has.

And, they undoubtedly never imagined we would all be condemned to live as though in a prison to “save the planet.”

Of course there are those who will insist that the claim on the wealth of others is “just” because there are people who need to be helped, or causes that are good and should be supported. While those aspects of reality do exist, so do the very many opportunities (especially in a free society which is what this issue is really all about) to VOLUNTARILY provide for them. An important word in that effort is “persuasion” – rather than using the force of government to achieve those ends, people persuade others as to their importance – whether it’s cleaning up a river or feeding starving children. In fact, during our era of freedom, Americans did more to help worthwhile causes than any coerced support from any government ever, and the US has one of the cleanest nations in the world, because people CHOSE to direct their wealth to achieve those things. No one had to confiscate it from them.

To have used the word “right” in the manner it was used in the Montana constitution is a disgrace. It reflects very little acumen; it is, however, a marvelous “make work” provision for lawyers and graft for carpetbaggers for decades to come.

There are instances in which the state constitution uses the term correctly. In fact, in the same paragraph in which it declares citizens have a right to a clean environment, the word is used correctly: “…and the rights of pursuing life’s basic necessities, enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and seeking their safety, health and happiness in all lawful ways.”

To believe that the Held vs. Montana case is an aberration would be a huge, huge mistake. As one attorney commented soon after that court decision, be assured attorneys are lining up with all kinds of cases to file in Montana because it will henceforth be quite profitable. What they don’t impose upon investors of Montana business and industry, the taxpayers will be required to pick up.

Just use your imagination, while looking at all the many ways they are attacking our means of survival and ability to produce in the name of preventing global warming. Each law and regulation and claim of calamity is a ripe opportunity for a lawsuit against the State of Montana and its now- obligated taxpayers.

And they will win every time because our state constitution says that some of us have a claim to the property of others, to have what we want because we want it, and the rest have been enslaved to provide it.


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