Publishing Company Under Fire for Putting Warning Label on Constitution
By Diane Macedo
Published June 09, 2010
A small publishing company is under fire after putting warning labels on copies of the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and other historical documents.
Wilder Publications warns readers of its reprints of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Common Sense, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federalist Papers, among others, that “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today.”
The disclaimer goes on to tell parents that they "might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work."
Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says the company may be trying to ensure that oversensitive people don't pull its works off bookstore or library shelves.
"Any idea that’s 100 years old will probably offend someone or other," Olson told FoxNews.com. "…But if there’s anything that you ought to be able to take at a first gulp for yourself and then ask your parents if you're wondering about this or that strange thing, it should be the founding documents of American history."
The warning seems to be offending more people than the documents themselves.
Amazon.com’s customer reviews of Wilder’s copy of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation show an overwhelming number of people speaking out against the disclaimer, describing it as “insulting,” “sickening” and “frankly, horrifying.”
Another review for Wilder’s edition of the Federalist Papers calls for an all-out boycott of the publisher, sarcastically pointing out the "dangerous ideas" it’s trying to protect children from: "limited government, checks and balances, constrained judicial review, dual sovereignty of states and federal government, and deliberative democracy."
And though warning labels are usually posted to protect a company from potential lawsuits, constitutional attorney Noel Francisco says this disclaimer has no legal benefits.
"Would it ever be a legal concern that selling the Constitution would expose you to some kind of liability? No. Never,” Francisco told FoxNews.com. "The Constitution is the founding document of the country, an operative legal document."
As for the idea that this warning label might help keep these works from being yanked off bookshelves, Francisco says it is more likely to have the opposite effect: people not carrying the book because it has the disclaimer.
"By putting on the warning, you’re making controversial something that’s not controversial: our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence," he said.
Amazon customers appear to agree. Almost all of the reviews discussing the disclaimer end with the same thought: don't buy from this publisher.