Jon-Paul Rutan addresses attendees of the U.S. Con­sti­tution class at Volume One Book­store.
Crystal Schupbach | Col­legian

A group of con­cerned cit­izens gathers for a Con­sti­tution class in Volume One Book­store in downtown Hillsdale every Tuesday night.

They shuffle in around 7:30 p.m. and help them­selves to fresh coffee and friendly com­munity — owner Richard Wunsch’s cat even hangs around for the lesson. The group follows a Hillsdale Justice Project weekly meeting held at 6 p.m.

Between the Justice Project meeting, the class, and sub­se­quent dis­cussion, some stay at the book­store for upwards of four hours.  

Since 2012, Hillsdale res­ident Jon-Paul Rutan has been teaching a class on the U.S. Con­sti­tution every week, putting his own twist and insight on mate­rials found in Hillsdale College’s online Con­sti­tution 101 course.

Rutan is not new to teaching, having pre­vi­ously taught at Jackson Com­munity College.

“Offering the class is planned edu­cation of the public to bring back the republic,” said Rutan. “We teach how the law applies, but it’s important to note that we don’t give legal advice.”

Rutan begins each class by passing out a quiz that serves as an outline of what to listen for in the recorded lecture. Once the class glances over the ques­tions, Rutan plays the video.

On April 11, the topic of dis­cussion was reli­gious liberty and the admin­is­trative state — a lecture given by Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Thomas West in the series entitled “Con­sti­tution 201: The Pro­gressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureau­cratic Despotism.”

He fre­quently stopped the video to engage those in atten­dance by asking ques­tions and making com­ments with an occa­sional hint of humor.

“There’s one thing my grandpa always told me — ‘never speak religion or pol­itics,’ but that’s all I ever speak of,” Rutan joked to the class.

One Hillsdale res­ident, Dennis Wain­scott, shared that he was for­merly a min­ister and police officer, and is running for the Hillsdale City Council this election cycle.

He said he has always believed in the law and, fur­thermore, took an oath to uphold it. The class helps him live up to this ideal.

“I learn more about the Con­sti­tution each time I come. I was never taught about it in high school,” Wain­scott said.

Couples, friends, and fam­ilies use the class for advanced learning and for the social expe­rience. Michael Wain­scott, Dennis’ son, said that he has been coming to the class with his father for the past two or three years.

“It gives us back some­thing that we may for­gotten over the years. This class lets us practice and relax as we get older without the pressure of a normal classroom,” Michael Wain­scott said. “Being able to get involved with a group of people who want to make a dif­ference sits well with me.”