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.”