By next October, Hillsdale County residents Jon-Paul Rutan and John Smith plan to host a conference on constitutional thought in the Hillsdale area.
The conference will feature speeches about the Constitution by constitutional lawyer and speaker KrisAnne Hall, of the KrisAnne Hall Show; former Sheriff Richard Mack, who served in Graham County, Arizona; Sheriff Brad Rogers, of Elkhart County, Indiana; and others.
“We want these constitutional people to come in and speak and teach us their knowledge, their history, what they have experienced, and how the Constitution can be put into practical use,” Smith said.
Rutan and Smith just began planning the conference, but they hope to have eight to ten speakers, who will include a member of the Oath Keepers and potentially a gun-rights group, according to Smith.
Mack and Rogers are both members of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Mack, who heads the CSPOA, claims the power to refuse to enforce federal laws that disagree with the Constitution. Mack also started a successful lawsuit which challenged the constitutionality of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
“I’m the only sheriff in U.S. history to take a lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court and win,” Mack said. “Not too many historians gave us credit, but this was a big step in stopping Brady Bills. It was a big case, and probably the most forgotten and ignored cases which the Supreme Court ever did.”
Rogers came to national attention in 2011, when he interceded for a dairy farmer who was inspected by the FDA for selling unpasteurized milk. After investigating the case, Rogers warned the FDA that continuing to inspect the farmer’s land without a warrant would result in the arrest or removal of federal agents.
“The sheriff is the law of the land,” Rutan, who ran for Hillsdale County sheriff in 2016, said. “That is why the sheriff is such an important position, and that’s why you better know whom you are voting for. The sheriff is the highest law of the land in Hillsdale County.”
Rutan and Smith say the constitutional conference will not only focus on educating the locals but also bridge the gap between the college and the town.
“Let’s face facts: a lot of townspeople will never be able to leave Hillsdale to go see these people, ever,” Rutan said. “I think the conference is a good thing, a way to start breaking down the barrier between the hill and the town, and a way to bring the Constitution to the people here where a great constitutional college actually is.”
The conference will be funded partly out of Rutan and Smith’s own pockets, and partly out of donations. Currently, they cannot afford the cost of a convention space, and so they hope to hold the conference at Hillsdale College. Smith said they have not contacted the college yet.
If the conference is a success, Rutan says he hopes to make it an annual event.
“It doesn’t matter what political spectrum you come from: once you start understanding the principles, you fall in love with the Constitution all over again,” Rutan said. “We are hoping to make the conference an annual event, where people will drive here from four or five hours away, where friendships will form, and where the principles of the Constitution will sprout and grow like new grass and travel throughout this county.”