Ottawa is declared a Constitutional County
Published June 9, 2023
Written by Madison
Photography by Simply American
The majority of the Board of Commissioners, committed to protecting individual freedoms, voted to pass a resolution to declare Ottawa County a “Constitutional County.”
The resolution holds that no resources will be appropriated for the purpose of enforcing any unconstitutional laws that infringe upon citizen rights.
Vice-Chair Rhodea Introduces The Resolution
After hours of public comments at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, Board Vice-Chair Sylvia Rhodea introduced the proposed Resolution to establish Ottawa a Constitutional County.
Rhodea followed the reading of the proposal with her personal comment:
“The Constitution is a contract of timeless principles that created and defined government for a single purpose; to secure the rights of the people. We are committed to upholding the Constitution as written. As we wrote this resolution to declare Ottawa County a Constitutional County, we recognized the need to protect not only second amendment rights, but all constitutional rights.”
“In recent years,” Rhodea added, “during the course of the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, due process, parental rights, and individual freedoms were repeatedly violated in our county and our state. And in protecting the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, we must remember that arms defend not only individuals, but ultimately the entire nation from the hands of tyrannical government.”
Next to comment on the resolution was Commissioner Allison Miedema: “Some said that this does not fall under our jurisdiction, or that we are seceding or the like. These allegations are wrong.”
Miedema continued, “There is an 800-year history that proceeds this resolution. We the People, including this Board of Commissioners, have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Just as We the People have a right to petition this Board of Commissioners for a redress of grievances, the Board of Commissioners has a right to petition for a redress of grievances.”
Board Chair Joe Moss referenced the Contract with Ottawa, written months ago, that he and other commissioners had made with the people of Ottawa County. If elected, he and those who signed it had pledged to “support a county resolution that recognizes civil liberties are not reduced or suspended in times of crisis. Unconstitutional orders posed in such times by a governor, state agency, or local agency will be actively opposed and not enforced.”
Ottawa is far from being the first Michigan county to take such a step. Moss said that according to local media, “50 out of the 83 Michigan counties have adopted a resolution like this; supporting constitutional rights.”
Moss paused to look out at the room of constituents. “Someone asked me earlier, ‘Why is Ottawa County so far behind?’ Ask yourself that question.”
In lieu of a comment, Commissioner Doug Zylstra made a motion to strike paragraphs one through fourteen of the resolution and replace them with a statement pledging to uphold the United States and Michigan Constitutions as interpreted by their judiciary. The motion failed.
Moss proceeded to a roll-call vote and the resolution to make Ottawa a Constitutional County passed.
Those in favor: Commissioners Moss, Rhodea, Miedema, Gretchen Cosby, Roger Belknap, Lucy Ebel, and Kyle Terpstra.
Those opposed: Commissioner Doug Zylstra.
Resolution Declares Constitution Is The Highest Law In The Land
There were some public commenters who thought the passage of the resolution would mean the end of gun safety and an increase of gun violence.
Valerie Martin from the City of Grand Haven said: “We support our county law enforcement officers and we rely on them to keep us safe. We cannot condone any resolution which suggests law enforcement officers should decide which laws are or are not constitutional.”
Christina Strait, also from Grand Haven, was concerned that becoming a sanctuary county would mean, “… refusing to enforce state gun safety measures which puts public safety at risk and undermines our democracy.”
A few citizens spoke about the role of judges who interpret the Constitution, believing that the judges stand above the Constitution.
Milton Niewsma stated, “Among other things, our Constitution is clear about the role of the Supreme Court, which is to interpret the laws of our land and determine how they should be applied. That includes Articles I and II and the Bill of Rights. That’s the job of the Supreme Court.”
Several of the public comments implied that the resolution encourages citizens to disobey the law. Rather, the resolution protects law-abiding citizens—it does not protect those who do not abide by the law.
The resolution upholds the Constitution as the highest law in the land, not the judges who interpret the Constitution or any other official.
Additionally, the resolution recognizes the ability of average citizens to read the Constitution and think for themselves, recognizing when unconstitutional laws are being enforced.
Many Citizens Spoke In Favor Of The Resolution
Joel Studebaker of Jamestown Township referred to comments made by those who opposed the resolution: “The question was asked, ‘Are you (commissioners) not already abiding by the Constitution?’ The majority of you are. However, the majority in the Senate and the House in Michigan are not. This is also true of the federal government. So this resolution is exactly the appropriate proactive step on behalf of We the People of Ottawa County.”
“The statement was made that this resolution has little effect on our sheriff and prosecutor,” Studebaker said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. This resolution represents the will of the majority in Ottawa County. It sets the tone for local ordinances and instructs the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices to tell state and federal authorities to stand down or be arrested if they enter Ottawa County to violate the constitutional rights of We the People.”
“The power,” Studebaker continued, “lies with We the People over every level of government. And the power always lies with local government over state and federal government because the alternative is communism, whereby no person from conservative to liberal has any rights other than what the state allows. The power is always actually at the lowest level. We the People hold the rights, hold the powers, and we are delegated our rights, not by government, but by God.”
John DeBlaay of Georgetown Township said, “Unfortunately, thanks to corrupt self-serving politicians—some present here today—the corrupt liberal media, and paid political agitators, passing a resolution to make Ottawa County a Constitutional County and standing up for our veterans has become a necessity to stand against tyranny. Through your actions today you are sending a message of hope and freedom, not only to the residents and voters of Ottawa County, but to other counties and states across the country.”
Greg Todd of Crockery Township said, “As an attorney I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects that government overreach has had on our small businesses that have been destroyed, families torn apart, communities pitted against one another, crime is through the roof, mental health issues are raging out of control… but one thing that I saw is even more sinister than all of that, the people that were sworn to protect us were forced to choose between their oath of office and our constitutional rights, or whether they were going to feed their families. That’s not something that should have happened ever in a land where freedom rings.”
“I’m not sure why following the Constitution is a controversial issue for everyone here tonight,” Todd added. “More than half the counties in this state already do this and under the Constitution we should all be doing it. And we should all be applauding it.”
Rich Dausman of Wright Township said, “When I listen to the arguments against the constitutional resolution to be a Constitutional County, most of those arguments seem to come out of fear. People are willing to trade freedom for fear, and I’m asking you not to do that.”
“Government officials are supposed to obey the Constitution. When a person in a higher position isn’t obeying the Constitution, the lesser magistrate doesn’t have the right, he has the responsibility to defy the one who is disobeying the Constitution. And that’s what this resolution is all about.” Dausman continued, “I’m kind of interested to know how many of those who are criticizing this idea think we should defy those who are disobeying the Constitution.”
Noel Watts from Zeeland said, “The question’s also been asked, ‘Are we operating constitutionally today?’ I would submit to you that no, we are not. We’re operating under a system where governments have chosen to incorporate themselves since the 1870s. Therefore, our constitutional rights are forgotten, not paid attention to, and we don’t even know what those rights are. We have government acting and pretending to be government under the color of law.”
“I want to encourage all of the team here representing Ottawa County,” Watts added, “to continue to bring us back into a constitutional government, a Constitutional County, and look out and protect and support all of our constitutional rights.”
Joel Buck from Georgetown Township said, “If you live in a country that will lock you up until you can prove your innocence for speaking against its government then you live not in a free country.”
“And if I can’t live in a free country, I want to live in a free county.”
The Resolution Honoring Heroes Of Freedom
The second resolution, Honoring Heroes of Freedom, was proposed for a vote. The resolution honors the fallen, veterans, and those in active military service for their role in preserving our freedoms, and the important sacrifice of past, present, and future veterans—Heroes of Freedom—in preserving and protecting our freedoms.
Moss opened the floor to commissioner comments on the resolution. Ebel shared personal stories of family members who had served in the military. She said that probably everyone has a personal story and that the resolution “is very dear to my heart. I’m going to vote ‘yes’ to this because I want to honor all those veterans that died at a young age and didn’t have a chance to get married and have children and grandchildren. I’m so thankful for the love, for them giving their lives so that we could have our freedoms. Thank you.”
Miedema shared a comment as well. “Just a simple thank you. Thanks is not enough for all of our Heroes of Freedom. My own grandpa didn’t begin sharing (his stories) until the last couple years of his life, and I don’t think that’s a rare thing. I think that happens a lot. But man, when you get the opportunity to hear those stories, hang onto them. I’m looking forward to voting ‘yes’ on this. Thank you to our Heroes of Freedom.”
The Resolution Honoring Heroes of Freedom passed by a unanimous vote.
Moss concluded by asking, “If there are any military or veterans with us, if you can please stand. We’d like to just say thank you.” The commissioners and those in attendance rose to their feet, applauding in appreciation.
In response to the two resolutions, several commenters recited selections from this quote by Ronald Reagan:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
— Ronald Reagan