Do Michael Johnson, Grassroots for America only believe in ‘original’ Bill of Rights?
Senate candidate Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson
Because that's what the organization's website says.

Should the U.S. Constitution have stopped at 10 amendments?

A right-wing group striving to take over Seminole County Republican politics and running a Sarasota Senate candidate drew scrutiny over a seemingly exclusionary mission statement. Grassroots For America, an activist group seeking to influence its legislative influence in Tallahassee, makes clear on its website it likes some parts of the Constitution more than others.

“Our mission is to attract citizens who practice personal responsibility, good citizenship, follow the rule of law and who support the United States Constitution, as well as the ‘original’ Bill of Rights,” reads the About Us section.

The callout to the first 10 amendments of the constitution caught the eye of the editorial board for the Venice Gondolier.

“’Original’ means the first 10, excluding, among others, the ones that gave African Americans and women the right to vote,” an editorial reads.

Indeed, another 17 amendments were passed to the U.S. Constitution since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, and many contain rights and restrictions omitted by the Founding Fathers but nevertheless popular today. The 26th Amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote. The 22nd Amendment in 1951 limited Presidents to two terms. Only one, the 18th Amendment ratified in 1818 to prohibit alcohol, proved unpopular enough to be repealed with the 20th amendment in 1933.

But not one of those was part of the original Bill of Rights written by James Madison shortly after the adoption of the Constitution.

The Gondolier appeared to stumble across the language doing research on Michael Johnson, an activist who just moved to Sarasota to challenge state Sen. Joe Gruters. The editorial board endorsed Gruters in an Aug. 23 Republican Primary despite a list of concerns on votes he cast and cited Johnson’s connections to the far-right group among its reasons.

The organization’s mission statement up until that point went largely ignored, even as it has in the past year attempted a full mutiny of the Seminole County Republican Party.

Gruters, for his part, seemed startled by the language. “I think the entire constitution should be followed,” he said.

Neither Johnson nor Grassroots for America replied to inquiries about the organization’s mission statement.

Gruters also serves as chair of the Republican Party of Florida. That directly sparked Johnson, treasurer for GFA, to challenge him. Johnson was part of an attempt to take over the Seminole County Republican Executive Committee and force a special meeting to elect new officers. Existing leadership blocked that and filed a grievance with the state party, which sided with the sitting REC officers. Johnson has said that inspired him to move to Sarasota and challenge Gruters.

While GFA stirred friction in Seminole County, little attention appears to have been paid to the mission statement.

“I cannot speak for nonpartisan groups, but I will point out the Republican Party, from its inception in the days of Abraham Lincoln, has had the abolition of slavery, codified in the 13th Amendment, as a part of our party’s platform,” said Jesse Phillips, Seminole GOP state committee member. “I would hope a group dedicated to civic education would also support constitutional amendments establishing the Electoral College and women’s suffrage. The inability of Joe Gruters’ opponent to acknowledge basic tenants of our constitutional republic cast doubt on his ability to fulfill an oath to uphold the Constitution should he be elected.”

The rest of the GFA website voices a devotion to the Constitution — including offering a “Constitution Class” taught by a local history teacher — but it doesn’t enumerate what parts matter.

In one portion, the website states that “our constitutional rights have been drastically threatened,” and makes a commitment to contact all Florida sheriffs to see if they are “constitutional Sheriffs.” Its test for that seems to be whether sheriffs will take firearms from citizens or force them to have vaccinations.

But the exclusion of any part of the Constitution beyond the original Bill of Rights should unsettle voters, Gruters said.

“It should be a complete disqualification from office,” Gruters said. “If you don’t believe in all the protections of the Constitution, those type of views don’t belong in American politics today.”

Grassroots For America screencap via grassrootsforamerica.org

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


11 comments

  • Joe Corsin

    August 17, 2022 at 8:05 pm

    Yeah buncha anti-government, neo nazi terrorists. God and baby Jesus save us from this filth.

  • Just a comment

    August 17, 2022 at 8:16 pm

    It is a great article. But the stock market is not the constitution
    It is not separate religion from government
    It is slightly to separate business with government
    Plus it was not the constitution
    It was the conditions being laid upon the people’s

    • Joe Corsin

      August 17, 2022 at 9:04 pm

      Seek help immediately..

    • Just a comment

      August 17, 2022 at 9:17 pm

      I believe we seen enough with Snowden
      Wiki leaks etc alliance unconstitutional
      One world order with if you get displacement your a gonna.
      Criminalized homeless where is the 8 the there

  • Just a comment

    August 17, 2022 at 9:19 pm

    I believe we seen enough with Snowden
    Wiki leaks etc alliance unconstitutional
    One world order with if you get displacement your a gonna. Die
    Criminalized homeless where is the 8 the there

  • Elliott Offen

    August 17, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Ass roots fake patriots just want to form militia and terrorist groups to protect the grifter capitalist class. IRS on your ass? Call in Trump trailer park terrorists to protect the hogs…go to federal prison instead of the hogs.

  • PeterH

    August 18, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Good grief! We can’t ignore these crazies. Vote all Republicans out of office.

  • Jerry

    August 18, 2022 at 12:42 am

    Bill of Rights has always been defined as the first 10 amendments. It’s in every school history textbook. Type Bill of Rights in google and first thing that pops up is that it’s the first 10 amendments. I’ve actually never in my life heard the bill of rights being defined as all 27 amendments.

    The point of the first 10 amendments is is to enshrine the very basic fundamental rights for what was a new government. It was a way to make sure the government would not become like the monarchies of Europe that threw people in jail for saying the wrong things, or for political/religious persecution. They protect things like the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a trial, right to not incriminate yourself, state rights, and yes….the right to bear arms. Many of these rights have been under full scale attack by liberals the past several years. Liberals want the 1st, 2nd, and 10th amendments to be scaled back.

    Nobody is attacking the 13th amendment. Nobody is attacking the 19th amendment. Those amendments aren’t getting attention because they are not under attack! Name a single Republican (not a troll) that has advocated removing the 13th or 19th amendments. Name just one! But I can name MANY Democrats who want to repeal the 2nd amendment.

    • Elliott Offen

      August 18, 2022 at 8:09 am

      We should issue everyone a machine gun, a tank, and a hundred pounds of explosives at birth. All this under the guise of the 2nd amendment. Then when technology reaches new levels and laser pens can kill people in milliseconds then we should allow anyone to have those to in the name of freedom and the constitution. Hell, let’s just make a holiday for mass shooters…or designate one day out of the year when conservatives can kill anyone they want or blow up whatever they want.

    • John shoe

      August 18, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      Oh please change that record. No one wants to take away your precious little gun. But we don’t need military style weapons on the streets or in the hands of nuts which most belong to the republican Trump party and your worried about liberals and yet you defend a guy who tried to over throw the US government now ain’t that a blip. You don’t need a gun any kind your nuts already

  • tom palmer

    August 18, 2022 at 7:24 am

    Prohibition was passed in 1918, not 1818. There have been calls to repeal the 2d Amendment. It is a really bad idea because of the precedent it would set. I have never heard of any attempts to amend the 1st and 10th amendments.

Comments are closed.


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