Article 5- The Two Ways to Amend the Constitution
Published on July 23, 2022
Article 5

When someone opposes something that I love or believe in, I sometimes find that I want to react on the defensive.  I may only have a partial understanding of what the other person is saying, but if I’m not careful, defending my side becomes more important than listening to theirs.  In his classic work, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey said we should seek first to understand, then to be understood.  I try to keep that in mind, as I think it is very good advice.  If you speak with others about our Constitution, it won’t take long until you find yourself in a conversation with someone who says something like, “The Constitution was written a very long time ago.  The challenges of society today are quite different than they could have ever known back then…”  When I hear something like that, if I think about Mr. Covey’s advice, I realize they actually have a valid point.  The world has changed much since the days of our founders. 

I’m so offended

As an example, the Constitution specifically mentions the Army and Navy.  It does not mention an Air Force…  I am an Air Force veteran, but my branch of service doesn’t get mentioned!  The reason for this may be related to the fact that Orville and Wilbur Wright’s flight didn’t happen until 1903!  So, we need to remember to seek first to understand, then to be understood.  So, really, the other person in our conversation is right – things are not the same as they were.

A different world

The challenges our nation faces are very different today than those she faced when George Washington took office as the first President under our new Constitution in April, 1789.  The world is different, society is different, culture is, wow, so different.  I am always amazed at the foresight of our founders.  They built our nation to be able to adjust to changes they knew would become necessary.  One of the areas where we see their foresight is in Article 5 of the Constitution.  Article 5 is 143 words.  In 143 words, the founders gave us not just one, but two methods for proposing amendments to our Constitution.  These amendments, as needed, allow our Constitution to remain relevant as the world changes. 

“The Constitution of any government which cannot be regularly amended when its defects are experienced, reduces the people to a dilemma – they must either submit to its oppressions, or bring about amendments, more or less, by a civil war…”    

– James Iredell, speaking at North Carolina’s ratification debate, later nominated Supreme Court Justice by George Washington, speaking about Article 5.
Article 5

The two methods

The first method for proposing potential amendments to the Constitution given to us in Article 5 is by Congress.  Two-thirds of both houses of Congress may propose an amendment.  The second method for proposing amendments is a convention of states.  When the legislatures of two-thirds of the states request a convention, then Congress must call a convention.  The convention will be made up of representatives from each state.  They will work together and propose potential new amendment(s) to our Constitution.  It is important to note that regardless of which route is taken to propose an amendment, whether it is proposed by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, or whether it is proposed by a convention of states, either way, the amendment has to go out to the states for ratification.  The only way the amendment will become part of the Constitution is if it is ratified by three-fourths of the states. 

That Sounds Hard

You might be thinking…  “Wow, that sounds hard to do!”  If you have ever followed things going on in Congress, you already know that getting two-thirds of BOTH houses to agree on anything is approaching impossibility.  The only other option is to get the legislatures of two-thirds of the states to ask Congress to call a convention.  That seems crazy hard to do as well!  Then ON TOP of the very high bar posed by either of those two methods of proposing an amendment, it has to then be ratified by three-fourths of the states to become part of the Constitution.  As you can see, this is no easy task.  That is for good reason.  We don’t want to be changing our federal Constitution for (to borrow a phrase from the Declaration) “light and transient causes”.  These can’t be red or blue priorities they are trying to cram down each other’s throats.  These have to be things the American people want – things they are willing to demand from their representatives in Congress, and from their State Legislatures.  Think things like an amendment requiring a balanced budget, or term limits for members of Congress, or other restraints on federal government power. 

Which Method?

As we consider things that might warrant a new Constitutional amendment, we have to think through which path might make the most sense as a strategy to get it done.  The first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, was passed through the first session of Congress and was then ratified by the states on December 15, 1791.  In fact, there are 27 amendments that have been made to the Constitution in the history of our nation.  All 27 of these took the path of being proposed by Congress.  When we think of potential new amendments, ones that would limit Congress with term limits, or restrict them to a balanced budget, it seems the route of a convention of states might be more feasible.  When do you think two-thirds of both houses of Congress will vote to limit their own power?  Probably will never happen…  So, if we are to limit Congress, we need to encourage our state legislatures to call for a convention of states. 

Covention of States

There is an organization working on making a convention like that happen.  They are called Convention of States, or shortened to “COS”.  In a future article, we will look at the work COS is doing and how we can plug into their work to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution for a balanced budget, term limits, and other fiscal restraints on the federal government. 

Seek to Understand

One thing I have noticed about discussing amendments to the constitution is that it brings out all kinds of reactions from folks, even in circles (or especially in circles) of people who love our Constitution and our form of government.  When we find ourselves in these conversations, I think we can once again remember Mr. Covey’s advice.  Let’s have respect for one another and hear the concerns.  Let’s seek to understand the other position before trying to make them understand ours.  It will be a fun conversation between people who love our country.  I understand being hesitant to change our Constitution.  Our founders certainly understood this as well because they set the bar very high to make any changes. 

We need to limit our government

I will say that I truly believe we need to amend our Constitution.  We need to place limits on our federal government – not to fundamentally change our form of government – but to “undo” unconstitutional changes that have been allowed to creep in over the years.  We need to return to the original intent of our founders.  Americans often erroneously view Supreme Court decisions as Constitutional amendments in themselves.  Do you ever hear about the Supreme Court “legalizing” something?  They have no jurisdiction to pass laws – that is an exclusive function of the Congress.  We need to clear up things like that.  Imagine if we were to call a convention of states, propose amendments to place new limits on the federal government for something like term limits for members of Congress, and ratify that amendment into the Constitution – all without ever requiring support or concurrence from Congress…  can you imagine how that would change the political landscape of our country?  Can you imagine how that would clearly demonstrate that “We the People” hold the power in this country?  I think we need to do that. 

What do you think?

What do you think?  Do you think a convention of states would be a good thing?  Why or why not?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Maybe we can have one of those conversations Mr. Covey says highly effective people have…  thank you and I will talk with you soon. 


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  1. Daniel Southerland

    What a great article! I would definitely enjoy seeing these amendments come to fruition.

    Two of the top questions I hear concerning convention of states are the following:

    1. Do we really want term limits on Congress, considering there are Senators such as Rand Paul who has and still is fighting for conservative principles but has been in office for around 11 years.

    2. Threats of a “runaway convention”, The worry here is that the representatives from each state will not represent the people’s will and we will end up with an amendment that will harm our God-given freedoms.

    Any thoughts on these two issues?

    • Jason Southerland

      Great questions! We could have conversations on both, but I guess for a brief answer here I would say something like:
      1) Term Limits- Yes we would lose a couple good legislators (and I agree Rand Paul is a great one), but the percentage of those (in both parties) that need to go home are MUCH higher than those we need to keep. Frankly, if we could just get real people who genuinely do what is best for the country within legal limits of the Constitution, I would be happy with that. I’m sick and tired of folks just going to Washington to play the games with smoke, mirrors, and lies. Let’s get real people in there who actually want to obey the Constitution and do what’s right for the country.
      2) Runaway convention- fortunately, we are the beneficiary of incredible foresight of our Founding Fathers. They set the bar so crazy high that ratification by three-quarters of the states is so difficult that it is impossible to pass something that is radical. To get that level of support, it would have to be something the people really wanted – not just the latest red or blue fad.
      Great Questions! I hope this provides an answer. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Jeff Segal

    Jason, This was a great blog. And I agree that it is time for a COS. And I also believe that more people should know what the Constitution says and what it means to do. And what limits it puts on the Federal government because I keep seeing that some of our elected officials in Congress have forgotten what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. And we saw it when the Supreme Court over turned Roe v Wade. They kept saying that abortion was a Constitutional right. Well Abortion isn’t even mentioned once in the Constitution. Yet they keep saying that it is. All that the over turning of Roe v Wade was to send it back to the states to decide on the matter of how abortions will be dealt with. And that is where it belonged in the first place. And then there is the matter of the 2A. The Anti-gunners hate guns so much that they seem to forget that the “right to keep and bear arms” is a right given to us by our CREATOR (G-d). And that is one reason why our Founder’s put it in the bill of rights. Not to mention that the 2A is also an enumerated right as well. Which means that Congress cannot violate it. Which they seem to keep trying to do every chance that they can.

    • Jason Southerland

      Yes sir! One thing that bugs me about some of the recent Supreme Court decisions (vaccines, etc) is that they say something like President can’t mandate vaccines for a group of people because it wasn’t passed by Congress. With Roe vs Wade being overturned, the President then said it needed to be “codified” by Congress. So, let me get this straight, the Supreme Court says it isn’t Constitutional, so he wants Congress to pass it in a law… something doesn’t make sense about that! Then, as you mention, infringing on right to keep and bear arms is not only not in the enumerated powers of Congress, but is specifically prohibited! Yes, our federal government has forgotten their legitimate Constitutional limits. Thank you for the comment!

  3. Jeff Lytle

    The arguments against COS, in my opinion, are mostly rooted in fear. What I have heard from the opposition is: “there is no clear direction on how the delegates from each state are chosen and because there are too many radical leftist out there, the selection process would be infiltrated by the radical leftist. Therefore, any delegates selected could manufacture any sort of amendments up and to destroying our Constitution.”

    Not that I believe any of that. I don’t buy into the media hype that the majority of America wants the Marxist agenda that is being crammed down our throats. I believe a vast majority of America is God fearing and we are simply not being highlighted in the media, at least in a good light.

    We are not given a spirit of fear but one of faith. I believe that God is with us and we can overcome any enemy that stands in the way of God’s will for us. We should have faith in moving forward with COS and pray that Godly men and women will be selected as delegates. Here’s a crazy idea… let’s get involved in that process and make sure we have local candidates and State reps that are people of faith. This is a Nation under God and a government of, by, and for the people. We should start acting like it and take back our government. We rule them. It’s not the other way around.

    • Jason Southerland

      Wow – yes sir, I agree with you. Let’s be involved in the process and take it back – I love that. We also have the high bar the founders set for us in that whatever comes out of convention still would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states in order to change the Constitution, so I see no way for radical stuff to clear that hurdle. Plus, a great point I have heard made by David Barton of Wallbuilders is that Article 5 is part of the Constitution. It is not a new or foreign idea. So, we can’t be afraid that using the Constitution would endanger the Constitution. …and let’s face it… our Constitution is being trampled more and more every day with alarming increase in frequency and severity. So, the most dangerous thing for our Constitution is for those of us who love it to sit here and do nothing. Thank you, Jeff, for all you are doing in your local county to raise awareness and get people plugged in – that’s what we need! Thank you also for your comment!

  4. Carol

    I loved this article, the replies and your answers….I have learned so much by reading them. I get excited when you talk about something that I have learned in your Constitution Alive class. Sadly, even though I’m in the older, older generation, I didn’t know much about the constitution. I never had it in High School and it wasn’t taught when my son went to school. I just took it for granted that the Constitution had every thing covered (It did, but I think that some people we elected have trouble believing that). Then as America seemed to be falling apart, I was thinking, can the government really do that? Duh! Wake up! Wake up! I found a class on line (FREE 😊) where Rick Green was talking about the Patriot Academy…so here I am. In your class! I feel blessed to be there. I think there are a lot of people out there who thought like I did. Prayerfully, it’s not to late to make a difference. Carol

    • Jason Southerland

      Amen! Thank you Carol! We are very glad you found us! I believe we can still make a difference – I know God can still make a difference, so every day I ask Him to save our country! I don’t know whether or not He will, but either way, I feel it is our duty to be busy in the meantime, so here we are. 🙂 Thank you so much for the comment!

  5. Julia

    We need a “do over” of the past 20 or so months, we need to fix the elections first and then go back and start making amendments. We have to get to the root group of this horrible regime and abolish it. Once that is clean we can move forward with a better government in place, hopefully with a sound mind and start making amendments to improve where we are lacking of fell behind. I believe it will take a lot of work from everyone, but it is definitely possible.

    • Jason Southerland

      I definitely agree with you on the last 20 months, but if we’re already gonna “do over” for that, we might as well back up a little farther and fix some other things while we’re at it! 🙂 Yes, it will take a lot of work from all of us, but if each of us finds the spot we are called to and if we do that one thing at full speed – then with each of us working on each part, the whole thing will come together. I believe we can fix this country. Rather, I should say I believe God can fix it if we repent and turn back to Him. Until then, may we all be busy in whatever He has given us to do! Thank you again for your comment!

  6. Catherine Spencer

    Thank you for this concise article. I have been reading about Amending the Constitution from various articles.

    • Jason Southerland

      Yes Maam… I believe we need to amend it – not to introduce anything new, but to close some of the large loopholes that have developed over the years. We need to get back to the limited government our founders gave us and that our founding documents define! Thank you for your comment!

  7. Florence Adamson

    Thank you for sharing this blog post, Jason. I am a firm believer in the COS. I believe it’s success will send a strong message to Congress from “We the People” and perhaps encourage many members to resign or not run for re-election, who are not there for the people.

    • Jason Southerland

      I agree on the strong message to Congress. Can you imagine something like term limits being placed upon their positions without their concurrence? That would remind the nation how this thing is designed to work and where the real power resides! Thank you for your comment!


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