A Trip to Camp Constitution–Happenings on the Way to Heaven by Kathryn van der Pol


Happenings on the Way to Heaven

Copyrighted by Kathryn van der Pol

July 23, 2023



Last week I told you that Sybren and I were headed to New Hampshire. By the time you read this, we’re settled back in Washington, mowing our meadows, weeding the gardens, and readjusting to Texas’s habanero heat.


We drove through seventeen states: Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and, of course, Texas, driving a “great circle” of over 4,000 miles. It’s good to be home.


The primary purpose of our trip was to attend Camp Constitution in New Hampshire. It was funny to hear the campers complain about it being “hot” when it was only 85 degrees. It also rained a good bit. How I wished I could have bottled up the rain clouds and delivered them to Washington.


Hal Shurtleff is the founder of Camp Constitution. He started it 15 years ago for families, most with children, to learn about the founding fathers, current events, the Declaration of Independence the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.


Shurtleff is a Constitutional celebrity in his own right. Last year he won a Supreme Court decision 9-0, involving the free exercise and establishment clause of the First Amendment.


In 2017, his camp took a field trip to Boston’s City Hall for a celebration. The City Hall had three flag poles: one for the U.S. flag, one for the Massachusetts flag, and one for citizens to use. Shurtleff had brought a Christian flag which has a white background with a cross in the corner. The clerk at City Hall would not allow him to raise the Christian flag, saying it violated separation of Church and State. So, Shurtleff sued and in January 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold his and Camp Constitution’s unalienable right to exercise their freedom of religion. The court stated there was no evidence that the state was establishing a religion by allowing the raising of the Christian flag, but by forbidding Hal to raise the flag, the city denied his right to exercise his freedom of religion.


I first learned of Camp Constitution years ago watching an online presentation by a Harvard professor who mentioned it in his talk. Curious, I looked at it and thought it was a great idea. Imagine bringing families together for five to camp out in the beautiful outdoors, hear talks on history and current events by talented speakers, go to campfires, play games, and come home relaxed, invigorated, wiser and a better citizen.


The camp is designed for children ages five to infinity. There is one program for 5-to 11-year-olds and another for everybody else. So, moms and dads have time to learn, too.


From what I’ve experienced since Sybren and I moved to Washington, there is momentum to strengthen leadership in all areas of government, business, education, and our churches. One of the great blessings of living here is the community’s widespread appreciation of traditional Judeo-Christian values. Yet, in the past couple of years, we’ve seen efforts to undermine those values, too.


Earlier, I wrote about the Education Pillar that the Texas Leadership Summit held in Brenham. At that event, nationally recognized journalist, Alex Newman, was one of the speakers. He mentioned to me that he was part of Camp Constitution, so this brought back all my earlier research, and my imagination raced into high gear.


That prompted me to think, could we do Camp Constitution here? Is there interest in a program that involves parents, grandparents, and children all learning together? Can we start Camp Constitution in Washington County or close by?


Most of us who have common sense and lived long enough realize that the only long-term solution to turn around the country is education. The only way to resist the secular, atheistic, socialist, communist agendas of our enemies is to practice our faith publicly. Live it out in the public square. Do the things that encourage and strengthen families. Do the things that give people hope for a better life. Do the things that encourage civil discourse and respect for differences. Do the things that promote citizen participation in all branches of government.


When I emailed Hal and asked him if we could expand Camp Constitution to Texas, he said, “Yes! Absolutely, but why don’t you come up here and see it?” So, we did.


The rest is history.


We took classes titled, “The Declaration of Independence,” “Philosophical Worldview of the Constitution,” “Communist China and the New World Order, “The American View of Law and Government,” “Global Societal Crises of the 17th Century: The Sun-Earth Connection.”


Interspersed with these talks, two pastors gave sermons, and we prayed for our country on our knees.


The little children had classes on the first amendment. They made root beer and tie-dyed t-shirts. They created an Independence parade. They sang patriotic songs and memorized the Preamble to the Constitution.


All the children went swimming, hiking, and played tournament games. Each morning began with a flag ceremony and Reveille and ended with a flag ceremony and Taps, played by one of the older boys on his trumpet. Every night adults and children participated in campfire, guitar playing, singing old ballads, performing skits, and telling jokes. It was fun seeing people be joyful, playful, and respectful.


Sybren and I made wonderful new friends and had great conversations. It was exciting to experience America, still the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Questions or comments? Write Kathryn@TexasHeritage.net

This article was originally published in the Brenham Banner Press Washington County Texas.  Mrs. van der Pol is Sunday columnist for their paper and writes about matters of faith and history. (Editor)