Posts Tagged bill of rights

When in the Course of Human Events


This is the time of year when Americans celebrate the anniversary of our declaration of independence from Great Britain.  It is ironic that the United Kingdom itself a few days ago found it necessary “for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”  By leaving the European Union the British people have reconfirmed that the longing for liberty is an eternal emotion.

Meanwhile, here in the colonies, the very document that ensured our rights as a free people has been under relentless attack.  The Constitution of the United States has withstood the test of time. After the Articles of Confederation failed to provide the framework for an effective federal government delegates from the 13 colonies met in Philadelphia and in September of 1787 put their signatures to the document which, at least theoretically, remains our nation’s ultimate authority.

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify theConstitution which then took effect on March 4, 1789.  The document was, however, viewed as incomplete and several states insisted on the inclusion of ten amendments, which became known as the Bill of Rights.  Those amendments were ratified and became effective on December 15, 1791.

That the Bill of Rights was necessary is evidenced by periodic efforts throughout our nation’s history to disregard, water down, or remove them entirely.  Perhaps no amendment has been so violated as the tenth which limits the power of the federal government.  Congress and the president, frequently with complicity by the Supreme Court, have consistently throughout the ages infringed on this right.  Today the assault continues, especially upon the second amendment governing our right to keep and bear arms.  The non-existent “right” of freedom from religion has replaced the “free exercise of religion” guaranteed in the first amendment.

It is safe to assume that the founding fathers would place in the first amendment those rights that they viewed as most vital to a free people.  It is here that the Constitution guarantees our right to freedom of speech and of the press.  Now obviously there was no electronic media or internet back in 1787, but freedom of speech and of the press clearly applies to all means of communication.

A free press was instrumental in our nation’s founding.  The only method of mass communication was through the printing press producing formal newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides.  From Thomas Paine during the revolution to the Federalist Papers, the expression of opinion via the printed word was a vital means of exercising free speech.  Throughout our history we have depended on a free press to keep government in check, such as it did during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.  So vital is a free press that it is often referred to as the “fourth estate,” or fourth branch of government.

It is therefore disturbing to see candidates and elected officials from the national to the local level trampling this vital right.  In just the last few weeks, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has banned the Washington Post from covering his campaign events.  Here in Penn’s Woods, the Democratic mayor of Harrisburg, Eric Papenfuse, has revoked the credentials of the capitol city’s newspaper the Patriot News/Penn Live. Papenfuse’s actions are especially curious in that he is the owner of a prominent bookstore, so you would think he might have some loyalty to the unfettered circulation of the printed word.

My goal here is not to defend the content of these publications – whose left-wing ideology frequently taints their reporting of the news – but to stand up for their right to do so.  If elected officials, from mayors to presidents can decide who can cover the news they can also then control the news.  This is not only a violation of the media’s constitutional rights, but an existential threat to our democracy and ultimately our individual liberty.

As we celebrate our freedom with fireworks and back yard barbecues let us always remember that the trampling of one right is the trampling of all rights.  The loss of any one right puts us on a very slippery slope which will ultimately lead to the loss of all rights.  From freedom of the press, to freedom of religion, to our right to keep and bear arms, we must fight to protect our God-given rights against those who would take them away.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Shredding The Bill Of Rights


By Lowman S. Henry

It may be the work of a vast left-wing conspiracy, or it could be simply the by-product of a nation slowly inching its way into socialism, but a systematic shredding of America’s Bill of Rights is well underway.

The Bill of Rights is a collection of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Ratified in 1791, the Bill of Rights addressed the concerns of several states debating ratification of the proposed constitution.  Those concerns centered on securing the natural rights of Americans – rights bestowed upon man by God.  Thus the Bill of Rights codified and enshrined in the nation’s founding document that which compelled the 13 colonies to separate from England in 1776. Thomas Jefferson set forth the nation’s foundational principles in the Declaration of Independence saying: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”< /p>

The Bill of Rights has stood the test of time as the U.S. Constitution is the oldest and most successful written national constitution operating in the world today.   That, however, is not stopping those who would like to recast America more in the image of failing European-style socialism from pecking away at our rights in an effort to fundamentally change our nation. Recent events show this assault on our rights is gaining steam.

Perhaps no amendment is more threatened than the first.  It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The nation’s highest law enforcement officer, the U.S. Attorney General, has personally approved government surveillance of a Fox News reporter.  That same agency tapped the phones of the Associated Press.  These are clear violations of the First Amendment. Those responsible for this breech justify it on the grounds of national security.  But the amendment is clear – “congress shall make no law” –  the freedom of press is a natural right which can never be taken away.

Freedom of religion in America is long a thing of the past. If you don’t think so, try peaceably assembling at a school function and praying and see what happens. Or, try telling the citizens of Flatwood, Pennsylvania where residents of that tiny Fayette County town are fighting to keep the Ten Commandments posted on school property.  The First Amendment has been successfully recast from preventing the “establishment” of religion, to effectively prohibiting the “free exercise” of it.

The Second Amendment is currently under the most brutal assault.  That’s the one that states: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”  By the way, Pennsylvania’s state constitution goes even further saying the right of the people to bear arms “shall not be questioned.”  The United States Senate recently narrowly defeated a bill which would have dramatically curtailed Second Amendment rights, and a United Nations treaty that would essentially supplant our constitutional protections is favored by the Obama Administration.

Most recently, the Left-wing block on the U.S. Supreme Court significantly stripped away our Fourth Amendment rights preventing unreasonable search and seizure by ruling as constitutional the taking of DNA samples from people accused of – not even convicted – just accused of crimes and placed into a national database.  Using pretzel logic, the court claimed this invasive procedure is akin to fingerprinting and allowed the practice to stand.

Over the years we have seen other rights chipped away, such as the Fifth Amendment protection against government taking of private property.  In a 2005 five-four split decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Suzette Kelo in Kelo v. City of New London that allowed the municipality to take her home and transfer ownership to private developers.  Her property was not taken for public use, such as construction of a road or school, but rather taken and transferred into the private hands of others.  It remains a landmark ruling that puts the property rights of every American in jeopardy.

And, of course, no amendment has been more trampled than the Tenth, which simply and clearly states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Today’s federal Leviathan clearly exceeds the scope of anything even remotely imagined by our Founding Fathers who drafted a constitution to limit, not enable government.

History clearly shows the natural course of government is to move from freedom to repression.  America today is on that same path.  We must reverse the erosion of our God-given rights, and restore the primacy of the Bill of Rights.  And it must be done soon, before America reaches the point of no return.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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