The Bill of Rights…is not what you’ve been told
Many founders thought that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary, since they felt it obvious that federal government had only the powers specifically granted to it within the text of the US Constitution.
But perhaps our wisest founder, George Mason, refused to sign the Constitution without such a declaration of rights, and in 1791 (four years after the Constitutional Convention), a Bill of Rights was grafted onto the Constitution as the first ten amendments.
Good thing, too, since what was once considered a declaration of minimum freedoms has become a last, tattered remnant of our liberties. Generations of Americans fought and died to defend these liberties from those who’ve continuously and intentionally misinterpreted, ignored, obfuscated and disparaged them. But the defense has weakened, and our precious constitution is all but gone.
I’d like you to consider for yourself just how far we’ve fallen (particularly with amendments 9 and 10!). And also consider this:
You don’t have any of the Bill of Rights if you don’t have the whole Rule of Law under our existing state and federal constitutions. You can’t pick and choose which freedoms you want, and you get no freedoms when politicians are off the leash of law. In other words, you don’t have any protection under law when politicians feel free to break laws! Just as you can’t have your favorite rights if you don’t allow somebody else their constitutional rights too, nobody has any rights at all when constitutions are discarded by the heavily-armed and power-mad creatures we vote into office.
Here is the whole and accurate Bill of Rights with my comments after each amendment (in smaller, sans-serif blue so it’s intelligible when printed in B/W):
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.
“Congress shall make no law respecting…” is the operative phrase. Congress is forbidden to write laws about any of the five freedoms listed in this amendment. Congress is the only federal lawmaking body (Article I says so right at the beginning), so there can be NO federal laws respecting these five (arguably 6) freedoms. If there can be no laws, then there is nothing for the executive branch to execute, and nothing for the judicial branch to judge.
This is a total gag order upon any federal authority in matters of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly, and petitions of grievances to federal government. No power. No legal ability whatsoever to say or do anything about, to or with these freedoms.
This amendment is dead and gone. There are literally thousands of laws, prohibitions, restrictions and provisos to each of the five listed freedoms. And in embarrassing particular, the freedom of religion has morphed into freedom from religion; completely the opposite of what was intended and plainly written as law… And ironically, exactly the opposite of the interpretation the media gives to freedoms #2 and 3 in this amendment (and separated by only the word, “or“)!
Do you think for a minute that the media would allow any politician to treat reporters like Ten Commandment displays or Christmas trees; with “a veil of separation between the government and the press?” Do you think they’d like “Free Press Zones” the way we have “Free Speech Zones?” Do you think they’d like it if government issued press licenses, made public communication rules and created restrictive tax laws for the media the way politicians have done to churches, political candidates and “special interest groups?”
Particularly since 9/11, we’ve been cutting our own throats on this one.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The founders wrote exhaustively on this subject, and there is really no room for equivocation. The founders wanted us to be as heavily armed as the Swiss, and ready to “refresh the Tree of Liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” They intended that we’d fight tyrannical government …with the best weapons possible!
This is not about hunting or target practice. This is the amendment considered for generations as the one that guarantees the rest.
Most of us can’t fathom that anymore. That’s a criminal shame, because we’re ignoring all the lessons of human history and human behavior since Cain and Abel when we get this wrong.
It is historically spooky that a nation that trusts its citizens with the right to vote no longer trusts us with the power to protect that right.
If you consider the facts of US history; particularly in the racist, oppressive origin of gun control laws and the number of times the 2nd Amendment served minorities (look up Monroe, North Carolina in 1957, and see how it saved the NAACP at a key time in the Civil Rights movement) and opposed oppression from USA government, and if you consider the frighteningly rapid militarization of our civil forces, we should all insist upon this key right…right now.
Turn around a common phrase you’ve no doubt heard before…”If they aren’t doing anything wrong, then they have nothing to fear” …right?
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Here’s one amendment that I’m not worried about right now. The related issue of eminent domain is a concern, but that’s addressed in Amendment V.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendments 4 and 5 have always been under attack of course. But during the first Prohibition (between amendments 18 and 21), renegade police tactics became accepted to the point that they make for good hero movies. We apparently like to watch as angry, stubble-faced rogue cops with a dysfunctional family break sissy rules as they break doors and bad guy skulls.
That’s not good. But the founders weren’t worried about twisted cops so much as renegade rulers. One “make my day” cop doesn’t cause the trouble that a Stalin or Hitler does.
For years people begged cops to ignore these amendments in order to catch pot smokers. But I’m hearing a lot less of that now. I’m hoping that now that politicians are using firemen, who don’t feel the need to get search warrants before they enter your home, we are getting wise to what’s at stake, and why we so desperately need to defend this vital law.
American citizens must be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Anybody, including government, who kicks in your door and drags you out of your home without having a darned good, documented and properly authorized reason, is a criminal. We should never think otherwise.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
People are routinely forced to sell their property if a mall developer or sports team wants it. And the “War on Drugs” has lifted all inhibitions in this area. You could lose your car or other property if somebody else commits a drug offense in it! …Without any compensation!
Since 9/11, you can be called a “terrorist,” captured, interrogated and otherwise “processed,” without any paperwork, notice, thank you, or please. Everything you do can be recorded. Of course your income tax form is forced testimony that is used against you; but now so is your library book history.
Due process? What is that anymore?
This amendment needs vigorous defense right now!
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
When does the term speedy ever apply? Impartial jury?…what do you think jury selection is all about?
But the condition of this amendment has actually stayed about the same for generations. While I’m suspicious of trial lawyers, they do at least protect their turf; and that’s been a good thing for us. I’ll raise no new alarm bells on the 6th. Not yet, anyway.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
There’s a great deal of misunderstanding regarding law, and the meaning and nature of civil, common, and case law.
Case and common law amount to law written by courts. We’ve come to think that all law is case law in that we’ve been told by judges (not surprisingly) that judges have the final say regarding the meaning, applicability and validity of written law. This is a good part of what’s destroying our nation.
Civil law is law simply as written; without “interpretation,” so that we all understand how to live within the law. The constitution is a civil law contract that means exactly what it says. Judges have no power over it; and in the context of constitutional law, judges are empowered to judge only other laws against the constitution.
The wiser founders knew about judges, and their tendency to acquire power over time. This amendment is just one provision intended to keep common law in touch with the public…and with civil law.
While the heart of this amendment is totally ignored, this isn’t as big a problem as the state of our Constitution and the Rule of Law in general.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
In most ways I’m not concerned about the health of this amendment. The terms, “excessive” and “cruel and unusual” do leave a great deal of wiggle room.
But far too many non-violent, victimless behaviors are illegal, and we therefore have too many people in jail. The Land of the Free has the world’s highest percentage of citizens in prison, you know. And half of them are there on “victimless crime” charges related to taxes and so on. They’ve called it a federal felony to disarm the airbag in your own car! That’s pretty excessive, and certainly unusual, by itself.
We need to reconsider when it’s necessary to ruin somebody’s life forever by throwing them into a prison.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Here’s where the real trouble starts.
Have you ever noticed that our leaders and activists often try to force-fit a behavior into the category of “free speech?” What they’re doing, in essence, is denying the existence of this amendment, which gives people all of the rights not specifically taken away by the constitution!
Flag burning isn’t speech – it is flag burning; and we have the right to do it until that right is taken away by constitutional amendment. Smearing dung on an image of Virgin Mary may be offensive, but it’s neither speech, nor prohibited, by any federal law. On the other hand, we had full rights to our income until the 16th amendment arguably took them away. Politicians had no power to regulate the sale of any product until the 18th amendment…a power that, by the way, they relinquished with the 21st amendment!
Amendments 9 and 10 provide an easy key to understanding the purpose and power of the US Constitution. Citizens are to hold the leash on our government; it’s not the other way around. This amendment needs reinstatement! Now!
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.
This means that our federal government has only the powers specifically granted to it by the US Constitution. By most reasonable estimates, at least 80% of what our federal government does is therefore illegal!
In fact, we no longer have a federal government, since this term describes a limited, distributed government. We have a unitary, or centralized government that does not operate by the terms of its chartering contract, the US Constitution. And a government big enough to give you all you want is more likely to take it all away.
As originally written, most of the powers now usurped by the “Federal” government belonged to the states, or to the people. This was one the genius in our nation’s design…scientific government in which each state was an ongoing experiment.
In federal governance, all the individual states are sovereign entities (read any state constitution; they say so) with the power to try different and creative local solutions to their problems. If one system works better than the others, then all the states could learn from real examples.
But God knows that we tend to reenact the Old Testament story of 1 Samuel 8 over and over and over… So now, as is usual, we are bowing to the equivalent of a king (or Golden Calf, if you prefer) in the form of federal bureaucracy. And, as is usual, we’re failing badly.
We need to set this right. In God We Trust has a corollary: In politicians we do not trust.
Power needs to return to the local, visible and accountable level. States need to be free to choose their own unique and appropriate ways.
And more to the point, Individuals need to run their own lives, to the benefit of us all, once again.