Exercise your rights

Bill of Rights Day reminds us of the freedoms we too often take for granted

  • Follow Editorials

Today marks a truly remarkable, transformative event in American history.

Activists hold posters of President Obama during a protest in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5 calling for higher wages for fast-food workers. This freedom to assemble is one of the freedoms spelled out in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, one of the most remarkable liberating documents in human history.  CHARLES DHARAPAK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHARLES DHARAPAK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Activists hold posters of President Obama during a protest in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5 calling for higher wages for fast-food workers. This freedom to assemble is one of the freedoms spelled out in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, one of the most remarkable liberating documents in human history.

Dec. 15 marks Bill of Rights Day – the day in 1791 when our Founding Fathers ratified the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

That’s big – so big that you could argue it’s a major world event, not merely confined to America. The comprehensive defense of individual rights laid out in this founding document was unprecedented.

Bill of Rights Day should be a huge holiday. In highlighting the freedoms that makes the United States the greatest nation on Earth, the spirit of this day combines the patriotism of Independence Day and the appreciative solemnity of Thanksgiving.

Take time to read or re-read the Bill of Rights today. If you don’t have a copy handy – and we recommend you should – we’ve paraphrased the amendments here:

• Congress can’t make any law about a person’s religion; keep you from practicing that religion; or restrict what you say or publish. You can gather peacefully to ask the government to change something.

• You can own and carry weapons.

• Soldiers can’t live in your house, except if Congress approves it in time of war.

• You, your house or your possessions can’t be searched unless a judge determines a specific probable cause.

• You can’t be tried for a serious crime unless a jury says there’s enough evidence for a trial. If you’re found innocent, the government can’t retry you. You don’t have to say anything at your trial. You can’t be punished unless a jury convicts you. The government can’t take your possessions unless it fairly compensates you.

• If you’re arrested, you get a public trial quickly or they can’t unfairly detain you in jail. You get a jury of your peers, and an explanation of what you’re accused of and the people accusing you. You get a lawyer to help defend you.

• You also have the right to a jury in a civil case.

• You’re spared from excessive bail or fines, and from cruel and unusual punishment.

• You have other rights, even if they’re not spelled out in the Constitution.

• Any power not specifically given to Congress are reserved for the states or the people.

The Bill of Rights is an itemized list of the limits on the federal government’s power. It is the armor you wear into battle when you’re fighting for your rights as a citizen.

Sadly, too many people are letting that armor rust from lack of use.

In 2011, Newsweek magazine asked 1,000 Americans to take the official U.S. citizenship test. Forty-four percent of respondents couldn’t correctly identify the Bill of Rights.

So if you don’t feel as safe and protected these days, it’s not because the Bill has failed us. Too many of us have failed the Bill.

Exercising rights is like exercising your body. If you stop exercising, your muscles atrophy and get weaker. The same goes for freedom. If you’re willing to let the federal government unfairly impinge on your lives, you weaken the freedoms laid out in this magnificent document called the Bill of Rights.

What would the Founding Fathers think of today’s America? Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, speculated on that in 2008 when writing about the debate that culminated in the Bill of Rights:

“Keep in mind that virtually all the leading figures in this great debate were libertarians by today’s standards. They believed in liberty and limited government. Even the least libertarian among them would be horrified if he could see how later generations have ballooned the size and intrusiveness of the federal establishment.”

The story goes that Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of U.S. government came out of the Constitutional Convention. “A republic,” he famously replied, “if you can keep it.”

Are we keeping it? Or is civic lassitude letting it slip away?

Comments (15) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
carcraft
26964
Points
carcraft 12/15/13 - 12:55 am
7
1
Ignorance and hope in false

Ignorance and hope in false promises and those making them are enslaving us. Benjamin Franklin to paraphrase said "those who would trade s little liberty for security deserve neither "

specsta
6592
Points
specsta 12/15/13 - 03:44 am
6
2
It Was Nice Knowing You, Bill of Rights...

Here's the problem - we have become a nation of the fearful. People who are afraid don't think about rights - they only think about security.

Americans are afraid of their own shadow. We give 'monster' status to terrorists, immigrants, the poor, the sick, rogue nations, the homeless, banks - and anything else that threatens our personal fortunes and way of life.

Americans have punked out - just scared little children who are so selfishly focused on their little corner of the subdivision, they cannot see how George Orwell's "1984", where there are no more rights, is a footstep away from becoming reality.

The PATRIOT Act, mass surveillance, the emergence of the police state where you must "show your papers", the incarceration of millions, the corrupt criminal justice system, RFID tracking chips, NSA eavesdropping on Americans, and politicians bought and sold by corporations, are issues that most Americans choose to ignore. Because burying one's head in the sand is a lot easier than demanding a redress of grievances from the US government.

"Just keep us safe" is the mantra of a fool.

Because in that "safety" arises the destruction of the Bill of Rights. The erosion of the power of the people. The elimination of every tenet that the Founding Fathers built this nation upon.

Freedom is a forgotten word. Most folks don't think about it, take it for granted. But with each new law passed that restricts something, freedom continues to erode. It is said that every average American breaks several laws each day and commits three felonies. People commit federal felonies (considering there are over 4000 of them and tens of thousands of regulations) and don't even know it. Too many laws exist - and politicians keep writing them. They write laws that the people don't even ask for -and freedom continues to erode.

The Founding Fathers would be disgusted at the sorry state of our rights in this country. And even more disgusted at the citizens who have gambled their freedoms away for the illusion of safety.

Jon Lester
2363
Points
Jon Lester 12/15/13 - 04:37 am
8
0
Beware the statists of both major parties.

There are many in the political establishment who seem to forget that the people have supremacy over the state.

myfather15
55764
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 10:58 am
8
2
Ben Franklin also stated:

"When the people discover they can vote themselves money, it will herald an end to the republic."

myfather15
55764
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 08:31 am
8
0
Specsta

"and politicians bought and sold by corporations,"

Are you talking about Michelle Obama's friend, who got the contract to build the ACA website, and we've now paid them close to a billion dollars for a FAILURE of a website? Just curious!!

myfather15
55764
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 08:37 am
7
0
"the incarceration of

"the incarceration of millions"

Millions SHOULD be incarcerated, because they don't know how to behave or conduct themselves in a peaceful society!!

"It is said that every average American breaks several laws each day and commits three felonies."

Said by whom??? Can you qualify this statement, especially the felonies part? Maybe people are speeding, or have an expired tag, but it's not EVERY American and it's NOT felonies!! This is hyperbole at it's radical extreme!!

We DO have too many laws, that I agree with, but EVERY American is not breaking them every day. Many of the laws written, aren't enforced as it is.

myfather15
55764
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 08:43 am
5
0
"Freedom is a forgotten word.

"Freedom is a forgotten word. Most folks don't think about it, take it for granted."

With FREEDOM, comes great responsibilty!! With FREEDOM (Free Will) comes LAWS, because MANY will use that FREEDOM to harm others!! With FREEDOM, comes corruption; which is another reason for rules and regulations, called LAWS. But name me another form of governance that has NO corruption!!! There isn't a single form that is free of corruption. Ours probably has the least!!

Riverman1
86792
Points
Riverman1 12/15/13 - 08:54 am
6
1
This Is 'Merica

Spectra describes our current anemic condition well. Maybe this is where conservative and liberals who believe in our constitutional rights come together. There is no better example than the state conducting yet another Operation Rolling Thunder in Richmond County this weekend. Random roadblocks are set up where drivers are stopped for no reason, questioned and made to show papers. Does anyone think the founding fathers would have agreed to people on the roads being stopped that way with a justification that riding a horse on the roads was a privilege and not a right? The Supreme Court has ruled it’s a temporary abeyance of our rights due to a national emergency. That was the ruling about 30 years ago. If you are recalcitrant at a roadblock and happen to be openly carrying a gun you will be lucky if you’re not shot….and this is ‘Merica.

ymnbde
10016
Points
ymnbde 12/15/13 - 10:06 am
5
0
when government is so intrusive

that it enters situations where public and private life
can't interact equally
such as religion in public schools
it causes one to be submissive to the other
and religion has played the submissive part
power has to be rightfully taken back from the federal government
and given to the people and the states
school choice should be the main focus of the conservative agenda
for the next election
the right to a good education is the sign of a truly civilized society
and we deny most kids a good education
anything funded by government eventually turns into a tool
to support more government
public schools are no different from public radio
they both know who funds them
and he who pays the piper calls the tunes
school choice works, as generations of rich people have proven
it is the civil rights issue of our time

deestafford
28604
Points
deestafford 12/15/13 - 10:27 am
5
0
I wonder...

I wonder how many of the Bill of Rights the left would line through if they had the power. I also wonder how a new Bill of Rights would look if the left would write their own.

The Constitution's design is to shackle the government. There were some such as Sam Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson who were against ratification of the Constitution because it did not shackle the government enough. It is interesting to read the debate on the Constitution.

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 12/15/13 - 03:43 pm
5
0
Obama? our Constutition? What do they have in common?
Unpublished

Please print the entire Constitution, too many people “paraphrase” it now. That is what is wrong with us now, Obama, whose picture you were foolish enough to post for this article, has either never read it or just chooses to ignore it. Along with the Ten Commandments, these two documents are all we will ever need to live by.

specsta
6592
Points
specsta 12/15/13 - 04:40 pm
2
3
Too Many Laws

myfather 15 wrote - "Millions SHOULD be incarcerated, because they don't know how to behave or conduct themselves in a peaceful society!!"

This is typical police state thinking. Everybody's a criminal until proven innocent, and the more people we lock up, the better. The prison industry is big business, plenty of folks are making money off the suffering of non-violent offenders and even innocent citizens convicted of trumped-up charges.. Remember the judge in PA who got convicted for locking up children to get cash kickbacks from privately run prisons? North Korea has a better record on incarceration than the USA does. That's pretty pathetic.

Jail and prison should be for violent criminals. Period. To keep locking up non-violent offenders, placing them in an institution where they learn to become violent, release them back into society, and expect that they have no anger and frustration from their incarceration, is just plain old stupid. It hasn't worked yet.

myfather15 wrote - " Can you qualify this statement, especially the felonies part? Maybe people are speeding, or have an expired tag, but it's not EVERY American and it's NOT felonies!! This is hyperbole at it's radical extreme!!"

There are thousands upon thousands of federal laws on the books. People break these laws, including law enforcement, and have no idea that they have committed a crime. There is no one who has full knowledge of every statute and regulation that affects the average citizen. What's the point of all these laws? It is government at its worst.

http://www.threefeloniesaday.com/Youtoo/tabid/86/Default.aspx

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 12/15/13 - 05:48 pm
6
0
specta, we need to bring back
Unpublished

specta, we need to bring back the chain gangs for the non-violent crimes. After 6 months on the gang maybe those folks won't commit any more non-violent crimes.

allhans
23998
Points
allhans 12/15/13 - 09:54 pm
1
0
Actually if you did the deed

Actually if you did the deed you are guilty, if you did not you are innocent. (regardless of what the law decides)

deestafford
28604
Points
deestafford 12/16/13 - 12:11 am
1
0
Specta,

Specta, are you saying someone who takes tens of thousands from a company illegally should not go to prison. How about someone who steals a life saving from an old woman? How about a drug pusher getting 12 year old hooked on drugs. How about a pimp pimping an 11 year old? How about a mayor who gets kickbacks for city contracts? All of these are nonviolent. Should they not go to jail?

The chest cavity of liberals must have an automatic draining mechanism from where their blood drains due to their hearts bleeding so much for the criminals and not the victims.

Little Lamb
46859
Points
Little Lamb 12/16/13 - 11:36 am
0
1
Drug Dogs

I am always amazed when traveling I-26 north from Charleston to Columbia at night. Many, many northbound cars are seen pulled over with their doors open and trunk lids up.

I'll bet 99% of them were pulled over for speeding. After showing their license to the state patrol officers, the officers politely ask, "Do you mind if I search your vehicle?" Then comes the moment of truth — if you say, "No, go right ahead, officer," then you have given up your fourth amendment right not to be searched without a search warrant.

If you say, "Yes, I do mind," then you will be in for a long, miserable night. They might decide to drive you into the nearest police station to spend the night in jail for speeding, with your car still sitting out on I-26. They might bring out some drug sniffing dogs — dogs that can be coached to give a false positive response at some subtle command from the handler.

It's a sad trend.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs