Many people feel that they are entitled to rights and just expect those rights to be in place for them. However, the United States of America was founded to secure people’s individual rights and escape tyranny in Europe where rights like these did not exist. In order to protect the rights of the people and to ratify the U.S. Constitution, the first ten amendments to Constitution, the Bill of Rights, was added in 1791. These amendments have been set in place for 220 years to protect our rights. Since they were written so long ago, there has been debate over their meaning, but despite debate they still stand to this day. As American citizens we are blessed to have the freedoms laid out for us in the Bill of Rights. As our world and culture changes, it is important to look back at our country’s roots and remember why we are proud to be Americans.
1. Amendment I
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.
We do not live in a free world, but we are blessed to live in a free nation. In the United States, there are no limitations on what religion is practiced. We have the freedom of speech and the gift to express an opinion in the press. Every citizen is entitled to his or her own voice, even if that voice disagrees with the government. People can gather together freely and do not have to hide. We live in a free nation and believe our freedom is worth fighting for.
2. Amendment II
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.
It is required that the federal government protects and secures our freedoms with the U.S. Military. Though the military exists, citizens are allowed to own private weapons despite debate on the meaning of this amendment. The right to bear arms allows for individual and collective protection.
3. Amendment III
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.
Soldiers cannot be placed in your home by the government. The right to ask exists, but it is with the owner’s agreement that soldiers can stay.
4. Amendment IV
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.
As an American citizen, you have the right to privacy. Authorities cannot abuse their power and search your home or seize your property without warrant. The full body scanners being used at airports have been a matter of debate recently, but thanks to the Fourth Amendment people have the right to opt out for a pat-down instead.
5. Amendment V
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.
The great thing about our legal system is that you are innocent until proven guilty. Once a non-guilty verdict is issued, you are protected from double jeopardy or being retried for the same crime if new evidence is presented. So you don’t have to live your life in fear of returning to court or having a case hang over you.
6. Amendment VI
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.
In some countries, people get pulled off the street and get locked up without explanation or release. In the United States, you will not be locked up indefinitely waiting for a trial. All citizens have the right to a fair and speedy, public trial. You have the right to know the accusations against you and the right to legal counsel. There is no reason to fear being lost or manipulated by the system.
7. Amendment VII
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.
You have the right to a jury of your peers. Rather than let your fate be left in the hands of one judge, you can have a panel of jurors. These jurors are average citizens who are impartial and selected at random.
8. Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Innocent or guilty, you are protected from cruel and unusual punishments. This means that you will not receive punishments outweighing the crime and you will be protected from torture techniques.
9. Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This amendment refers to protecting the rights of the people. This amendment protects rights not mentioned in the Bill of Rights but also other natural rights.
10. Amendment X
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.
They are areas of law that the federal government and Constitution do not cover, but the state does have jurisdiction over. This allows for less federal government involvement in areas that the state government can handle. Also, this set-up prevents too much federal power.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your children tonight and go over the Bill of Rights.