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This Independence Day, millions of Americans will gather to watch fireworks, grill some burgers and dogs, and celebrate the hard-fought freedoms of our forefathers. But in the heady rush of red, white, and blue patriotism, it’s important to remember what those freedoms actually mean, and to examine whether they still remain intact today.
The Bill of Rights, comprising the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, remain the strongest and most revolutionary guarantees of individual liberty in the world, but over the years these protections have suffered considerably at the hands of overzealous lawmakers and the champions of radical progressivism. What follows is a reminder of these ten protections from government abuse, and the ways in which the original intent of the founding fathers is being violated on a daily basis.
On July 4th, the greatest way to celebrate freedom is to hold government accountable for the myriad ways it continues to trample on our constitutional rights.
Here then, without further ado, are the Amendments most commonly violated, and some of the worst examples of government abuse.
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 offence 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.
Sen. Rand Paul gained prominence all over the world after his famous 13-hour filibuster to block the nomination of John Brennan as FBI Director, a nomination FreedomWorks vocally opposed as well. Sen. Paul’s protest concerned the use of unmanned drones to target and kill American citizens without a trial, the due process afforded by the Fifth Amendment. This marathon protest brought the issue to a head and forced Attorney General Eric Holder to publicly acknowledge the unconstitutionality of the practice.
The much interpreted eminent domain clause has been extensively abused, with the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London affirming that “public use” can refer to the interests of private developers. In a more recent example, a small cabin was seized from a Colorado couple, claiming their use of a utility vehicle on a small private road was causing environmental damage. As compensation, the couple were paid a paltry $115,000 for their ten acres of land, which barely covered their legal fees incurred trying to defend their property.
Economist Murray Rothbard also argued that the requirement for all Americans to file income tax returns violates the Amendment’s protection from self-incrimination.
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.
FreedomWorks’ lawsuit against the NSA, filed in partnership with Sen. Rand Paul, stresses the violations of the Fourth Amendment involved in unreasonably seizing the personal information of millions of Americans accused of no crime without due process of law.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows secret courts to issue blanket warrants that cover spying on all Americans without probable cause, acting directly contrary to the language of the Fourth Amendment.
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 First Amendment is the most well-known for its broad protection of speech and religion. Alas, these protections are not always upheld.
A lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the NSA asserts that the mass surveillance of innocent Americans is in violation of the First Amendment due to its chilling effect on political speech.
Freedom of religion has been relentlessly under assault, with private business owners being compelled to engage in commerce that violates their beliefs.
Most egregious of all, Sen. Tom Udall has introduced a resolution that would amend the constitution to place limits on campaign spending, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld as protected political speech.
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 thinking about the Sixth Amendment, once again, the issue of drone strikes on American citizens springs to mind. Although undeniably speedy, this method for doling out criminal punishment lacks the required trial by jury.
In an example closer to home, a New York teenager was accused of murder in 2010, and had to remain in jail for three years before finally receiving a trial. He was eventually cleared of all charges, but three years can hardly be considered “speedy” by anyone’s definition.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The Ninth Amendment is meant to protect the rights not specifically mentioned elsewhere, such as freedom of association and freedom of contract. These are violated by thousands of federal laws such as the minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, and the requirement that employers bargain in good faith with labor unions.
Government’s attempts to regulate Americans’ consumption habits, private behaviors or any other “victimless crime” infringes on the individual rights protected under the Ninth Amendment.
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.
The Tenth Amendment prohibits virtually everything the federal government does, the most recent and prominent example being the ObamaCare mandates. The Constitution does not grant the federal government the power to compel citizens to buy goods or services against their will, so any attempt to do so violates the Tenth Amendment, regardless of Chief Justice Roberts’ interpretation.
Other examples include federal funding for highways, environmental regulations from the EPA, federal labor laws, corporate welfare, bailouts and every other instance of a federal law not expressly authorized by the constitution.
Ratified in 1791, the Bill of Rights must have seemed an ironclad protection of individual liberty, but on July 4, 2014, the extent to which these rights have been worn away is alarming.