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An Abridgement of Constitutional Rights

Written by Nancy Salvato

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The objectives for the United States Constitution are outlined in its preamble.  Read it putting emphasis on the action verbs.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America..."

All the objectives for the Constitution were chosen carefully and reflect the concerns which surfaced around The Articles of Confederation, this country's first Constitution.

Read this again, but with a renewed emphasis on certain elements.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This exercise, done in a variety of ways, can be quite useful in analyzing the document.  Officials elected to serve in the federal government should read these words carefully, meditate on them, and think about whether their actions in the name of "we the people" are aligned to these objectives. It helps if the words of the preamble are studied in the context of the time period in which they were written.

Public officials need to take seriously their oath to uphold the Constitution.  Just as important, the people of the United States, charged with electing these officials to public office, should spend time on this exercise.  After giving the Constitution proper consideration, we should ponder an important question.  We should give serious thought to whether public apathy or indifference to the workings of the government has played a role in allowing heretofore acknowledged 1st Amendment Rights under the Constitution to become abridged.

Think for a moment about the 1st 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."

"In the United States, of course, displays of the Ten Commandments or Christian symbols are relentlessly hounded out of public spaces by the ACLU and similar groups, while Muslims are granted prayer rooms, foot baths, and all the other accoutrements of their faith wherever they demand them." - Creeping Sharia

...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

"'Hate crime' laws work this way: They add penalties to a criminal sentence if the criminal is also convicted of having a 'hateful' intent toward the victim based on the victim's real or perceived group identity. Crime victims who don't fit into certain categories see their assailants face lesser penalties. Ultimately, 'hate crime' laws punish only beliefs or thoughts." - 'Hate Crime' Laws

Regarding freedom of the press, net neutrality legislation threatens the new media, a powerful medium for bringing information to "We the People."

"A new regulatory structure such as net neutrality makes no economic sense. When a powerful third party, such as a federal agency, regulates a scarce resource, such as broadband capacity, the market itself becomes subject to political whims and special-interest carve-outs, which will only harm consumers."

With regard to the right of the people peaceably to assemble House Speaker Nancy Pelosi writes this in USA Today.

"It is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion. These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views - but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

According to the First Amendment Center,

"First Amendment freedoms ring hollow if government officials can repress expression that they fear will create a disturbance or offend. Unless there is real danger of imminent harm, assembly rights must be respected."

...and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

"Petition is the right to ask government at any level to right a wrong or correct a problem." - First Amendment Center

Because this is a fundamental liberty, one has to wonder why the people have no standing to request any branch of government, including the Judiciary, to correct a problem.  In the case of President Obama,

"Contrary to what you may have read, no document made available to the public, nor any statement by Hawaiian officials, evidences conclusively that Obama was born in Hawaii." - American Thinker

In his Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson writes about "the objects" of "primary education."  Though each one of these objectives is important in its own right, the learning of civic responsibility stands out because somewhere along the line, these were cut from the list of priorities for education in this country.

1) To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;

2) To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing;

3) To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;

4) To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;

5) To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;

And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

Perhaps this Readers Digest version of our Rule of Law is the result of living in an age where mainstream news is provided in 30 second sound bites; an age in which people exhibit an unhealthy obsession with movie or sports personalities and mistake their opinion to be informed; and an age in which the system of public education relegates learning about the origin of these rights, the reasoning behind the formulation of the specific goals set for this Constitutional Republic, and the civic responsibility necessary to maintain our liberties, relegates what Thomas Jefferson believed should be considered part of the basics in any system of education,  below the special interest topics that dominate the curriculum in our schools.  Perhaps it is because "We the People" allowed it to happen on our watch.

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Nancy Salvato is the President and Director of Education and the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country, specifically the threats of aggressive Islamofascism and the American Fifth Column. She serves as a Senior Editor for The New Media Journal. She is also a staff writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets.

 

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