Sunday, April 1, 2007

First in a series, the Amendments

Amendment I

The first ten of the many amendments to the Constitution became known as the Bill of Rights, and were ratified at the same time as the Document itself. These are the amendments that drive our society, that give us the freedoms we enjoy, as well as take for granted. We will start at the beginning and work our way through not only these amendments, but all twenty-seven of them. I am not going to pretend that I know the thoughts of the folks that wrote the amendments; I didn't live when they were ratified, so I know only little about society at those times. Sure, I know history, and can converse with most anyone about the different times this Country has gone through, but for these essays, I am going to simply put the amendments in the context of today.


Amendment one, safeguarding the freedom of speech and religion, has recently become one of the most abused amendments. The first line in the amendment, frequently referred to as the 'establishment clause' has been re-defined to ban government from ever mentioning a religion. This is not what is written. It says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" Basically put, the government can't tell us what religion to practice, and can not ban us from practicing the religion of our choice. This does not mean that kids can't pray in school; this does not mean that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and many others, are homo-phobes when they say that Homosexuality is a sin. It gives us the freedom to worship as we choose, and, not worship as we choose. An atheist can not demand that their lack of religion trumps any other individuals' religion.


"or of abridging freedom of speech," Wow, how simple is that? We can say what we want, using common sense, such as not yelling 'fire' in a crowded place, and not face repercussions for our words. Of course, lies can be prosecuted, but opinions can not. This absolutely does not give anyone, no matter what minority or special group they belong to, the right NOT to be offended. It is inherent in any society that all people will disagree at some time, and these minority groups need to get over it. Speech can not be punishable, and should not be punishable, even if the word hate is uttered. Hate is an emotion, therefore an opinion, therefore protected. When one truly looks at the new version of 'political correctness'; one finds censorship. Using gender specific stereotypes is not sexual harassment, it is just stupid, or, on some occasions, plainly the truth. Oh, and money is not speech, money is money, it doesn't come from the mind through the mouth or pen, therefore it is simply money.


The next little part of this amendment "or of the press" is self explanatory. Freedom of the press, we all learn that in grade school. Is it taken to extremes at times? Sure it is, but that is the trade off we live with, and most of us are quite happy to put up with arrogant reporters that refuse to reveal sources that might solve a crime. The alternative is a press that is run by the government, afraid to cross the party line. I know I don't want that, and I am sure the majority of us don't want that.


Assembly and redress, fancy ways to say we can get together, march, and tell our government, or any other institution that we are not happy with policy. This is a biggie; this gives the KKK the right to march right beside the Black Panthers, the Pro-lifers along with the Choice crowd, and the NRA alongside the gun banning groups. None of this assembling and redressing guarantees change, but it sure feels good to do it, to be a part of a group, to try to affect change.


The First amendment, much maligned, yet so important. Attempting to discern the mood of the Founders makes no sense, not when the words are so clear. We can worship, speak, write, and assemble as we please. These basic rights keep this country free and the government on its toes!

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