Bill of Rights

debate_Constitution

Part 11

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.

If you truly wish to understand the First Amendment, you would be wise to study/read the Federalist Papers, writings of the individual founding fathers, and the Debates on the Constitution, and of course the letters sent by each of the founders to others (even though this may be considered part of their writings, I view them as personal correspondence.)

There is a wide array of information, books, web-sites, articles, etc. concerning the founders and their intention.  Me personally, I am both an Originalist and a Textualist…I believe the Constitution and the Bill of Rights live on with the original meaning that the founder’s intended and can be used in all governmental circumstances; also, I believe the founders wrote exactly what their intentions were in word form and can be gleaned from the text we presently have before us.  I do not believe it to be a “living document” that is breathed new meaning with the advent of a new generation.  You may not like the right that someone has, but guess what…not everyone likes the rights you are exercising! 

debate1I leave you with this quote:

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” ~Voltaire

 

See also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,  Part 10

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Bill of Rights

freedom-of-speech

Part 10:

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 have a RIGHT to peaceably assemble with others, this is not in dispute.  We also have the RIGHT to petition our government for redressing our grievances; this also is not in dispute.  These articles are foundational to our right to gather as a people to tell those who govern us, by our consent, that they have done us a great disservice.  However, the US Supreme Court stated in a 1984 decision, “Nothing in the First Amendment or in this Court’s case law interpreting it suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to communications of members of the public on public issues.”  Seems a bit odd, don’t you think?  Our Founding Fathers fought over one of the grievances of just such a nature.  In-fact, it was not unheard of that if someone was considered such an upstart the British Crown would remove that person(s) to England for trial there, which created the impetus for the requirement of a jury of one’s peers in the Sixth Amendment.

Here is where things get interesting as I was reading the definition of the “Freedom of Speech” in Black’s Law Dictionary; I was referred to the “Fighting Words Doctrine.”  Who knew?  And clearly indicate that not all speech is protected by the First Amendment.  “These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting” words — those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”  Over the course of some 60-70 years the doctrine has been honed down to be more specific than ambiguous.  An interesting case in 1971 comes to bear with this aspect of the First Amendment:  “The Court further expanded its protection of offensive speech in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). Cohen was arrested and convicted for disturbing the peace after wearing a jacket bearing the words “F— the Draft.” The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, redefining fighting words as only those “personally abusive epithets which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, are, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke violent reactions.” The Court reasoned that because Cohen’s statement was not an insult directed toward a particular individual, it could not be regulated as fighting words.”

Our Founding Fathers intended for our government to listen to us, since they had just shaken off the British who listened to no one but themselves.  And though the US Supreme Court has deigned it to not be a requirement of Government to answer the People, historically speaking, the people redressed their grievances with the King of England; two examples being the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Petition of Rights.  The colonists attempted to all things peacefully, over the course of a decade but the crown would not relent.  In those similar instances the people of England attempted peaceful solutions and then waged war on the crown.  The crown knew if he did not relent, it would have been sure death at the hands of his servants, hmmmmmm… The colonists followed a similar path and ended up booting the British forces out of the colonies!  On a side note, what the colonists were experiencing was far less intrusive than that of us in this present day.  People are still fighting in courts this very day, but the courts (for the most part) are siding with the government.

See also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,  Part 10

Works Cited

Alexander Hamilton, J. J. (1788). THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.

Andrews, J. (2001). Amendments to the US Constitution: Amendment I. In J. Andrews, Guide for Learning and Teaching the Declaration of Independance & US Constitution (p. 382). San Marcos, CA: Center for Teaching the Constitutiuon.

Butler, J. (n.d.). THE BEST OF CARL MILLER. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from MY PRIVATE AUDIO: http://www.myprivateaudio.com/CARLTEXT.pdf; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s-zHrNPfkQ (PARTS 1, 2, & 3)

freedomforum.org. (n.d.). What is the Fighting Words Doctrine? Retrieved January 1, 2014, from Freedom Forum: http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=13718

Geiger, R. (2008, June 4). Background on the First Amendment. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications: http://journalism.okstate.edu/faculty/jsenat/foioklahoma/educationlessons/Background_on_First_Amendment.pdf

Justia. (1984, February 21). Minn. Bd. Commun. for Colleges v. Knight – 465 U.S. 271. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from JuUSTIA US Supreme Court: http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/465/271/

Lockhart, W. B., Kamisar, Y., & Choper, J. H. (1970). THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION Cases and Materials. St. Paul: West Publishing.

Know Your Constitution – Carl Miller Parts 1 – 3 (abt. 1980). [Motion Picture].

Turner, B. (2011, January 18). The Tyranny Of The Supreme Court. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from American Patriot Commision blog: http://americanpatriotscommission.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/the-tyranny-of-the-supreme-court/

Bill of Rights

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Part 9:

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.

Did you ever wonder why the “Occupy Movement” was neither sanctioned, nor jailed (i.e., though they may have been arrested, they were released by the Judge with the charges being dropped not at the behest of the District Attorney, either) it was because it is our fundamental right and liberty to exercise.  Especially, when done on-the-fly and without any preplanning as if it were by a corporate mindset. 

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The right of assembly was first tested by the Supreme Court in 1876, in United States v. Cruikshank. The defendants in the case had been indicted under the Enforcement Act of 1870, which prohibited any act to “intimidate any other person from freely exercising and enjoying any right or privilege granted or secured by the Constitution of the United States”.  While the indictment could not be upheld, the court declared, “’The right of the people peaceably to assemble for the purpose of petitioning Congress for a redress of grievances, or for anything else connected with the powers or the duties of the National Government, is an attribute of national citizenship, and, as such, under the protection of, and guaranteed by, the United States. The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances.” (United States v. Cruikshank, 1876) [1]

In the precedent setting 1937 Supreme Court case De Jonge v. State of Oregon, Dirk De Jonge had been convicted for teaching communist doctrine to a gathering of 300 people .The Court reversed his conviction, observing that “the right to peaceable assembly is a right cognate to those of free speech and free press and is equally fundamental.”  In other words, said the court, you can’t deny the the right to assemble “ without violating those fundamental principles which lie at the base of all civil and political institutions.” More profoundly, the court ruled that “the holding of meetings for peaceable political action cannot be proscribed.””[2]

“Peaceable” remains the operative word. The First Amendment protects peaceful, not violent, assembly, although there must be a “clear and present danger” or an “imminent incitement of lawlessness” in order for government to restrict assembly rights.  Generally, though, the Supreme Court maintains that it is imperative to protect the right to peaceful assembly, even for those with whose speech many may disagree, such as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) gatherings, which many perceive as hateful, ruling (in National Socialist Party v. Skokie, 1977) that “it is better to allow those who preach racial hatred to expend their venom in rhetoric rather than to be panicked into embarking on the dangerous course of permitting the government to decide what its citizens may say and hear.” [3]

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The rights of Free Speech and Assembly are protected rights and liberties we all possess; however, they do not protect us from being offended by the purpose the Assembly and Speech being exercised.  The so-called Hate Laws are, in-fact, unconstitutional if you think long and hard on them, because they hinder us from saying what we desire to say and for the “Political Correctness” of the day which forces you to be tolerant of others and permits one side to be intolerant.  In essence, “Political Correctness” forces us to allow intolerance to be practiced and exercised against one group and prevents their exercising their rights, in a peaceable manner, toward the originating group.

You may consider bullying, in a sense, to be similar.  How often have you heard of a child being bullied to the point they couldn’t take it any longer and finally stood up for themselves?  And how many of them were suspended and expelled for none other than “Bullying”?  Seems a bit ironic and ludicrous, but happens much more often than you may think.  I have heard of a few occurrences here in my home area and at least 5 times, or more, nationwide.

People are becoming so fed up with the business-as-usual politicians, which created the vacuum to create the Tea Party movement.  The Tea Party is made up of Conservative Republicans with a Libertarian and Constitutionalist twist, who have found that the Republican Party had left them in spirit, heart, soul and principle.  Myself, I left long ago when I felt they left their roots and instead of standing on principle when they should have, the negotiated (and vise versa.)

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HOW DOES TYRANNY BEGIN?  WHY ARE THERE SO MANY LAWS?

Heroes are men of glory who are so honored because of some heroic deed. People often out of gratitude yield allegiance to them. Honor and allegiance are nice words for power!  Power and allegiance can only be held rightfully by trust as a result of continued character.  When people acting in the name of government violate ethics, they break trust with “WE THE PEOPLE.” The natural result is for “WE THE PEOPLE” to pull back power (honor and allegiance).  The loss of power creates fear for those losing the power. Fearing the loss of power, people acting in the name of government often seek to regain or at least hold their power. Hence, to legitimatize their quest for control, laws and force are often instituted.  Unchecked power is the foundation of tyranny.

See also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Works

1.      http://suite101.com/a/understanding-freedom-of-assembly-a66325 “Early Challenges

2.      http://suite101.com/a/understanding-freedom-of-assembly-a66325 “Early History of Freedom of Assembly”

3.      http://suite101.com/a/understanding-freedom-of-assembly-a66325 “Peaceful Assembly Protection for All”

 

Bill of Rights

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Part 7:

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.

It seems as though every time you turn around, someone, somewhere is being denied or hindered in their ability to exercise their religion, freely.  (i.e., students being denied the ability to create a bible study group on school grounds; a church or religious group being denied the 501(c)(3) tax exempt status designation; etc.)

Students, at the high school level, are usually minors and have limited rights; however, they do have the right to freely express themselves (under many circumstances) and have the right to endeavor in a religious activity.  Consider what is happening right now during the shutdown of the Government…Chaplains have essentially been told they cannot have services for the troops and risk an Article 15 for disobeying an order if they do so.  Odd, despite the rank they hold in the military service they are there to aid and bolster the moral and welfare of the service men and women.  Even though they are in the military, they have certain rights and their religious belief and expression happens to be one of them.

A church, on the other hand, does not have to be a corporation. Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Since the Christ was equated to the head of the church, there is no need for a physical building, because of the statement by Jesus in Matthew 18:20.  However, when a church becomes a corporation, it loses some flexibility and rights.  A corporation is a fiction of either the federal or state government and therefore is bound by many laws that a constitutional church is not obligated to uphold.  A corporate church, regardless if you believe it or not, if asked for any list of people that attend are required to comply, because they can say it is a fiction of the state and that is a privilege and they refused our request; hence, they loses their corporate status.  A constitutional church made up of the people still possess the rights to donate with tax write-off , but more importantly are not obligated to yield that same information if requested.  Although, most churches are corporations are so for legal protections, others are so to protect their wealth.  All rights within the first 10 Amendments of the US Constitution are individual, not collective.  A constitutional church is a group of individuals exercising their right of freedom of religion under the First Amendment protections.

Many people are under the misunderstanding that the United States was created as a Christian Nation.  Make no mistake about it; the colonies were created due to the religious persecution of the people in England.  However, this nation was created with the idea that the leadership could freely express their religions, not necessarily Christianity.  The majority of the Congress and leadership were either Deists or Masons.  The best way to make my point would be one of the initial treaties of the United States, the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797,:

Article 11.

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

I believe, foundationally, we are a Christian nation; however, if we were to be a strict Christian nation we would be creating a nation as that which we left…one which demanded you change your religion when the head of state decides he wants to change the religion, or worse yet, becoming a theocracy!

Thomas Jefferson once stated:  

“I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged.”

 

I, for one, agree that it is our life’s work, speech, and actions that our religious tenets can be gleaned.  It is this freedom that makes our Country so great!

Sorry it took so long, I intended to get this out last week.

See also:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

The Hidden Faith of The Founding Fathers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU24fJ4NQxo)

The Bill of Rights

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Part 5:

ARTICLE I (aka, the First Amendment to the US Constitution.)

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.”

This being the most important of natural rights, according to our forefathers, it only made good sense to place it at the forefront of all other rights to be protected by this new constitution.  These natural rights being the right to freely speak or express one’s self, to freely assemble, to govern and express your personal religious beliefs without retribution, to freely publish, and to bring about grievances against the government.  There is an acronym that aids in your memory of these rights of paramount importance and it is as follows:

Grievances, Religion, Assembly, Speech, Press OR GRASP

The rights of greatest importance, which is impossible as all rights are of equal importance but perhaps in priority, are the rights of religion and speech.  Religion will probably trump only because it was for religious persecution that the people left England to set up house in the New World.  So, let us begin with religion.

RELIGION

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” This is known as the Establishment Clause it is the provision that our Congress will make no law thereby creating a state sponsored religion, nor any law to respect a specific religion.  Thomas Jefferson in his second inaugural address, 1805, in which he declared to the whole country, “In matters of religion, I have considered its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [i.e., federal] government.” In other words, Jefferson’s wall metaphor in his 1802 letter was referring to the First Amendment’s prohibition of federal interference with the authority of the states in religious matters. It was a wall to prevent federal trespass. On the issue of religion, as with other matters, Thomas Jefferson emerges as a believer in what might be called states’ rights.  This was the meaning of the “wall of separation” metaphor, it was a limitation upon the general or Federal government.

We must discuss the case of Everson v. Board of Education (1947).  Everson believed that the New Jersey law was misapplying the “wall of separation” by reimbursing the cost of transportation for children to schools other than public schools since most of the private schools in NJ during the 1940s were run by the Roman Catholic Church, it begged the question concerning the Establishment Clause.  It was upheld as a public service.  However, it appears that Justice Hugo Black, who wrote the majority opinion, was both factually and historically incorrect in his assessment of the situation.  He stated that the First Amendment prohibited states from having an establishment of religion; where in reality, Jefferson stated that it was the Federal government was prohibited from trespassing upon the rights of the states in matters such as these.

This is how the US Constitution is RE-INTERPRETTED over the course of time and permits the government to trample upon the rights that are otherwise protected.  Now, of course, in my opinion, it truly matters not whether the Bill of Rights existed or not, nor does it matter how someone else interprets your exercise of your God given rights.  Those rights are yours and are not negotiable, you can opt to lay down and suspend your rights anytime you desire and then pick them pack up again!

Now to move right along, “…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.”  This is called the Free Exercise Clause, a protected right preventing the government’s intrusion upon your endowed rights given by God, not by Government!  This was the great thing way back when, they wrote the laws and declarations so the people could understand them; unlike today where each law or amendment to the constitution is written so ambiguously that it must be interpreted by the courts…so, sad!  Notice the free exercise clause where it can be stated emphatically that “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom…” which means by making any law that violates, prohibits, or abridges your expressed, or unexpressed, freedoms is both unlawful and unconstitutional…in my opinion.

The Declaration of Independence declared to the world that “Every individual is sovereign over his own person with natural inalienable rights.”  But as time slips away from us all, our rights and liberties are slowly being shaven and chiseled away.  One question must be asked and answered by every free man:  Where will you draw the line in the sand?  How many of your endowed, inalienable rights are you willing to give up?  What are you willing to do to protect your rights, your liberties, and your country?  What are you willing to do to reclaim your country from your rogue & tyrannical government?  Run for office and perhaps tip the balance of power?  What are you willing to do?

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One Story Behind the First Amendment

How religious freedoms and the First Amendment came to pass:  Edward Bushnell and three fellow JURORS learned this lesson well. They refused to bow to the court. They believed in the absolute power of the JURY, though their eight companions cowered to the court. The four JURORS spent nine weeks of torture in prison, often without food and water, soaked with urine, smeared with feces, barely able to stand, and even threatened with fines, yet they would not give in to the judge. Edward Bushnell said, “My liberty is not for sale,” though he had great wealth and commanded an international shipping enterprise. These “bumble heads”, so the court thought, proved the power of the people was stronger than any power of government. They emerged total victors.

The year was 1670, and the case Bushnell sat on was that of William Penn, who was on trial for violation of a “Conventicle Act.” This was an elaborate Act which made the Church of England the only legal church. The Act was struck down by their not guilty vote.  Freedom of Religion was established and became part of the English Bill of Rights and later it became the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the Right to peaceful assembly was founded, Freedom of Speech, and also habeas corpus. Had Bushnell and his colleagues yielded to the guilty verdict sought by the judge and prosecutor, William Penn most likely would have been executed as he clearly broke the law.

The first such writ of habeas corpus ever issued by the Court of Common Pleas was issued to free Edward Bushnell.  Later this trial gave birth to the concept of Freedom of the press.  There would have been no Liberty Bell, no Independence Hall, no city of Philadelphia, and no state called Pennsylvania, for young William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and leader of the Quakers, was on trial for his life. His alleged crime was preaching and teaching a different view of the Bible than that of the Church of England. This appears innocent today, but then, one could be executed for such actions. He believed in freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly. He had broken to government’s law, but he had injured no one. The four heroic JURORS knew that only when actual injury to someone’s person or property takes place is there a real crime. No law is broken when no injury can be shown. Thus there can be no loss or termination of rights unless actual damage is proven

The trial made such an impact the every colony but one established the jury as the first liberty to maintain all other liberties. It was felt that the liberties of people could never be wholly lost as long as the jury remained strong and independent, and that unjust laws and statutes could not stand when confronted by conscientious JURORS. JURORS today face an avalanche of imposter laws. JURORS not only still have the power and the RIGHT, but also the DUTY, to nullify bad laws by voting “not guilty.” At first glance it appears that it is almost unfair, the power JURORS have over government, but necessary when considering the historical track record of oppression that governments have wielded over private citizens.

See also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Works Cited

Alexander Hamilton, J. J. (1788). THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.

Butler, J. (n.d.). THE BEST OF CARL MILLER. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from MY PRIVATE AUDIO: http://www.myprivateaudio.com/CARLTEXT.pdf; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s-zHrNPfkQ (PARTS 1, 2, & 3)

Geiger, R. (2008, June 4). Background on the First Amendment. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications: http://journalism.okstate.edu/faculty/jsenat/foioklahoma/educationlessons/Background_on_First_Amendment.pdf

Lockhart, W. B., Kamisar, Y., & Choper, J. H. (1970). THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION Cases and Materials. St. Paul: West Publishing.

McElroy, J. H. (2011, April 9). Understanding the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from First Principles ISI Web Journal: http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1485

Know Your Constitution – Carl Miller Parts 1 – 3 (abt. 1980). [Motion Picture].

Quotable Moments in Time…

George-Washington

“The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on
the courage and conduct of this army…There is nothing that
gives a man consequence, and renders him fit for command,
like a support that renders him independent of everybody but
the State he serves.”

– Letter from George Washington to the president of Congress,
Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)

visit http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/ and they are also on Facebook and Twitter