What is the fundamental character of America? Why have so many millions of people wanted to live in America? For nearly 400 years our prosperity and liberty have been the envy of much of the world. But prosperity is inseparable from our liberty. Take away freedom of speech, association, religion and "the pursuit of happiness," and our country would be neither free nor prosperous. And Liberty is inseparable from good character. John Adams said:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. It is religion and morality alone which can
establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.
Unique among modern nations, the United States was literally conceived in liberty. The guiding philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason and our other Founders was the inalienable rights of the individual. As the Declaration of Independence states,
WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to
alter or abolish it . . . .
America's Founders had experienced horrible demonstrations of the power of unlimited government: destructive taxation, forcible invasions of homes by government agents, interference with free trade, government spying on citizens, corruption and debasement of the legal system, imprisonment and murder of dissenters, and government destruction of churches. To avoid these evils, our Constitution and Bill of Rights (the first ten
Amendments) were created, as strict limitations on the power of government.
While the body of the Constitution, as well as most subsequent amendments, function as a charter for strong central government that the Federalists insisted on, the price they willingly paid (the price demanded by Anti-Federalists) was not just a laundry list of things the government would generously allow people to do, but absolute prohibitions -- stringent limits -- imposed on what government would be allowed to do, written in plain language, meant to protect certain rights each of us possesses simply by virtue of being born a human being.
Anyone who encounters (or professes to encounter) any difficulty understanding the meaning or intention of any portion of the Bill of Rights should ask himself the following question about America's Founders:
You've just fought the most powerful and ruthless government on the planet for thirteen long, miserable years and finally (more or less to your surprise) won your independence. The last thing in the world you want is to create another government just like the one you just defeated, or to fall again -- or let your children or grandchildren fall again -- under the boot-heel of tyranny.
Now: what do you want the Bill of Rights to mean?
L. Neil Smith, Bill of Rights Enforcement!
The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly. It guarantees our right to keep and bear arms. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. It guarantees due process in a court of law, a speedy hearing, and trial by jury. It prohibits excessive bail, fines and punishment. Most important, the Bill of Rights guarantees that rights not explicitly granted to the government, are reserved
to us as individuals.
The genius of our Constitution and Bill of Rights is that they limit the power of government, not the freedom of individuals. Our government was only to be a moral policeman, stopping force and fraud whenever possible, and otherwise leaving citizens alone to live their lives in peace. Today, over 200 years after its passage, the Bill of Rights remains the supreme law of the land, and neither Congress, nor the Supreme
Court, nor the President have the moral or legal right to ignore it.
Sadly, government now has strayed very far from the original vision of limited powers. Today there is no aspect of our lives - public or private - that government regards as exempt from its jurisdiction and control. Government now seizes over half our incomes in taxes; regulates every aspect of trade and commerce; censors books, movies and art; seizes our business records and bank accounts; confiscates our guns; taps our telephones and
reads our mail and electronic messages; dictates wages and working conditions; regulates our sex lives; and imposes fines and imprisonment with little regard for due process or justice.
The vision of government as the servant of the people, rather than their master, has been lost.
Here is how the Bill of Rights is being destroyed:
Congress shall make no law respecting the 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 great events of the American Revolution were plotted in Churches. The King and Parliament were denounced from pulpits for their violation of God-given rights. The delegates of several states met to ratify the Constitution in Churches. The sermon was the most powerful agent for political change. Today the IRS dictates to churches what they can preach about. Any criticism of the
government could result in loss of "tax-exempt status." Churches today have been neutralized, and are politically irrelevant.
America's most fundamental charters attribute our liberties to God. A Supreme Court Justice admitted:
Religion was once deemed to be a function of the public school system. The Northwest Ordinance, which antedated the First Amendment, provided in Article III that Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.
Today students are not permitted to engage in voluntary public corporate prayer in government-run schools. They are not allowed to see a copy of the Ten Commandments on a classroom wall. Schools which teach that America's values of liberty and justice are the best in the world are subjected to
lawsuits and told that any curriculum which declares that America is better than a socialist dictatorship is "illegal."
In the name of "national security", government employees have been censored for life. To combat pornography, federal and state governments have imprisoned musicians, seized the entire contents of bookstores and video rental outlets, and have even prosecuted museums and art galleries. To "fight crime," hundreds of communities have enacted curfews and "anti-loitering"
laws. Children who refuse to attend government schools can be imprisoned along with their parents. Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are under siege.
Our right to vote and petition our government is increasingly subjected to computer systems in which the ease of manipulating our votes vastly exceeds anyone's ability to detect the fraud.
A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
Our right to bear arms is being gradually destroyed as the federal government, the states, and communities enact ever more repressive "gun control" legislation. Law-abiding citizens buy guns to prevent crime, while law-breakers buy guns to commit crimes. Laws against guns are laws against the law-abiding, because law-breakers will ignore those laws. Gun control laws raise crime rates every
time they are passed, to the benefit of law-breakers. California made criminals of over 700,000 of its citizens with the stroke of a pen by banning many popular semi-automatic rifles. Washington D.C. has strict gun control laws and snipers and murderers galore. To fight government and criminal violence, Americans need the means to defend themselves more than ever, yet we are being legally disarmed.
The rights of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly belong to "the people" individually. So does the right to keep and bear arms.
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 prescribed by law.
Government does not need to quarter real live troops in your home if it can place your entire home under electronic surveillance. With cameras at every street intersection, it's no longer difficult to imagine a video camera on your front lawn, placing your home under 24-hour government surveillance. In Puerto Rico, National Guard troops have been permanently stationed in 54 apartment buildings. Government also destroys our privacy by
wire-tapping our telephones, seizing business records and keeping extensive files on most citizens.
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 person or things to be seized.
Recent Supreme Court decisions have given the police nearly unlimited power to search houses, businesses and cars - in many cases without a warrant. In Florida, courts have refused to stop police from boarding buses, blocking exits and searching passengers. RICO laws and "anti-drug" laws have given government the power to seize all the assets of an individual or company without indictment or trial.
Strip-searching persons arrested for even minor traffic violations is becoming more and more common. Courts and legislatures now consider virtually any government search and seizure "reasonable."
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 deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
The Founding Fathers believed that no one should be indicted without a hearing. Today the IRS can seize your bank account, the FBI can take your computer, the Coast Guard can take your boat, and welfare authorities can take away your children, without any hearing or indictment by a Grand Jury. Increasingly, fundamental legal restraints on the power of government agencies are being abandoned.
When local juries refuse to convict their neighbors for violating unjust state and local laws, government prosecutors will launch a second prosecution under identical federal laws, in violation of the right to be free from "double jeopardy."
Private property is routinely seized by the government without compensation, often in the interests of "environmentalism." Federal, state, and local government property already accounts for 42 percent of the total land area of the United States.
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 the 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
assistance of counsel for his defense.
The United States has adopted the totalitarian practice of imprisoning defendants for long periods before trial. As a growing list of personal behavior and technical errors are criminalized, the court system is being impossibly over-loaded. It now takes years before most serious cases ever get to trial. The growing power of prosecutors, and government seizure of attorneys' fees, are destroying the ability of those accused to defend
In Suits of 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 re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Less than 3% of criminal defendants now get a trial. Pre-trial detention is growing and some people have been imprisoned for over two years without trial. In direct violation of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that you don't even have to be given a jury trial if you face less than six months in prison. And if you have a dispute with the IRS, EPA or any of a dozen other regulatory agencies, your case will usually be heard
by an administrative law judge employed by the same agency you are disputing. Judges routinely deny the traditional right of jurors to judge the law, as well as the facts of a case, and vote their conscience. Judges and prosecutors exclude any juror who won't agree to convict in advance, stacking juries to ensure convictions. These are precisely the sorts of abuses our Bill of Rights was designed to prevent.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
By calling penalties "civil" rather than "criminal," government can seize all of your assets without trial or any other form of legal proceeding. Bail has been abolished for virtually all federal crimes, including crimes that didn't even exist as recently as ten years ago, such as "money-laundering" and "structuring." Punishments are becoming increasingly harsh. Teenagers are getting years or
decades in prison for minor drug offenses. Businessmen are receiving long prison sentences for technical violations of incomprehensible tax laws and securities regulations. Ordinary citizens are being imprisoned for possession of banned literature, guns, and even medicines.
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights were intended as strict restrictions on government power. Those powers not explicitly granted to government were retained by the individual. Today the Constitution has been stood on its head. Courts are now saying anything the government wants to do is permissible, unless explicitly prohibited by the Constitution. Government now has nearly unlimited power, and the American people are losing control
of their own lives, property, and destinies.
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.
Power has shifted from the individual to the states, and from the states to the federal government. Federal aid to states has meant federal control of the states. By including the entire economy under the Constitution's "interstate commerce" clause, the Supreme Court has given the US Government control over every aspect of society.
See the discussion of "enumerated powers."
Your freedom is in danger. When government violates its own laws, it becomes the enemy of justice and freedom, rather than their protector. It is still possible to stop our descent into tyranny, but time is running out. To preserve our freedom we must passionately defend our moral and legal rights - by speaking out, educating others, and supporting pro-freedom groups - and demand enforcement of the
highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights.
Another version of this essay by Jarret B. Wollstein can be found here. Click here for the ISIL Store.
How Many Rights Have Americans REALLY Lost?