Cullman Times. July 4, 2023.
Editorial: Bill of Rights remains bedrock of freedom
As we celebrate the nation’s birthday this week and think about what it means to be an American, it is appropriate to remember that we are a nation of laws, founded on a philosophy of defined freedoms.
From the first Declaration of our Independence on this day in 1776, the enumeration of those rules and regulations evolved into the Constitution and the first 10 amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights. They went into effect on Dec. 15, 1791, and have been the source of our strength — as well as the subject of debate — ever since.
Are they still relevant after more than two centuries? Can we agree on what they mean? Or should we merely marvel at how well they have survived and done their job?
As we deal with today’s controversies, it is interesting and instructive to review the rules that guide us, whether we realize that they do or not:
• First 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.
• Second Amendment: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
• Third Amendment: 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 to be prescribed by law.
• Fourth Amendment: 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.
• Fifth Amendment: 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 be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
• Sixth Amendment: 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.
• Seventh Amendment: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed $20, 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.
• Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
• Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
• Tenth 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.
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