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Our Freedoms in the United States of America, the Bill of Rights

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Lela is a citizen of the United States of America. She was born and raised in Texas. Married on Maui, then moved back to Texas!

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Old Glory

Old Glory

The Bill of Rights Document

"The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution."

The quote is part of the preamble to the Bill of Rights document that indicates that the States and the Congress have the right to amend the Constitution of the United States of America. See references section below.

They are stating that our government recognizes that it has a duty to clarify and institute regulations regarding our rights as citizens and as human beings without regard to:

  • race
  • color
  • religion
  • sex
  • age
  • disability
  • national origin
  • ancestry
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • marital status
  • parental status
  • veteran status
  • military discharge status
  • citizenship status
  • source of income
  • or any other protected status.

"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."

As writers, journalists and even as HubPages authors, this amendment affects us the most.

Many hubbers write about religion. They use their free speech rights to do so. This means that we are free to criticize any religion we want to. We are free, in this country, to say and write whatever we feel like saying and writing. A religion may dictate to its followers, but it may not dictate to the American public.

We are also free to say and write and use words that are considered inflammatory, insulting, rude and socially unacceptable. You are free to rebut those words.

We are also free to assemble a group of like-minded people and petition our government or other groups to try to sway their opinions about things.

The members of the Press are given special dispensations for saying and writing about whatever they want to say and write about and to protect their sources from freedom of speech persecution.

"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."

This one simple sentence continues to this day to be a huge source of aggravation and debate.

There is no question that a country needs a military force. We must defend ourselves against those that seek to invade and take by force our land and homes. This is our right as a nation. It would be lovely if we didn't have to do this, but until evolution brings us to a more peaceful nature, we must have a protective military. No one truly debates this.

As for each and every one of us having the right to bear arms, just because we have the right to do so, doesn't mean we should all go out and buy guns.

Indeed this is currently a highly regulated area that continues to be the most misconstrued 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."

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Well, this is one you don't really hear about! Apparently, we have the right to refuse a bed to the military during times of peace, and must be legally compelled to do so in times of war.

This sets up the stage for the huge budget of the military! They have the right to build quarters for the fighting soldiers in both peacetime and wartime.

"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."

The Supreme Court recently ruled that in some cases it is perfectly all right to search and seize without a warrant. This is called the "no knock" warrant1.

People, themselves, often relinquish their right to unlawful search and seizures by actually consenting to be searched without probable cause.

Whenever a cop stops you on the side of the road, they can pretty much get away with anything these days. Your best bet is to keep your mouth shut if approached by a police officer and never, ever consent to a search without a properly executed warrant!

Stand up for your rights and those of every other citizen.

"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."

This is why the Miranda warning was sent down by the Supreme Court.

If you are ever arrested, be sure to exercise this very important right!

In the United States, the Miranda warning is a type of notification customarily given by police to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) advising them of their right to silence; that is, their right to refuse to answer questions or provide information to law enforcement.2

"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 defence."

Unfortunately, our jails have become the most crowded and overused institutions in the world.

Of course, citizens need to do their civic duty and respond to the call for jury selections and witnesses.

"In Suits at 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."

Did you notice the 'double jeopardy' clause? If you are tried by a jury and the facts are ruled on by a jury, A retrial should not be allowed.

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

This amendment is mostly used in the 'cruel and unusual' defense. A very high bail amount would be considered unusual. An excessive fine would be cruel. Unjust imprisonment, up to and including, the death penalty, would definitely be considered cruel by most people.

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Because every human right could never be listed or even explained, this amendment was thrown in as a 'catch-all' kind of thing.

Basically, it states, that just because it isn't listed and numbered, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

"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."

It would be very hard to designate every State's Rights versus every Federal Right, but this little amendment attempts to cover that situation in a rather broad statement.

This amendment is a very important one when it comes to constitutional law. But basically, if the Federal government makes a law, the individual states may or may not incorporate that law. The people of each state may or may not have a say in the ratification of said Federal laws.

What Do You Think?

References:

You think you know what the constitution says? Think again. How long has it been since you have actually read it?

The ten stated "rights" are taken from the Bill of Rights of the United States of America. You can reference each individual right by visiting the National Archives.

1. No-Knock Warrant | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia | LII / Legal Information Institute; Friday, August 30, 2019, 10:35:56 AM

2. The Miranda Warning; Wikipedia; Friday, September 06, 2019, 10:40:30 PM

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Lela

Comments - Is this how you understand our Bill of Rights?

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 13, 2019:

In.the USA, a public defender will be appointed to defend you free of charge. All you need to do is request one. You can also request a new PD.

Stand-up on September 12, 2019:

But what do you do if you can't afford an attorney to defend your rights and public defender is harming you not helping you?

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 25, 2014:

HSchneider - Thank you for the kind words. I tend to simplify things when I can. I believe that the Constitution has been overly complicated through the years and we need to get back to basics.

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on October 25, 2014:

AustinStar, You have encapsulated the pros and cons I feel regarding these amendments more cogently than I ever could. I revere the Constitution and the Bill of Rights but the founders knew and I believe that it is abundantly clear that this amazing document must be adapted to changing times and must be a living and breathing document. Thank you for this wonderful Hub.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on August 29, 2014:

Everyone needs to know our rights and you have done an excellent job of explaining them.

bradmaster on August 18, 2014:

The question is what is war, and when are we in it for the purposes of the Bill of Rights. Amendment 3 mentions the word war, but we haven't been in a war since WWII. That was the last time that congress officially declared a war, the so called since them, are merely very deadly police actions, on the part of the US.

Without an official congressional declaration of war, how did congress pass the Patriot Act, which totally discards, half of the Bill of Rights. This is especially true of the 4th and 5th Amendments.

Thanks

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on August 08, 2014:

*none* of these rights require confiscation to provide. Unlike a "right" to health insurance, which is patent nonsense, these rights are simply limitations put on the government.

Sondra Rochelle from USA on August 04, 2014:

Excellent article. I think it is in our nature to disagree because we sure do a lot of it, as is evidenced by this hub!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 22, 2014:

Hi Will! Well, certainly all of the Bill of Rights are very important. I wonder about Amendment 9 the most. It would be impossible to list every right, but at least there is a proviso to add new ones. I am mostly partial to the Freedom of Speech.

It's sort of like any other document though, individuals interpret things differently. I just wish we could keep it simple.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on May 22, 2014:

The First Amendment, as you pointed out, is the most important because it guarantees our right to religious freedom, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom to tell government we don't like what they are doing.

The Second Amendment guarantees our right to enforce the First Amendment, and that fact is well documented in the writings of the Founding Fathers.

Good Hub.

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