Birthday of the Bill of Rights

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIt is something we as Americans take for granted. December 15th is the day that the first 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution were adopted by all of the states then in the union on December 15, 1791. The first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, are among the most important part of the Constitution. These ten amendments not only spell out the rights of individuals, but also the barriers that both the federal and state governments cannot cross. The first amendment alone is significant—the government cannot establish a religion as state doctrine, and that freedom of speech and the press is guaranteed. The fifth amendment protects people from being tried twice for the same crime, and that no one shall lose their rights without due process. The fourth amendment protects people in their homes from unreasonable searches and seizures. I can go on, but what is most important is that for the first time in history the rights of the people had been set down and guaranteed by law.

Is this to say that there have never been unreasonable searches and seizures of people’s private property? Is it to say that people’s rights to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble have not been violated over the course of our history? Of course they have. Of course there are those in power who have used the age old excuse of trying to protect the country in the name of “national security” or for the “good of the people” in attacking minorities. Whether these minorities be racial and ethnic, political or religious, or social dissenters, this country has seen more than its fair share of repression. However, the Bill of Rights allowed the courts, the press (even if it was underground at times), and the freedom of religion for the people to voice their dissent when the occasion arose. The U.S. Constitution is far from perfect, but it has been the basis where the people of this country have fought for the ideal, the sense of justice that is a part of the fabric of the legal framework left by the Founding Fathers. In that the Bill of Rights has been the starting point for all other amendments that have come afterwards, and the means by which the people can exercise their rights. This is a birthday we should always solemnly remember.

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