Constitutional Rights

This is going to be part one of “Know your constitution” series. I intend to address the amendments sequentially, and tie the various articles together with links so that once completed the series will be easy to follow. In the meantime, the series will be published sporadically, at least one article a week, which I hope will not be too confusing. There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding out there, what the Constitution guarantees and what it does not.

First and foremost, the Constitution does not empower the government. It limits federal power. It is, essentially, a list of things the government cannot do. Continuing that thought, it does not address the public’s ability to do things. The right to free speech prohibits government censorship, if the newspaper won’t print your letter they are not violating your rights, they are using theirs.

That was one of the first lessons on freedom we learned in school. “Your rights end where my nose begins” was the phrase in Kindergarten. Kindergarten. Yet for some reason some college graduates don’t understand individual rights.

Many rights have been interpreted from the constitution. There is no “Right to Privacy”, however the Declaration of Independence says “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“, the fourth amendment reads “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 the fourteenth amendment states “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” from which has been derived the concept of a right to privacy. This does not apply to Facebook, only to the government. What you say in public is public. You have no right to privacy when you post your life story on the internet.

You have the right to pursue happiness, you do not have the right to happiness. Rights are not entitlements. This country was founded by people who went to war over a tax on their favorite breakfast beverage, the Constitution was written as a weapon against government, not as government social program. Each amendment limits government, it does not require the government to provide anything.

The Constitution does not become irrelevant when it is successful in holding down oppression any more than jails become irrelevant when they’re full of criminals. Just because homes haven’t been seized to house troops recently (to your knowledge) does not mean we need to eliminate the third amendment, it means the third amendment is working.

The Constitution remains a work in progress, the most recently ratified amendment, the twenty seventh, took effect in 1992. It was proposed in 1789. One amendment has been repealed, the eighteenth, only fourteen years after it was ratified. It is a document that lays out the limits and purposes of government, amended with the “Bill of Rights” which is the first ten amendments. You can read the Constitution by clicking here.

Next time I’ll start on the Bill of rights.

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10 comments on “Constitutional Rights

  1. Alice Sanders says:

    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 the fourteenth amendment states “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” from which has been derived the concept of a right to privacy. And then you go on to say that it doesn’t apply to Facebook; however, when they start taking our e-mails which is a violation of our privacy, and the documents we download, then that is a violation of my privacy.

    Thanks for clarifying some of our Constitutional rights. I do look forward to this series.

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    • kblakecash says:

      Facebook is not the government. There is nothing that should make you believe that posting things on facebook is any different that printing it out and posting it on the kiosk in town.

      I know some people think they have privacy on the internet, but you do not. It is a public place, facilitated by a company that make the money necessary to operate it by selling ads. The better they can target the ads, by mining your writings for data, the more money they make.

      Compare that to private message boards, in which the server and bandwidth is paid for by members. In that case the information is private between the members, much like your neighbors might repeat what you’ve said at a social gathering.

      It is possible to purchase a private email account for which you might expect a higher degree of privacy, but the Constitution applies only to the actions of the government.

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  2. […] This is the second part of a series of articles called “Know your constitution”. The first part may be viewed here […]

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  3. MIke R says:

    Good stuff. There is power in the Constitution when we understand that it is not a document that creates rights, but preserves natural human rights bestowed by God. As you point out, Blake, it is a document of limitation, not permission.

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  4. […] previous parts, “Constitutional Rights“, and “The Bill of Rights” may be viewed by clicking those […]

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  5. […] One, Two, and Three can be viewed through those links. I’ll start here with the fourth […]

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  6. […] is chapter five of “Know your Constitution”, here are the links for chapters One, Two, Three, and […]

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  7. […] is chapter six of the “Know your Constitution” series. Chapters One, Two, Three, Four, and Five can be viewed by clicking on each of those provided […]

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  8. […] is the seventh chapter of the “Know your Constitution” series. Chapters One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six can be viewed by clicking on each of those provided […]

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  9. […] is the eighth chapter of the “Know your Constitution” series. Chapters One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven can be viewed by clicking on each of those provided […]

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