Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Unconstitutional Crisis - Part I

***Cross-posted at What Floats My Boat***

The federal government of the United States of America is a truly remarkable creation. Outlined and defined within The Constitution, the basis of ALL law in our nation, our Founding Fathers bestowed upon us a system by which we may govern ourselves, at the same time preventing abuse of power by the officials we elect, such that a:

[...] government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. --Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 19 Nov 1863
In school we learn (and hear parroted throughout our lives) that this system is comprised of three branches: A legislative branch to create the law [Article I], an executive branch to administer the law [Article II], and a judicial branch to interpret the law [Article III]. Each has enumerated duties imposed upon it by the Constitution, as well as restrictions upon those duties to protect individual and State rights.

What is routinely omitted and blatantly ignored is the existence of a fourth branch, one that stands independent of but also serves as the dynamic force driving and supporting the others: We The People - outlined within the Constitution in the "forgotten" Article IV, as pertains to the State(s) and the citizens of that State(s). This is the "blood and guts" of what Lincoln was attempting to convey in the famous Gettysburg Address.

We The People. How can this be so easily ignored? Written off? Forgotten? Trampled in the dust?
~~~Quite simply, really, with the systematic usurpation of power by an out-of-control polity perpetuated over generations, insidiously so as not to raise suspicion, seductively offered as being in the interests of "the general welfare," in plain sight and through suppression of dissension, facilitated by greed and enforced ignorance of the populace.~~~
One of the most powerful and moving declarations I have ever encountered may be found in one of those most cherished documents of our nation, evoking an almost visceral reaction:
WE, the PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Altogether, the Constitution is 440 words on a piece of paper. Yet, somehow, these first 52 carry the most power, have the most effect, stir the most emotion. They declare our sovereignty, state our purpose, provide us with a mission: Secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity; guarantee our rights and freedoms. It demands the protection of those liberties so they may be passed on to our children and our children's children. A legacy more valuable than gold or diamonds, it is truly priceless; however, it can be easily stolen with lack of diligence in its defense.

The most essential liberties are embodied within The Bill of Rights, Amendments I through X of the Constitution, safeguarding the rights of individuals and of the States against abuse by the federal government.

Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

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.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Amendment I
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.

Amendment II
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.

Amendment III
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.

Amendment IV
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.

Amendment V
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 offence 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.

Amendment VI
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.

Amendment VII
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.

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

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

Amendment X
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.
What do these mean? What do they REALLY mean, when special interests are not pushing and pulling, prodding and poking, twisting and turning to the benefit of a minority against the majority? While it is true that the majority must monitor itself to prevent stomping on the rights of the minority, the reverse is also true. Either would be tyranny. That which must be done, must be done for the benefit of all, with the intention of preserving liberty - not squashing it.

In a way, it is like Mr. Spock always tells Captain Kirk: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.... or the one.

Deliberately curtailing the inherent rights of society as a whole, in an effort to push an unpopular agenda and force acceptance of traditionally unacceptable behavior, is not protecting liberties. It is disregarding them out of hand, assailing them, assassinating them, then burying them in an unmarked grave.

This is a massive and weighty subject. Considering time and space restraints, following is my analysis of one portion of the First Amendment only; the remaining aspects of this amendment and others will be probed further, at a later date.

Perhaps the thorniest issue here is that first addressed in the text. Often touted as "separation of church and state" and known as the "Establishment Clause," in modern practice, this is interpreted as meaning government can neither establish a state religion nor allow religious elements to cross over into secular facets of the public realm. However, in an entirely grammatical sense, this application is patently incorrect; if we break the sentence down, adhering to grammatical continuity, we see:

Congress shall make no law:
*** Respecting [verb] an establishment [noun] of religion [adjective; type of religion] or
*** Prohibiting [verb] the free [adjective; type of exercise] exercise [noun] thereof; or
*** Abridging [verb] the {freedom of ....} [noun].

Well... just take a look at that. Every noun has its own verb (action). Proper grammar insists upon continuity of structure. Applying rules of grammar:
Congress shall make no law respecting (regarding/related to/in honor of) a religious establishment (i.e., church or other religious entity). Congress shall make no law regarding anything religious. Period. No laws about formation of a state religion, no laws about prohibiting practice of religion (or not practicing if one so chooses), no laws about removing Ten Commandments from public buildings, no laws about prayer in school or at public events, no laws at all about any of it. Legislating school prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Legislating removal of religious adornments in public venues is a violation of the Establishment Clause. They have no right to do so, yet they have done exactly that, seizing the rights of any and all attempting to exercise their religion, the religious majority, in favor of the irreligious minority.
To be continued....

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