HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILL OF RIGHTS!

By MRFF Board Member John Compere

Our American Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our US Constitution, was ratified by the states and became effective December 15, 1791. Its 228th birthday is observed this month on that date with “BILL OF RIGHTS DAY”.

32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially declared December 15th to be our national recognition day commemorating the 150th anniversary of ratification in 1941. Unfortunately, this annual observance and its historic significance often passes with minimum media mention.

The Bill of Rights added to our Constitution guarantees of individual liberties, limitations on state and federal government power in judicial and other proceedings, and reservation to the states of powers not provided the federal government.

These historical and foundational constitutional liberties are –

1st – right to freedom from religion, freedom of any religion or no religion, and freedom of speech, press, peaceable assembly and grievance petition.

2nd – right to keep and bear arms.

3rd – right to freedom from forced housing of soldiers without consent or law.

4th – right to freedom from search and seizure without probable cause and sworn warrant.

5th – right of accused in criminal cases to grand jury determination, no double jeopardy, no self-incrimination, and no private property seizure without just compensation.

6th – right of criminal accused to fair and speedy trial by impartial jury, witness confrontation and compulsory process, and defense counsel.

7th – right of civil litigants to jury trial, and fact determination by jury protected.

8th – right to freedom from excessive bail, fine and punishment.

9th – rights provided may not deny or disparage others retained by the people.

10th – powers not provided federal government reserved to the states or  people.

We became the first nation in history to constitutionally provide individual freedom of belief (i.e. religious or non-religious) with no acknowledgment of dependency on a higher authority (e.g. emperor, monarch, deity, religion, etc).

The First Amendment, along with Article VI of the Constitution (“…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office…” ), lawfully separated government from religion and religion from government (aka: separation of church and state). The genesis came from Virginia’s 1785 Statute of Religious Freedom mandating “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”  It should be noted even Jesus separated religion and government (see Mark 12:17).

Our American Constitution Bill of Rights, in addition to providing historic private and public liberties, was also a genesis for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 declaring “…everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and other individual liberties.

America’s lawful founding and governing document, the Constitution with Bill of Rights, created our nation as a secular republic and not a sectarian one based on a religion. Secular refers to the non-religious (e.g. Preamble, Constitution and federal government with its branches which includes the military). Sectarian refers to the religious (e.g. 10,000 distinct world religions with 2,000 different American Christianities recorded by World Christian Encyclopedia).

Military religious and non-religious belief freedom is recognized, respected and required in the regulations of all military branches. For example, there are currently 221 different military belief groups officially acknowledged by the Department of Defense and 70 different belief emblems for military graves available from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

American individual right to freedom of belief freely flourishes. It is a precious constitutional liberty for which every loyal American can be proud. Moreover, it is neither pro-religion nor anti-religion, but religion-neutral.

We can truly celebrate with patriotic pride our entire American Bill of Rights.

“A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on interference.” – THOMAS JEFFERSON (3rd President)

“The Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.” –  JOHN F. KENNEDY (35th President)

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights…stands as a landmark achievement in the history of human liberty.” – GEORGE W. BUSH (43rd President)

John Compere
Brigadier General, Judges Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired)
Former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review & US Army Legal Services Agency
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

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5 Comments

  1. WFZ337

    The 11th right is for John Compere to be a freaking moron and idiot!

    The 1st Amendment does not say what he wrote, this is what it says – “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.”

    I will have to look up his address where he lives and mail him a copy of the Constitution.

  2. Grey One talks sass

    Thank you for this post. I was unaware of Bill of Rights day.

    The holiday is added to my calendar. I won’t forget next year. Again, thank you.

  3. Mark Sebree

    WFZ2337,

    Looks like you are the one that needs the education. John gave a synopsis of the Bill of Rights Amendments in plain language, and you still did not understand it. Therefore, here is a breakdown of the clauses.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” – right to freedom from religion. The word “respecting” is important in this case. It means that the government cannot promote or disparage any religion. “Respecting” modifies “establishment” in this context, expanding its scope.

    “…, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – freedom of any religion or no religion. Individuals are free to follow any religious belief that they wish, or to follow no religion at all. However, this does NOT give them the right to impose their beliefs onto others, or to use the government authority and power to do so since that would violate the first clause.

    “…, or abridging the freedom of speech” – in general, any private individual has the right to speak their mind. Reasonable restrictions, such as not fomenting a riot or other violent acts, apply. Government officials, when they can reasonably be seen as representing the government, do have restrictions on their speech. This does NOT give the person a right to an audience, or to be free from criticism for their statements.

    “…, or of the press” – Similar right and restrictions, only for writing. You can publish any opinions you want, but nobody has to read them or accept them, and nobody else has to publish them. This is why social media sites, since they are NOT government entities, can disable accounts of those that violate their Terms of Service.

    “…, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble” – Basically, the right of the people to peacefully protest the government in groups. “Peacefully” is a key word here. This is one that the government has a habit of trying to restrict as well, including targeting and harassing specific organizations and viewpoints.

    “…, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – People and groups have the right to sue the government for things that they think that the government is doing wrong, or where they think that the government is violating the law. This clause is the bailiwick of virtually civil liberties organizations, both liberal and conservative.

    The order of the clauses is also important. The more important clauses are the ones that come first. That is why government officials cannot use their government power to promote their beliefs or disparage others, because their are subject to their Establishment Clause when they are “on duty”.

    If you want to find out what the laws REALLY mean, try looking at online law libraries from well respected law schools, like Cornell, Harvard, and Princeton. They will explain these concepts and why they are the way their are in far more detail. Additionally, they are not partisan to either party or any viewpoint, which makes them more trustworthy than using Liberty University or David Barton.

  4. Spot on. Thanks for pointing out this morons rewrite of the 1st to sit in line with dikey whinersteins agenda. What a myopic fool this author is.

  5. Mark Sebree

    Greg,

    You and WFZ are the only fools here. WFZ is the one that is trying to rewrite the First Amendment. John Compere has an extensive education and experience in the field of law, and his explanation is quite clear. It also agrees with most of the reputable sources that I have been able to find. WFZ ignores part of the First Amendment, and the 14th Amendment entirely in order to try to make his woeful and ignorant argument.

    Perhaps one day, you will learn that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause really means, and why it exists. However, I seriously doubt it. Perhaps the only way you will learn is if a non-Christian uses his government authority to inconvenience you and impose his religion onto you the same way the Christians feel that they can impose their religion onto everyone else. However, by then it will likely be too late since people like you will rewrite the laws and overturn previous jurisprudence in order to get your way, never considering that the same laws can be used against you.

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