What Rights Do We Have?

The Constitution is a living document. It is also our most precious historical document. All that America is and all that it will be is grounded in this document. But regardless of how precious it is there comes times when it must be amended to reflect the progress made in a more modern world.

We should interpret the Constitution as it fits our world today, but we must not take it to extremes. I would suggest that for abortion, gay marriage and gay rights, that there should be amendments. But as to privacy, we should let the Supreme Court hash it out and then we can rely on precedents. I believe that this mixing of the two would make this the living document that our founding fathers wanted it to be.

I would like to see amendments voted on during presidential elections by We The People, a return to Democracy if you will.

Today's "interest-group democracy" contributes to the proliferation of phony "rights." When "rights" become merely legal claims attached to interests and preferences, the stage is set for political and social conflict. Interests and preferences may conflict, but rights cannot. There can be no conflict of genuine human rights in a free society.

Speaking of phony, former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed wrote that America is united around "a vision of a society based on two fundamental beliefs. The first belief is that all men, created equal in the eyes of God with certain inalienable rights, are free to pursue the longings of their heart. The second belief is that the sole purpose of government is to protect those rights." But his political program is to ban abortion, forbid gay people to marry, and censor the Internet.

When the Federal Government or even one of the States, imposes obligations on its people through the political or judicial process, those obligations can conflict with their natural rights.

How can we tell a real right from a phony one?

In the second paragraph of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson laid out a statement of rights and their meaning that has rarely been equaled for grace and brevity. His task in writing the Declaration was to express the common sentiments of the American colonists.

"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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."

I believe that the right to self-ownership means that individuals must have the right to acquire and exchange property in order to fulfill their needs and desires. To feed ourselves, or provide shelter for our families, or open a business, we must make use of property. And we need to be confident that our property right is legally secure, that someone else can't come and confiscate the wealth we've created.

The ninth amendment states; "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." (Amendment 9, U.S. Constitution)

In an Associated Press piece quoted on Fox News, was an article about the Circuit Court of Appeals decisions on March 14, 2007 it was implied that the Circuit Court considered the Ninth Amendment no longer relevant, and that the federal government of the United States of America has no moral legitimacy.

In Gonzales v. Raich, the court ruled that the Constitution's clause to "make regular" interstate commerce permitted federal agents to raid the home of a sick woman and confiscate the six marijuana plants she was growing for her own medication ��" all in a state whose population had overwhelmingly voted to legalize medical marijuana.

The U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled that medical marijuana users could be convicted for violating federal marijuana laws even if legal by state law. Therefore, the specific issue in this case was whether the U.S. Constitution recognizes a natural right to life as an unenumerated right recognized by the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That Amendment states, in its entirety, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

And in Kelo v. City of New London, the court found that the phrase "public use" in the Fifth Amendment allows local governments to snatch land from law-abiding people, and sell that property off to wealthy developers. Property is anything that people can use, control, or dispose of. A property right means the freedom to use, control, or dispose of an object or entity.

Both cases will have negative repercussions for liberty that reach far beyond their specific facts.

James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, wrote in 1789:
"A man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions."

The Founding Fathers understood that every right we have emanates from our right to private property. In this sense, "private property" means not only the right to one's home and land, but also the right to own the product of one's labor.

Every right we have stems from government's recognizance that we, the people, are born with our rights intact. We own them. We have property in them. We voluntarily forfeit some of these rights to government, in exchange for protection from outside threats, the administration of justice and the rule of law.

The purpose of the U.S. Constitution, then, is not to tell us what rights we have. We're born with the right to do as we please, so long as we don't harm anyone else.

The Constitution's purpose is to outline what rights we give to the government, and to firmly define the limits of government power.

Most people do not understand this.

You have probably heard people say things like, "Where in the Constitution does it say you have the right to smoke a cigarette?" Or, "Where in the Constitution does it say you're allowed to look at pornography?"

James Madison worried about questions like these. He feared that if we included a Bill of Rights in the Constitution, people would eventually come to assume the rights it listed would be the only rights we have. Others felt some rights ��" speech, arms, etc. ��" were so vital as to merit explicit mention.

As a compromise, they included the Ninth Amendment, which says that the enumeration of some rights should not be construed to exclude rights not enumerated. So to answer the questions above, your rights to smoke a cigarette or consume pornography are both in the Ninth Amendment.

Many will argue that "dope is dope", but they are not looking at the overall picture, what this ruling says in essence is that a persons right to take medicine that might give him/her relief from pain or even save their life is no longer valid. Because it isn't mentioned in the Constitution. It isn't bad enough that the Supreme Court has kept the Ninth Amendment under wraps for years, if these rulings by the Circuit Court of Appeals are upheld it will be the obituary of the Ninth.

As the Supreme Court killed off the Ninth Amendment with Gonzales, Kelo in many ways this represents the culmination of its complete disregard for even our explicitly enumerated rights.

To refer to Madison again. A government that doesn't respect the title to your land is in all likelihood a government that will in time lose respect for your property in your right to speech, arms and due process. And indeed in recent years, with help from the Supreme Court, government at all levels has run roughshod over even our explicitly enumerated rights.

Because of increasingly restrictive campaign laws, we've lost the most important of our First Amendment protections ��" the right to criticize the people who govern us at election time.

The Second Amendment is being destroyed by gun-control legislation. In our nation's capital, for example, guns of any kind have been all but outlawed.

The Patriot Act and a bunch of Supreme Court "Drug War" decisions have rendered our Fourth Amendment protections from warrantless searches meaningless.

Our Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination has been diluted in many contexts, and outright suspended in others (drunk-driving cases, for example).

The grand-jury provision is supposed to be a criminal protection, but many prosecutors treat it as an invitation to abuse. And, of course, Kelo wrecked the Fifth's protection against property-taking. These are really only a few examples. There are many more.

The true meaning of the Ninth Amendment is that there are rights that people have which are not created by the constitution but precede it, and these rights are recognized by the U.S. Constitution just as rights such as free speech are "enumerated" or explicitly stated. The supreme natural right of a person is the right to live and to protect one's own life. If this supreme right is "disparaged," hence ignored or disregarded, or denied, then no other rights have meaning.

These Justices have ruled that the right to life isn't implied in the Constitution, which means that they are denying the Ninth Amendment itself. If this renders the Ninth dead, then by rights that portion of the Bill of Rights is no longer recognized by the Federal Judicial System.

The first duty and moral purpose of the government is to protect life and liberty.

As we have watched our court system become more and more conservative, we see that they no longer believe that the government was created to protect life, liberty nor property, but to do as the Geo. W. Bush Administration has done over and over seize and use power for their own economic and political gains.

Morally I charge that when a government such as this one uses its powers to murder, steal and destroy, it is no different than when one of us does so. And like us they should be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.

Forget democracy, a constitution or even religious authority, none of these morally absolves a government from enforcing the rule of law that protects its citizens, all its citizens, not just the chosen few.

The origins of the ninth amendment can be traced to the debate surrounding the ratification of the Constitution.

The Antifederalists, who opposed ratification, concentrated much of their attack on the absence of a bill of rights. Although many Antifederalists were probably more concerned with defeating the Constitution than with obtaining a bill of rights, they repeatedly pressed this charge because it struck a responsive cord with the people. Because the federal government was one of enumerated and limited powers, it would have no power to violate the rights of the people. "Why, for instance," asked Hamilton, "should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?"

Second, they argued that a bill of rights would be dangerous. Enumerating any rights might suggest to later interpreters of the Constitution that the rights not specified had been surrendered. An enumeration of rights could thereby lead to an unwarranted expansion of federal power and a corresponding erosion of individual rights.

Neither argument against a bill of rights carried the day. Anti-federalists responded that the Constitution already enumerated some of the rights of the people��"such as the protections against ex post facto laws and bills of attainder in Article I, Section 9, and the right to a jury trial in criminal cases in Article III, Section 2. If an incomplete enumeration was dangerous, as the Federalists had so strenuously argued, then the severely incomplete list of rights already in the Constitution was dangerous indeed. No further harm could be done by expanding the list.

Representative James Madison pointed out that a bill of rights was needed, not only to quiet the fears and suspicions of those who still doubted the new Constitution, but also to better protect the liberties of the people. As Madison observed:
"If they are incorporated into the constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will naturally be led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights."

Despite their many differences, the framers of the Constitution shared a common belief that although the people may delegate certain powers to their agents in a government, they still retain their natural rights. When explaining to the House the nature of the various rights in his proposal, Madison stated that, "in some instances they specify rights which are retained when particular powers are given up to be exercised by the Legislature." Madison's notes for this part of his speech read: "Contents of Bill of Rights.... 3. natural rights retained as speach [sic]."

That the term "retained" rights referred to natural rights is further reinforced by one provision of a recently discovered draft of a bill of rights written by Representative Roger Sherman, who served with Madison on the House Select Committee that drafted the Bill of Rights:
"The people have certain natural rights which are retained by them when they enter into Society, Such are the rights of Conscience in matters of religion; of acquiring property, and of pursuing happiness & Safety; of Speaking, writing and publishing their Sentiments with decency and freedom; of peaceably assembling to consult their common good, and of applying to Government by petition or remonstrance for redress of grievances. Of these rights therefore they Shall not be deprived by the Government of the united States."

The Ninth Amendment is the heart and soul of the U.S. Constitution, it recognizes ALL our natural rights and prohibits the Federal Government from denying and disparaging those rights.

All governments the United States included routinely violate human and natural rights, but they derive their constitutional authority from their promise to protect those rights.

Now the Federal Judiciary of the U.S. has said that our Constitutional protections are null and void. The spirit of the U.S. Constitution has been destroyed by our protectors, the spirit of liberty is now dead.

Congress enacts these bad laws that violate the Ninth Amendment, but the Judiciary is supposed to overrule laws that violate our Constitution. When they don't do so then they have failed in their duties and should step down. It will never happen since Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life.

The basic cause of this failure is the packing of the Courts by Right Wing Conservative appointments. Never forget that Conservatives want to be your parent, telling you what to do and what not to do. A contributing factor is the ignorance of most U.S. citizens to understand not only how our system of government works, but what and how our rights were protected by our Founding Fathers.

There is no excuse for this, we each of us must participate in a Civic movement that begins with our young people, and expands to include all citizens, to educate them about our systems and rights.

Without such education the rule of men over the rule of law will continue and it will have a snowball effect, rolling along gaining momentum until we are all living in a Dictatorship.

We can't pick and chose what we want to use in the Constitution, we must abide by those laws now explicitly expressed in that document, and make intelligent additions where and when necessary to protect our rights.

Ron McBride
Founder WeDemocrats.org
ron@wedemocrats.org

Tags: Amendment 9, Antifederalists, Associated Press, Bill Of Rights, conservative, Declaration, democracy, Federalists, founding fathers, Fox News, Gonzales, House, James Madison, Kelo, marijuana, Ninth Amendment, Patriot Act, President Bush, Ralph Reed, representative, right wing, rights, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, us constitution, US Supreme Court (all tags)

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