Monday, March 23, 2009

1st Amendment + 10th Amendment = Bookends

Just the briefest introduction. When the Constitution was written our Founding Fathers were wary of a too-powerful national government. They were careful to draft a Constitution that put limits on the federal government by giving them only certain prescribed powers. But some were afraid the Federal Government might still try to take more power than was intended, so they insisted on having Bill of Rights, which would assure the people that the rights that they assume they have are indeed rights they have. The Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, for example, were put in place to keep the government from interfering with religious freedom. Many of our states at the time had official religions that were supported by the state; the First Amendment prohibited the Federal Government from making any law regarding those states' religions.

As is clearly stated on this blog, the main subject is the Religion Clauses of our First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So why would I have a small sub-thread about media bias? One reason is that I hold the media of today partly responsible for the misunderstanding that exists about the meaning of the First Amendment. It is typical to find "separation of church and state" much more often than "freedom of religion" in news stories, for example, and that leads to misinterpretation.

Two other parts of the First Amendment are intended to protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I believe our Founders put those particular items into the very first of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights for a reason. Religion was important to them, and they believed that religion was helpful, or even essential, to a successful society and government. And they believed that our population must be free to speak their opinions without threat of government intervention. It's important to let people and the press criticize the government and to have free and open debates about policies.

Then there is the 10th Amendment. It says:

"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."

Our Constitution spells out specific powers granted to the Federal Government. The Bill of Rights reassures the people that they have rights, which according to the Declaration of Independence, are given to us by God (our "Creator"), not by the Government. Capping that off is the 10th Amendment, which clearly says that our Federal Government has ONLY those powers spelled out. Period.

Especially recently, the Federal Government is grabbing power like never before. On the momentum of a fiscal crisis, they are building laws and policies that take power from the private sector in order to manage the economy. Whether or not you prefer them to do this, the Constitution did not give them this kind of power, and I don't believe we have any other amendments to the Constitution that allow it. Beyond that infraction, the laws/policies contain many facets that are not truly geared toward economic stimulus. Instead they seem geared toward creating various other laws to 1) satisfy individual representatives and their voters in their home states, or 2) to create policies that have been on one or more wish lists for a long time. Politics as usual? Perhaps. But it is not "usual" to be throwing around trillion-dollar checks one after another after another after... Money is power, and the more money the Federal Government takes from us, the more power we give up to them.

I just did a search of the USA Today website for the phrases "10th amendment" and "tenth amendment." I found a total of 3 results between the two phrases. Whether or not you are for/against the "stimulus" packages, don't you think that more of the press should at least question the power of the Federal Government to do this? If nothing else, it would make a good debate. And it sure would be nice to glance at the Constitution now and then, at least in passing, to see if we are a legitimate track.

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