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.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is under attack.
Our Founders lived through a time when rights were not guaranteed to Americans. They were British citizens living in colonies ruled by King George III, who made the laws to please himself from across the Atlantic Ocean.
Citizens living in England had representation in Parliament, but American colonists had no such voice in the government.
When we threw off the yoke of British oppression, our Founders had a vested interest in ensuring that we never again had to live at the whims of a monarch.
In the wake of the current press to isolate ourselves to avoid transmitting the novel coronavirus that appeared on the world stage in 2019, we are giving up the rights so carefully encoded in the Constitution over two hundred years ago.
The following is my take on what we are losing.
Are You Free to Worship?
The right to worship is fundamental to our national identity. European countries had established state religions. Whether or not you worshiped at the state funded church, you were going to help pay for its upkeep, as we pay for schools today even if we have no children.
Our founders did not want the government to favor one group over another. They did not think the government had a right to control how you worship, where you worship, or which religious institution gets your money.
We have long accepted limits on churches based on politics. To quote IRS.gov,
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. “
Having accepted this restraint, we established the precedent that government can control what we say at church.
That was not enough. With the current closure of businesses, schools, and recreational facilities for the purpose of virus control came the mandate that churches should also close. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20,
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Various state governments responded, “No groups larger than three!”
Creative efforts to meet in parking lots and stay in cars were allowed in some states and punished in others. Churches are slowly reopening with the rest of the economy, but at a limited percent of their capacity.
Blue tape on pews marks where people can sit. Choirs are reduced to a minimum and spaced widely to avoid breathing on each other while expelling extra air in order to sing.
Yes, there are now regulations about people breathing too close to each other. Let that sink in.
Encourage your church leaders to think deeply about the restrictions placed on worship services.
We do not want the current state to become that awful phrase, “the new normal.” We need to be free as the founders intended to worship in the place of our choosing, with the people of our choosing, in the manner of our choosing.
Our Founders shed their blood to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (Preamble to the Constitution). Don’t give that away. You might not get it back.
Are You Free to Speak Your Mind?
Lately there has been a refreshing change in the tide of public opinion.
In the middle of March we were told that we had to shut down schools and limit our interactions to “flatten the curve” on a novel virus that was making its way toward us from China.
Being a cooperative and concerned populace, we went along with that idea.
March became April and restrictions increased. Lone voices popped up here and there suggesting that shutting down the ENTIRE economy might be overkill.
The response from the left was loud, angry, and vastly out of proportion. Demands kept increasing: close everything, wear a mask, stay away from Grandma, only buy necessities.
Angry Facebook posts insisted that going out barefaced was shameful and should even be punished. An app was invented to track who has the virus or might have been exposed and transmit that information publicly via everyone’s cell phone.
An army of “contact tracers” is being raised to hunt people down in their homes and demand that they step out of society, putting lives and businesses on hold (if they still have businesses) because they may have breathed the air of a stranger in a Wal-Mart.
Now I am noticing more posts favoring the opening of everything that has been closed.
Even Anthony Fauci, the White House health advisor who has been the main advocate of universal lockdown, has said “now is the time, depending upon where you are and what your situation is, to begin to seriously look at reopening the economy.”
We are slowly, cautiously tiptoeing back into the sunlight. We Americans tolerate too much from our elected political leaders and their unelected appointees, but we won’t stay quiet forever.
There is enough of the spirit of independence left in us, inherited from patriots such as Washington, Jefferson, and Samuel Adams, to lift us to our feet when we have had enough. Now is the time to get louder, proclaiming that we have had enough restriction, enough isolation, and enough economic destruction.
Be bold! Be loud! Go out to eat! Go to church! Call your governor and your legislators and tell them the time to save the economy is now!
Have We Lost The Right To Assemble?
For the last two months the American public has allowed its government to dictate where we go, how many people are there with us, and even how far apart we stand.
The explanation has been that we are protecting ourselves from contamination with a virus that has unknown consequences with a two week incubation period.
What we have not considered is that we are abridging a sacred right. The governors of our states, who are supposed to uphold the law, are now being allowed to issue orders with the force of law.
The legislatures, not the governors, are supposed to write laws. This is designed to be a slow and laborious process so that we do not end up with arbitrary and dictatorial mandates that violate our Constitutional rights.
Our founders believed us capable of making decisions for ourselves. The governors of our states believe that they must dictate every detail of our interactions with each other.
Contact tracers are being hired to hunt down anyone who has come in contact with a virus carrier so that those of us who still have jobs can be pressured or even forced into quarantine for two weeks without symptoms!
Apps are being developed that announce our clean or unclean status to the cell phone of those nearby–the equivalent of Biblical lepers yelling “Unclean! Unclean!” when anyone approaches.
As a citizen of a free country, you have the right to quarantine yourself, wear a mask, avoid physical contact with others, and wipe down everything that comes into your home.
What you do not have under the Constitution is the right to force me to do the same.
If you are tired of being denied the right to assemble, contact your governor and your state legislators. Let them know it is time to stop restricting your First Amendment rights.
Is There Justice For All?
On March 5, 1770, British soldiers in Boston fired into an angry crowd in what would become known as the Boston Massacre. Three colonists died that day, including former slave Crispus Attucks. Two more would die later of their wounds.
The Sons of Liberty
The original irritant was the Stamp Act of 1765, which forced colonists to buy stamps as a way to tax paper goods. The Sons of Liberty, a revolutionary organization led by Samuel Adams, were instrumental in getting the Stamp Act repealed. The Sons of Liberty also had a habit of tarring and feathering government officials.
The colonists were further aggravated by the Townshend Acts of 1767 set forth by King George III as a method of gathering revenue with tariffs on common items such as tea.
In 1768 4,000 British troops occupied Boston, then a town with 20,000 residents. This further inflamed the citizens and set the stage for the general agitation that led to the Boston Massacre. Shippers began smuggling tea into Boston to avoid paying the tariffs. Parliament repealed most provisions of the Townshend Acts but left the tea tax in place.
Taxation Without Representation
By this time Americans, though still British citizens, felt themselves different enough from the residents of England to require their own representatives in Parliament. They regarded the Townshend Acts as “taxation without representation.” They did not feel they had a voice in the decision making process of the government.
The Tea Act of 1773 granted the British East India Company the exclusive right to sell tea in America, creating a monopoly. Over the protests of tea agents and merchants, who refused to sell the tea foisted upon them, Governor Thomas Hutchinson ordered three ships to be unloaded and payment made for the tea. Protesters in other colonies had been able to turn away ships full of tea.
The Boston Tea Party
A group of sixty men, Sons of Liberty among them, boarded the ships in the Boston Harbor the night of December 16, 1773, and dumped the tea in the water.
The Intolerable Acts
In 1774 Great Britain responded harshly to the Boston Tea Party with the Intolerable acts, which inflamed the revolutionary fervor of the Americans and led to the Revolutionary War.
The Boston Port Act closed the Port of Boston, choking off trade and harming local businesses.
The Massachusetts Government Act revoked the charter and placed Massachusetts under direct control of the British government. Town meetings were limited to one per year.
The Administration of Justice Act moved local trials of royal appointees to England. Witnesses had to pay their own way across the Atlantic to testify. They were reimbursed for the fare but not for their lost wages. George Washington called this act the “Murder Act” because few were able to make the trip to testify, allowing royal officials to commit crime with impunity.
The Quartering Acts required the colonies to provide housing for the occupying British soldiers.
As the British government pressed hard with economic strictures, Americans became less complacent and more willing to oppose the tyrannical government that threatened their ability to make a living.
The Declaration of Independence
In 1776 representatives from thirteen British colonies met in Philadelphia. They drafted the Declaration of Independence to explain why they were waging a war to separate themselves from England. Originally a loose confederation, this union would lead to a new nation called the United States of America.
The Articles of Confederation
The United States originally organized under the Articles of Confederation, establishing an extremely limited national government. When that model failed to produce enough tax money to maintain a standing army to protect the fledgling nation, a new Constitution was negotiated on the Federalist model.
The new Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. Our most fundamental rights as Americans are contained in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights, the ten Amendments that further spell out what We the People can expect from our government.
The right to redress a grievance is the right to deal with issues such as abuse of power by appealing to the government for justice without fear of retaliation. The Boston Massacre is the classic example of abuse of power and its memory helped the framers of the Constitution realize that they had to encode the right to seek justice for future generations.
Assert Your Rights
The Constitution remains as relevant now as it was in 1789. We still need protection from those in power and the Constitution sets the limits of what those in charge are allowed to do.
When the limits are exceeded, we must demand justice. When an injustice is perpetrated upon you, speak up!
If your state has demanded that you close your business in order to slow the spread of a virus, read the Constitution to find the clause that allows them that power. If you don’t find it, call your Congress members. Petition the courts for a hearing.
If the government takes your property, or infringes your right to assemble peaceably, or denies your right to exercise your religious beliefs, don’t take it! File a lawsuit and make the courts deliberate on the issue.
The Sons of Liberty used physical tactics to protest because they did not have representation in government. We have the Constitution guaranteeing the rights our Founders won by fighting a war against tyranny.
If you don’t want to fight that war all over again, use the system we have in place. Take it to court and make the government account for its actions.
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