The American Constitutional Rights, which are enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are inherent rights that are endowed upon us by our Creator. They are rights to which, we the American citizen, are afforded by our mere existence. Yet, as witnessed nowadays, far too many politicians believe they have somehow achieved the same level of omniscience that our Founders rightly gave only to that Creator. Politicians, and even worse bureaucrats, have begun to think that they are the arbiters and dispensers of our rights. This is patently false, and to be clear, absolutely dangerous.
Contrary to popular belief, the government does not grant us our Constitutional Rights. The Founding Fathers understood that concepts like “freedom,’ “justice,” “happiness,” or even “personhood” could not be defined at the hands of mere humans, for they would be bartered at will by anyone with any extent of power over others. Therefore; if the government could not give us our rights, they surely could not take them from us. This is a very important distinction. The government does not have the authority to infringe on constitutional rights, under any circumstance, even in the midst of a pandemic. This is exactly what the framers of our Constitution believed; that an imbalance of power, especially within the three branches of government, would be a detriment to liberty.
The American Founders, when creating the US Constitution, used the word “shall” seventeen times, and did so for a very specific reason. They didn’t use any other words such as; should, may, can, or ought, but rather used “shall” because of its clear context. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “shall” as a word “used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory”. When the founders used the word “shall” in their writings they were mandating what the government ought to do and not do for its citizens.
The current response to the COVID-19 virus by many local governments has been concerning, to say the least. In order to analyze how the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, has been affected during these times, we must look at the 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments specifically. These amendments, unfortunately, have been the most severely impacted.
The First Amendment states that “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.” This amendment obviously declares that congress shall make no law that can prevent citizens from exercising their religious beliefs and practices. This is prima-facie to conclude that the mandates by certain governors against peaceful protests and/ or religious meetings, as it is occurring these days, are obviously unconstitutional.
The Fourth Amendment states that “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.” I would argue that this proves the unconstitutionality of the government-mandated closure of businesses. Privately-owned businesses, particularly small ones, have been disproportionately affected by forced closures. When a government arbitrarily closes a business, they have effectively seized that business. These seizures have been imposed with no due process, no probable cause, and obviously with no warrants being issued. At the expense of a “national emergency,” the government took control of those businesses and removed their rightful owners from any decision-making on them. Something that could only be seen in communist dictatorships.
The Fifth Amendment, I believe, has been the amendment most trampled on. It states, in part, that the citizenry shall “not be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Millions upon millions of Americans have had their liberties infringed upon by governments, both local, and state. Forcing Americans to stay at home or having their ability to work and provide for themselves is an obvious infringement on their liberty. Even more concerning has been the times when governments took legal action against anyone who dared to try and save their business or to tend for their families.
I’m sure some of you are thinking that we have a federalist system and that the Tenth Amendment gives state governors the freedom to make these decisions. This is precisely why congress amended the constitution with the Fourteenth Amendment. This amendment protects the Bill of Rights, specifically the first nine amendments, as it relates to the states. The Fourteenth Amendment specifically prevents states from infringing on citizens’ constitutional rights.
Do you know what you won’t find in the Constitution? A provision that nullifies itself or a part of it due to a “pandemic,” a “state of emergency,” or any reason for that matter.
Now, If you disagree with this, that is your right. It doesn’t change the fact that it is how our country was designed. Lucky for you, there is a system in place to make changes to this design via constitutional amendments. If you would like to change things you are free to attempt to do it, you just have to go through the proper channels. Until then, the constitution stands as is.
We cannot allow Governors, Mayors, and bureaucrats to just stomp on our rights. The rights afforded to us, as United States citizens, are not the politicians’ rights to take away. Politicians are supposed to protect these rights, not trample upon them.
The bottom line is this: Even if you agree with what some politicians are doing during this crisis you shouldn’t be content or even happy about them infringing upon your rights. Once the precedence is set those rights can be infringed time and time again, and at times making it very difficult to go back (i.e. Patriot Act). If you think it’s ok to give politicians of your liking the power to bend the freedoms you now enjoy, you might not be happy with what the next politician does in a “pandemic” or “state of emergency” if their actions do affect your way of life.
Author Mike Maharrey said once to “never give the government power you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to have because one day your enemy might be in power”. This is why we should never push to give politicians unlimited powers over us, for out of power comes corruption, and from corruption comes oppression. This is why the founders framed the Constitution the way they did. The Constitution protects people’s inherent rights. Rights endowed upon us by our Creator, and from Him alone. So, unless today’s politicians have somehow morphed into divine beings, they must not infringe upon them. Yet, one thing is true; it is our duty to ensure that elected officials understand one very important concept: That any overreach of government rule, against the citizenry, and in favor of government tyranny, will be held accountable. And such accountability must be done at the voting table, where you and I can exercise our given rights to elect and/ or remove our representatives.