Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

July 4, 2014

Editorial: Bill of Rights remains bedrock of freedom

As we celebrate the nation’s birthday today and think about what it means to be an American, it is appropriate to remember that we are a nation of laws, founded on a philosophy of defined freedoms.

From the first Declaration of our Independence on this day in 1776, the enumeration of those rules and regulations evolved into the Constitution and the first 10 amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights. They went into effect on Dec. 15, 1791, and have been the source of our strength — as well as the subject of debate — ever since.

Are they still relevant after more than two centuries? Can we agree on what they mean? Or should we merely marvel at how well they have survived and done their job?

As we deal with today’s controversies, it is interesting and instructive to review the rules that guide us, whether we realize that they do or not:

n First Amendment: 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.

n Second Amendment: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

n Third Amendment: No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

n Fourth Amendment: 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.

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