December 9, 2018

Know Your Constitution

September brings us the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America.

The week of September 17 – 23, is Constitution Week, and this year we will celebrate the 229th anniversary of the signing of this great document! Our Constitution, the cornerstone of our freedoms, was written to protect every American from the abuse of power by government.

You might have even heard the phrase, “That’s unconstitutional” or “That’s my constitutional right!” Many times Americans believe that sayings and phrases are in our Constitution, but they really aren’t. Do you really know what it says?

Bells Poster_2The Fifth Amendment states that “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” and it protects us from double jeopardy and incrimination.

However, the phrases “innocent until proven guilty” and “presumption of innocence” are not found in the 5th amendment nor in any part of the Constitution.

These phrases are derived from English law and are part of our system and considered common law today.

American colonists fought, sacrificed, and died to establish and preserve the freedoms now guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States.

The right to privacy has come to the public’s attention through various controversial Supreme Court rulings.

Privacy is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but over the years the Supreme Court has made decisions that have established that the right to privacy is a basic human right and as such is protected by virtue of the 9th Amendment.

Did you know that you cannot be denied the right to vote because of race or gender? But remember, the Constitution never clearly ensures us the “right to vote.” The 26th Amendment requires that 18 year-olds must be able to vote; however, states can allow persons younger than 18 to vote if they chose.

The qualifications for voters are left to the states, as long as they do not conflict with anything in the Constitution. In some states, felons who are in prison or on probation are denied the right to vote.

Did you know that the only place in the Constitution that “Lord” or any reference to God is where the date is written: “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”? Did you know that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” and “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” are not in the Constitution, but both are in the Declaration of Independence?

And lastly, this quote, “Of the people, by the people, for the people” is neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration, but comes from the Gettysburg Address.

Did you know that the Constitution does not give the right to have cases heard by a jury of “my” peers? The Constitution does not have the words “separation of church and state” anywhere in it.

The only crime that is defined in the Constitution is treason. Specifically, it is adhering to or giving comfort to the enemies of the United States. The Constitution neither prohibits nor encourages that the President and the Vice President be from the same party.

Did you know that nowhere in the Constitution does it say, “It’s a free country”? Amendment 1 of the Constitution does NOT include the words “freedom of expression” but over time it has been ruled to include limits to the freedom of speech/press/assembly for defamation, perjury, contempt of court, hate speech, size of public demonstrations, trade secrets, noise pollution, classified information and treason.

Study the Amendments and the Bill of Rights. Know your Constitution! We should all take time to re-read our Constitution and think about just what it means to us.

These Constitution facts were provided by the James Stewart Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, www.jamesstewartchapterdar.org.

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