Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Today Is Bill of Rights Day

We don't hear much about it in the mainstream media, but today, December 15th, is a very important date. Today is the 218th anniversary of the day the Bill of Rights was ratified and the first Ten Amendments became part of the United States Constitution. In 1789, the first Congress of the United States approved the amendments to the U.S. Constitution that later became known as the Bill of Rights, and sent them to the states for ratification. The amendments were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right to fair legal procedure for all persons accused of crime; the right to trial by jury; the right to be secure in our persons and houses against unreasonable searches and seizures. The 9th and 10th Amendments were very important in establishing the boundary of what the federal government may and may not do. Those Amendments say that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people.

The addition of these amendments to the Constitution was very important to the Founding Fathers. Some, like George Mason of Virginia, agreed to support ratification of the Constitution only on the assurance that amendments spelling out individual rights would be passed immediately. And they were.

Even after 218 years, the meaning of some of these Amendments is still disputed. As written, the first 10 Amendments are restrictions only on the federal government, not the states. Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has incorporated many of the restrictions to apply against the states, too, so that state governments may not restrict freedom of speech or press. A very important case is before the Supreme Court right now, as to whether the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms, is a fundamental right that cannot be infringed by the 50 state governments.

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