Paper on Bill of Rights

This essay has a total of 4382 words and 14 pages.

Bill of Rights

How many rights do you have? You should check, because it might not be as many today as it
was a few years ago, or even a few months ago. Some people I talk to are not concerned
that police will execute a search warrant without knocking or that they set up roadblocks
and stop and interrogate innocent citizens. They do not regard these as great
infringements on their rights. But when you put current events together, there is
information that may be surprising to people who have not yet been concerned: The amount
of the Bill of Rights that is under attack is alarming. Let's take a look at the Bill of
Rights and see which aspects are being pushed on or threatened. The point here is not the
degree of each attack or its rightness or wrongness, but the sheer number of rights that
are under attack. Amendment I 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. ESTABLISHING RELIGION: While campaigning for his
first term, George Bush said "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens,
nor should they be considered patriots." Bush has not retracted, commented on, or
clarified this statement, in spite of requests to do so. According to Bush, this is one
nation under God. And apparently if you are not within Bush's religious beliefs, you are
not a citizen. Federal, state, and local governments also promote a particular religion
(or, occasionally, religions) by spending public money on religious displays. FREE
EXERCISE OF RELIGION: Robert Newmeyer and Glenn Braunstein were jailed in 1988 for
refusing to stand in respect for a judge. Braunstein says the tradition of rising in court
started decades ago when judges entered carrying Bibles. Since judges no longer carry
Bibles, Braunstein says there is no reason to stand -- and his Bible tells him to honor no
other God. For this religious practice, Newmeyer and Braunstein were jailed and are now
suing. FREE SPEECH: We find that technology has given the government an excuse to
interfere with free speech. Claiming that radio frequencies are a limited resource, the
government tells broadcasters what to say (such as news and public and local service
programming) and what not to say (obscenity, as defined by the Federal Communications
Commission [FCC]). The FCC is investigating Boston PBS station WGBH-TV for broadcasting
photographs from the Mapplethorpe exhibit. FREE SPEECH: There are also laws to limit
political statements and contributions to political activities. In 1985, the Michigan
Chamber of Commerce wanted to take out an advertisement supporting a candidate in the
state house of representatives. But a 1976 Michigan law prohibits a corporation from using
its general treasury funds to make independent expenditures in a political campaign. In
March, the Supreme Court upheld that law. According to dissenting Justice Kennedy, it is
now a felony in Michigan for the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, or the
Chamber of Commerce to advise the public how a candidate voted on issues of urgent concern
to their members. FREE PRESS: As in speech, technology has provided another excuse for
government intrusion in the press. If you distribute a magazine electronically and do not
print copies, the government doesn't consider you a press and does not give you the same
protections courts have extended to printed news. The equipment used to publish Phrack, a
worldwide electronic magazine about phones and hacking, was confiscated after publishing a
document copied from a Bell South computer entitled "A Bell South Standard Practice (BSP)
660-225-104SV Control Office Administration of Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services
and Major Account Centers, March, 1988." All of the information in this document was
publicly available from Bell South in other documents. The government has not alleged that
the publisher of Phrack, Craig Neidorf, was involved with or participated in the copying
of the document. Also, the person who copied this document from telephone company
computers placed a copy on a bulletin board run by Rich Andrews. Andrews forwarded a copy
to AT&T officials and cooperated with authorities fully. In return, the Secret Service
(SS) confiscated Andrews' computer along with all the mail and data that were on it.
Andrews was not charged with any crime. FREE PRESS: In another incident that would be
comical if it were not true, on March 1 the SS ransacked the offices of Steve Jackson
Games (SJG); irreparably damaged property; and confiscated three computers, two laser
printers, several hard disks, and many boxes of paper and floppy disks. The target of the
SS operation was to seize all copies of a game of fiction called GURPS Cyberpunk. The
Cyberpunk game contains fictitious break-ins in a futuristic world, with no technical
information of actual use with real computers, nor is it played on computers. The SS never
filed any charges against SJG but still refused to return confiscated property. PEACEABLE
ASSEMBLY: The right to assemble peaceably is no longer free -- you have to get a permit.
Even that is not enough; some officials have to be sued before they realize their reasons
for denying a permit are not Constitutional. PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY: In Alexandria, Virginia,
there is a law that prohibits people from loitering for more than seven minutes and
exchanging small objects. Punishment is two years in jail. Consider the scene in jail:
"What'd you do?" "I was waiting at a bus stop and gave a guy a cigarette." This is not an
impossible occurrence: In Pittsburgh, Eugene Tyler, 15, has been ordered away from bus
stops by police officers. Sherman Jones, also 15, was accosted with a police officer's
hands around his neck after putting the last bit of pizza crust into his mouth. The police
suspected him of hiding drugs. PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES: Rounding out the
attacks on the first amendment, there is a sword hanging over the right to petition for
redress of grievances. House Resolution 4079, the National Drug and Crime Emergency Act,
tries to "modify" the right to habeas corpus. It sets time limits on the right of people
in custody to petition for redress and also limits the courts in which such an appeal may
be heard. Amendment II 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. RIGHT TO
BEAR ARMS: This amendment is so commonly challenged that the movement has its own name:
gun control. Legislation banning various types of weapons is supported with the claim that
the weapons are not for "legitimate" sporting purposes. This is a perversion of the right
to bear arms for two reasons. First, the basis of freedom is not that permission to do
legitimate things is granted to the people, but rather that the government is empowered to
do a limited number of legitimate things -- everything else people are free to do; they do
not need to justify their choices. Second, should the need for defense arise, it will not
be hordes of deer that the security of a free state needs to be defended from. Defense
would be needed against humans, whether external invaders or internal oppressors. It is an
unfortunate fact of life that the guns that would be needed to defend the security of a
state are guns to attack people, not guns for sporting purposes. Firearms regulations also
empower local officials, such as police chiefs, to grant or deny permits. This results in
towns where only friends of people in the right places are granted permits, or towns where
women are generally denied the right to carry a weapon for self-defense. Amendment III 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. QUARTERING SOLDIERS:
This amendment is fairly clean so far, but it is not entirely safe. Recently, 200 troops
in camouflage dress with M-16s and helicopters swept through Kings Ridge National Forest
in Humboldt County, California. In the process of searching for marijuana plants for four
days, soldiers assaulted people on private land with M-16s and barred them from their own
property. This might not be a direct hit on the third amendment, but the disregard for
private property is uncomfortably close. Amendment IV 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. RIGHT TO BE SECURE IN PERSONS, HOUSES, PAPERS AND EFFECTS AGAINST
UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES: The RICO law is making a mockery of the right to be
secure from seizure. Entire stores of books or videotapes have been confiscated based upon
the presence of some sexually explicit items. Bars, restaurants, or houses are taken from
the owners because employees or tenants sold drugs. In Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff
Robert Vogel and his officers stop automobiles for contrived violations. If large amounts
of cash are found, the police confiscate it on the PRESUMPTION that it is drug money --
even if there is no other evidence and no charges are filed against the car's occupants.
The victims can get their money back only if they prove the money was obtained legally.
One couple got their money back by proving it was an insurance settlement. Two other men
who tried to get their two thousand dollars back were denied by the Florida courts. RIGHT
TO BE SECURE IN PERSONS, HOUSES, PAPERS AND EFFECTS AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND
SEIZURES: A new law goes into effect in Oklahoma on January 1, 1991. All property, real
and personal, is taxable, and citizens are required to list all their personal property
for tax assessors, including household furniture, gold and silver plate, musical
instruments, watches, jewelry, and personal, private, or professional libraries. If a
citizen refuses to list their property or is suspected of not listing something, the law
directs the assessor to visit and enter the premises, getting a search warrant if
necessary. Being required to tell the state everything you own is not being secure in
one's home and effects. NO WARRANTS SHALL ISSUE, BUT UPON PROBABLE CAUSE, SUPPORTED BY
OATH OR AFFIRMATION: As a supporting oath or affirmation, reports of anonymous informants
are accepted. This practice has been condoned by the Supreme Court. PARTICULARLY
DESCRIBING THE PLACE TO BE SEARCHED AND PERSONS OR THINGS TO BE SEIZED: Today's warrants
do not particularly describe the things to be seized -- they list things that might be
present. For example, if police are making a drug raid, they will list weapons as things
to be searched for and seized. This is done not because the police know of any weapons and
can particularly describe them, but because they allege people with drugs often have
weapons. Both of the above apply to the warrant the Hudson, New Hampshire, police used
when they broke down Bruce Lavoie's door at 5 a.m. with guns drawn and shot and killed
him. The warrant claimed information from an anonymous informant, and it said, among other
things, that guns were to be seized. The mention of guns in the warrant was used as reason
to enter with guns drawn. Bruce Lavoie had no guns. Bruce Lavoie was not secure from
unreasonable search and seizure -- nor is anybody else. Other infringements on the fourth
amendment include roadblocks and the Boston Police detention of people based on colors
they are wearing (supposedly indicating gang membership). And in Pittsburgh again, Eugene
Tyler was once searched because he was wearing sweat pants and a plaid shirt -- police
told him they heard many drug dealers at that time were wearing sweat pants and plaid
shirts. Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous
crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in
the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or
public danger; nor shall any person be subject to the same offence to be twice put in
jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness
against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
INDICTMENT OF A GRAND JURY: Kevin Bjornson has been proprietor of Hydro-Tech for nearly a
decade and is a leading authority on hydroponic technology and cultivation. On October 26,
1989, both locations of Hydro-Tech were raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
National Drug Control Policy Director William Bennett has declared that some indoor
lighting and hydroponic equipment is purchased by marijuana growers, so retailers and
wholesalers of such equipment are drug profiteers and co-conspirators. Bjornson was not
charged with any crime, nor subpoenaed, issued a warrant, or arrested. No illegal
substances were found on his premises. Federal officials were unable to convince grand
juries to indict Bjornson. By February, they had called scores of witnesses and recalled
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