Few Americans notice Bill of Rights Day. That isn’t surprising, since we have done such a poor job of upholding and abiding by its provisions. (From my perspective, only the Third Amendment is completely intact, while the Seventh, Ninth, and 10th have been most completely ignored. Check them out for yourself.)
Rather than debate individual amendments, let’s consider a more fundamental problem: We poorly understand the elementary concept of rights.
Many Americans, both conservative and liberal, further cloud the issue by asserting that responsibilities frequently eclipse rights. We need a correct understanding of both rights and responsibilities.
To the founders, government’s sole legitimate purpose is to protect our rights. The Declaration of Independence specifies two essential points we need to understand about our rights: 1) They are God-given; 2) they are inalienable.
Divine authority is a stumbling block for some Americans, but it is the second point that is the immediate issue.
That our basic rights are inalienable means, simply and unequivocally: No person or group of persons, including government, is justified (or authorized: see the Fifth Amendment) in trespassing upon anyone’s rights — that is, in taking life, liberty or property from another — except via due process of law as a penalty for having harmed or violated someone else’s life, liberty, or property.
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