Protecting Our Rights, Our Freedom
Illinois public school students begin the day with a moment of silence, which may include prayer.
Morton West High School students congregate in the cafeteria and outside the principal's office, locking arms and singing songs protesting the Iraq War.
Washington, D.C.'s ban on gun ownership and possession is struck down by a federal appeals court, threatening a similar ordinance in Chicago.
San Diego County searches the homes of potential welfare recipients, denying assistance to those who refuse to open their doors.
What does this array of current issues in the news have in common? At the crux of each is The Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution, which were adopted 216 years ago today.
The freedoms they protect remain contested to this very day and vigorous debate of the boundaries of these core rights in the courts and on the pages of newspapers like this are part of what has allowed our democracy to evolve and flourish over two centuries.
So when the Illinois State Legislature mandates a moment of silence at the start of each school day and suggests prayer as an option, freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment rises to the fore. Is this state sponsorship of religion or its free exercise by young citizens?
When Morton West students were suspended for their protest at school, the limits of student speech under the First Amendment are contested. Does free speech stop at the schoolhouse gate?
When the U.S. Supreme Court decides this spring if gun ownership and possession is an individual or a collective right, the Second Amendment is further defined. Do local gun bans violate the right to keep and bear arms?
When welfare recipients have their homes searched without probable cause, the Fourth Amendment is invoked. Is this an unreasonable search and seizure?
When capital punishment is imposed upon death row inmates, the Eighth Amendment surfaces. Is lethal injection cruel and unusual punishment?
On this Saturday's anniversary of the Bill of Rights ratification on December 15, 1791, consider how these freedoms benefit you every day. We must not only pay homage to this sacred script, but fight for its continued resonance. Each of us can play a role in exercising and protecting our rights so that future generations benefit from the protections bestowed upon us by our forefathers.