“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – The Declaration of Independence
Freedom. It’s what sets us apart from every other country in the world. For something that is so synonymous with America, I think it’s important we take some time to consider it. Often, things that are the most well known can also be the most easily taken for granted. I want to help us focus on the blessing of freedom in this next installment of our theme, What Makes America Great.
What Are Our Freedoms?
As Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “You can’t fight for your rights if you don’t know what they are.” So what exactly are the rights or freedoms we’ve been given? Before we go any further, let’s define a couple of terms. According to google,
A right is: “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.”
While we’re talking about rights, let’s look at the definition of unalienable rights: “The unalienable rights that are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence could just as well have been inalienable, which means the same thing. Inalienable or unalienable refers to that which cannot be given away or taken away.”
Freedom is: “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
Or, as I heard someone once say, “Freedom isn’t the right to do as we please, but the liberty to live as God requires.”
In essence, we’re discussing both rights and freedoms. In America, we’ve been blessed with:
–Freedom of Religion – As Americans, we have been blessed with the ability to worship God according to the dictates of our beliefs and consciences. In addition, there is no state mandated religion. These two things were very important to our founding fathers and one reason many of the early settlers came to America – because they didn’t have this freedom anywhere else.
–Freedom of Speech – The Merriam-Webster dictionary keeps it pretty simple: “the legal right to express one’s opinions freely.”
–Freedom of the Press – According to dictionary.com: “the right to publish newspapers, magazines, and other printed matter without governmental restriction and subject only to the laws of libel, obscenity, sedition, etc.”
–Freedom of Assembly – From Wikipedia: “Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right or ability of people to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue, and defend their ideas. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political right[,] and a civil liberty.
“The terms freedom of assembly and freedom of association may be used to distinguish between the freedom to assemble in public places and the freedom to join an association. Freedom of assembly is often used in the context of the right to protest, while freedom of association is used in the context of labor rights and in the Constitution of the United States is interpreted to mean both the freedom to assemble and the freedom to join an association.”
–Freedom of Petition – Put simply, this gives us the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances and to gather signatures or lobby for/against legislation. As learningtogive.com states, it’s “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.”
–The Right to Bear Arms – Founding father Richard Henry Lee said, “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves . . . and include all men capable of bearing arms. . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms… The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.”
–The Right of “No Quartering” – The Third Amendment to our Constitution states, “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.”
Although this may not seem like that big of a deal today, it hit close to home with our founding fathers as it was something they experienced with the British during the American War for Independence. It is interesting to note that no Supreme Court case has ever been decided on the basis of this Amendment.
Constitutioncenter.org brings some good perspective to this right:
“The federal government today is not likely to asks people to house soldiers in their homes, even in time of war. Nevertheless, the amendment has some modern implications. It suggests the individual’s right of domestic privacy—that people are protected from governmental intrusion into their homes; and it is the only part of the Constitution that deals directly with the relationship between the rights of individuals and the military in both peace and war—rights that emphasize the importance of civilian control over the armed forces.”
–The Right to Equal Protection – Essentially, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment must treat all individuals in similar conditions and circumstances the same. As Cornell Law School states, “The point of the equal protection clause is to force a state to govern impartially—not draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective.”
The Heritage Foundation states, “Considered textually, the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment can be read to form a coherent triad. A state’s legislature could not deny to any citizen within its jurisdiction any privilege or immunity (however defined). Once a law was validly passed, the state or its agents could not arbitrarily enforce it against any person within the state’s jurisdiction without violating the Equal Protection Clause. Finally, every person accused of violating a law would enjoy a full panoply of procedural rights before the courts of the state.”
–The Right to Own Private Property – This may be one of the easiest rights to take for granted. It’s a blessing to live in a country where we ourselves and our possessions aren’t viewed as property of the state and we can own and do with our property as we please (as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others).
I like what the Hoover Institute has to say about this:
“The institution of the right to private property is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom, including free trade, is to flourish. There is no mystery about why Karl Marx put the abolition of private property at the top of his list of revolutionary changes leading to his communist utopia. Under communism we all are deemed to be one. Privacy has no place in a system that holds, as Marx proclaimed, that “the human essence is the true collectivity of man.” Privacy is ruled out by definition. Stealing, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, trespassing, not to mention borrowing, bequeathing, giving, and the like, are precluded where everything is the property of everyone all at once. Rather, nothing would be untoward except the failure to share, to distribute fairly what is needed or to yield to a government mandating such distribution.
“However, if we are fundamentally individuals, then communism is not right for us, and the system of private property rights could well be the best system of political economy for human beings.”
We’ve looked at some specifics. Now to kind of bring everything together, let’s step back and take a birds-eye view to drive it all home.
An article from www.tep-online.info sheds some more light on just how deep our freedoms go:
“To make doubly sure that Americans should enjoy every right and freedom possible, Amendment Nine was added to the Constitution. This amendment states that the list of rights contained in the Bill of Rights is not complete. There are many other rights that all Americans have and will continue to have even though they are not mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Among them are the following.
- Freedom to live or travel anywhere in our nation
- Freedom to work at any job for which we can qualify
- Freedom to marry and raise a family
- Freedom to receive a free education in good public schools
- Freedom to join a political party, a union, and other legal groups
“As a final guarantee of our rights, the Tenth Amendment set aside many powers of government for the states. This Amendment says that all powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution, nor forbidden to the states, are set aside for the states, or for the people. This provision leaves with the states the power to act in many ways to guarantee the rights of their citizens.”
An article from the superiortelegram.com sums all of this up well:
“The United States is the only country established exclusively on the principle of individual liberty as an unalienable right. The founders of America recognized freedom as a fundamental human right, not something bestowed by an individual or group. Our Constitution was written specifically to protect our rights and freedoms from being usurped by power hungry tyrants.
“We have more rights and freedoms than anywhere else in the world. Our freedoms are rights, not privileges granted by government. Our freedoms are the envy of the world. Every item in the Bill of Rights is a precious jewel designed to ensure the immortality of our liberty.
“The power of freedom is unlimited. Free people build, create and invent. Everyone’s life improves as the result of freedom. You have the freedom to benefit from your hard work. You have the freedom to ignore naysayers.
“Freedom is the foundation of America’s greatness. Freedom is opportunity. Freedom has created the highest standard of living in the world. Freedom is responsible for amazing discoveries, inventions and innovations. Freedom unleashes the human spirit to improve life.”
Freedom At Stake
Hopefully we all realize that our freedoms are under attack. This doesn’t mean we should sit idly by and live with it. Quite the contrary! We have these freedoms in our Constitution and it’s our duty to make sure we stand by and protect them.
An article from soapboxie.com makes an interesting point:
“The taking away of liberty from Americans, does not only affect Americans. Regardless of what many people think, much of the success of the rest of the world is tied to the success of America. America helped defeat the enemy in two world wars, and continue to help protect most of Europe to this day. We helped rebuild Europe and Asia after world war 2. We also give huge amounts of foreign aid to help countries that have corrupt governments that operate to keep their people opressed, so they can’t be the best that they can be.
“The American people on their own give hundreds of millions of dollars in charity, outside of the government to help people anywhere it is needed, just because we can and want to. The buying power of the American people, because we are prosperous, greatly helps the rest of the world from our consuption. We buy enough products produced in other parts of the world that the loss of that buying power, would greatly effect the economy of all of those places.”
This truly is a “time for choosing.” As Ronald Reagan said, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us…we did all that could be done.”
It’s also important for us to remember that, as cliché as it sounds, freedom isn’t free and never will be. The founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honors in founding this great nation. Countless others have bled and died to protect our freedoms from those who would seek to take them away. It’s our duty to remember these sacrifices and do our part to preserve these freedoms for future generations.
Photo credit: pixabay.com