June 21, 1999
Let liberty ring loudly
All of Constitution, not just sections, must be defended
A quiet sound rustled through the halls of Congress last week; it was that of the Constitution being casually tossed aside.
Usually, half of the Congress is quite capable and anxious to defend the First Amendment, and that is good. The First Amendment states plainly that "Congress shall make no laws" to limit free speech, the press, the practice of religion, or the ability of Americans to assemble in protest of their government.
The other half of the Congress, on average, is quite capable and anxious to defend the Second Amendment, and that is good. After all, our founding fathers envisioned a well-armed populace as the ultimate check on government tyranny. If some future legislators and presidents had designs on limiting our divinely endowed liberties, our founders believed the Second would hold such impulses in check.
That modern groups have picked pieces of the Constitution to hold in such high regard, while so casually dismissing the other, is rather strange. Of course, it is no stranger than the two groups joining forces to undermine both the First and Second amendments. I always find this odd, for I would have assumed each Member took seriously his solemn oath to defend the entirety of the Constitution and its underlying principles; not just when convenient, but always.
Some claim, in the vernacular of political-speak, that it is "marginalizing" for an elected official to hold strongly to the tenets of our Constitution. If it is a political sin to consistently defend free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure, then perhaps we need more political sinners and fewer political saints.
But there is so much more to our Constitution, and the principles of our republican form of government, that have been so widely abused, ignored and all but erased by both Democrats and Republicans in their zeal to grab political power.
As recently as the middle of this century, crime control was considered a local matter. For good reason: it is the way the Constitution is designed, and the way it should be. Yet every day Congress writes more criminal laws, taking more authority from our state and local governments, and moving closer to a national police state.
Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist has warned, "The trend to federalize crimes that traditionally have been handled in State courts threatens to change entirely the nature of our Federal system."
Before Congress passes more laws, and before individuals demand that Washington solve every problem, we should first seriously consider a simple question: "Does the Constitution allow the federal government to do this?" The question should never be, "Can I use this to get elected?", nor, "Is it easier to send the problem to Washington?", and certainly not, "Will it make people feel better if Congress does this?"
Pundits of late wonder why there seems to be a growing embrace of lawlessness, especially in the culture of youth. One must look no further than the example set by politicians and their adult constituents: ignoring the Constitution for the better part of this century, politicians pass laws in contradiction to the supreme law in attempts to further their careers by appeasing special-interest groups. The message has been clearly received by many young people: don't let the law get in the way of what you want.
For the sake of the future of our Republic, it is important that we are not just consistent, but correctly consistent. We must defend not just the sections of the Constitution we find popular, we must defend the entire Constitution. Most importantly, we must jealously guard the philosophy of freedom upon which it is based. If we do, the sound we will hear is that of liberty once again loudly ringing across our land.