Archive for the ‘1st amendment’ Tag

My Turn: The Fourteenth Amendment has outlived its usefulness | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper   Leave a comment

My Turn: The Fourteenth Amendment has outlived its usefulness | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper.

Is Religious Liberty Safe Now?   Leave a comment

In looking at the risk to the 1st Amendment from a convention of the states, I had to admit that there are some risks already aimed at freedom of speech, the press, religion and assembly. Forget about a potential amendment of the amendment, our liberty is at risk without the Constitution even being touched.

The Constitution of the United States acknowledges pre-existing liberties that are founded on something greater than the Constitution. It doesn’t grant us these liberties. It was meant to protect those liberties. And, it’s not working anymore in that capacity.

Congress may not make any laws that restrict our religious liberties, but by redefining what is religious in nature, it has gotten around the “shall not” language. Moreover, the Administrative State has no such constraints and Congress delegated most of its authority to that extra-constitutional “shadow” government a long time ago.

Almost immediately upon his 2009 inauguration, President Obama set aside the hiring protections of religious organizations that had been acknowledged by prior administrations. Hiring protections allow religious organizations to hire those employees who hold the same religious convictions as the organization. They are not forced to hire those who disagree with their beliefs or values and who would work against their mission. Hiring protections are inherent within the 1st Amendment’s guarantee for religious liberty and right of association and was additionally established statutorily in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, declaring that any “religious corporation, association, education institution or society” could consider the applicants’ religious faith during the hiring process. The Supreme Court upheld hiring protections in the 1987 case Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Amos and Congress has included these protections in numerous federal laws. In 2007, when the Democrats regained control of the House, they began to remove these protections for faith-based organizations, starting with organizations that wished to provide Head-Start services. In 2009, the White House announced its Agenda to Combat Employment Discrimination and committed to passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would (if it passes the House in 2014) fully repeal faith-based hiring protections related to Biblical standards of morality and behavior, directly attacking the theological autonomy of churches, synagogues and religious organizations by not allowing them to choose whether to hire homosexual onto their ministry staffs.

Of course, it has far wider ramifications than that because the redefinition of liberty always starts small and builds up size and speed from there. Our religious liberties are already endangered because of a lack of commitment to the 1st amendment.

As I’ve said, I don’t think a convention of the states would pass a proposed amendment that would undermine religious liberty and, if they did, I trust that at least 13 separate legislative bodies at the state level would refuse to ratify such an amendment.

I think the value of a discussion of the 1st Amendment in such a venue is worth exploring. None of us today signed onto the Constitution. Most of us couldn’t quote the 1st Amendment and Jay Leno has shown Angelinos can’t enumerate what it protects. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could? A convention of the states, voting to keep the 1st Amendment as-is, may give us just the reason to claim those protections as our own. Rather than endangering the rights we possess because we live, a convention of the states may provide us with the means of, once more, acknowleding that those rights exist whether Congress or the President wants us to have them or not.

Amending the First Amendment   Leave a comment

When the Citizens United case stripped the state of a powerful censorship tool, many progressives began discussing amending the First Amendment.

While I don’t believe the First Amendment would be at risk of major revision in a convention of the states to propose amendments, I’ve decided to deal with the issue more squarely than when I wrote my series on this six months ago.

Autumn of 2013, Senate Democrats (Jon Tester of Montana and Chris Murphy of Connecticut) proposed a constitutional amendment as an attempt to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. FCC, which struck down restricts on political speech by corporations, unions and nonprofits. Many legal scholars at the time said that the amendment would eliminate all constitutional rights for nonprofit groups and many religious organizations. It would, some legal experts contended, also allow the National Security Agency to seize information on Americans at whim. It would have authorized Congress, states, and local governments to restrict what most newspapers publish, what most advocacy groups (including the ACLU, Sierra Club and NRA) say, restrict what is said and done by most churches, restrict the speech of labor unions, and seize the property of corporations without just compensation.

Does that sound hyperbolic? Hmmm ….

Nearly all major newspapers, magazines, book publishers, movie studios, record labels and broadcasters are owned by corporations. A company cannot participate in the stock market to raise investment capital if  it’s not an organized corporation. Most nonprofit organizations are organized as corporations, including most churches (though some states allow churches to hold a special type of corporate status). Many ordinary businesses (the feed store I buy my flour and dog food at and the locally-based bookstore, for example) are corporations who would have been affected by this proposed amendment.

At least that was what was claimed –

Here’s the wording of the Joint Resolution

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state.

The following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:

  1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.
  2. The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the State under this Constitution.
  3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are unalienable.

The funny thing is, philosophically, I agree with this. Corporations are not people and so should not hold individual liberty. That would be completely off the topic, however.

My point is that there are already attempts to amend the 1st Amendment. The proposal is languishing in committee and will probably never see the light the day, but if Congress passes it …

Do we seriously think that 38 states (75 separate legislative bodies) are going to ratify it?

Which is not to say that a convention of the states could not discuss whether individual rights really protect the liberties of mega-corporations. That might, given Citizens United, be a good conversation for us to have.

Our current government no longer follows the Constitution. It acts as if portions have been amended already. More tellingly, only slices of the population are up in arms about it. I’m going to go through the Bill of Rights and examine whether these acknowledgments are at any risk of being repealed or revised by a convention of the states and whether they haven’t already been effectively revised without our permission.

A convention of the states might make it clear that these rights remain with the people and Congress … and the Executive and Judicial branches — may not infringe upon our rights.

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