This article was last modified on May 9, 2006.


Pat Sajak on the Bill of Rights

Somehow, Pat Sajak has developed a skewed idea of how liberals interpret the bill of rights, specifically the first, second, and tenth amendment. So let’s analyze these three amendments and compare his thoughts on what liberals believe and what a liberal (myself) actually thinks regarding these same amendments. While I can hardly claim to represent all liberals, his attack on all liberals rather than a certain minority wrongfully targets the bulk of those he addresses.

First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition
the government for a redress of grievances.”

Sajak rightfully says that liberals are strong supporters of the first amendment and tend to focus on this amendment more than any others. This claim is easily verifiable. As he says, liberals will equally defend pornography and the New York Times. Again, agreed. He says this is due to our “absolutist” position, by defining the amendment literally and giving free reign to anyone to say what they please insofar as it does not violate the rights of others.

This is a tradition I am proud of. The liberal position mirrors a quote attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” Liberal lawyers (often working for the American Civil Liberties Union) have defended everyone from pornographers like Larry Flynt on the left all the way to Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on the right. Certainly none of these lawyers agrees with the KKK, but this is no reason to stop them from saying what they believe as long as it isn’t a direct assault on another individual. (My motto on this is “let the radicals speak, they will only further alienate themselves.”)

Where I disagree with Sajak is his assertion that liberals are “misinterpreting the section concerning religion, in that it merely prohibits Congress from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” He does not elaborate, but I presume his issue is with the liberal lawyers (again, represented by the ACLU) who have fought against nativity scenes on public property, prayer in school, God in the pledge of allegiance, and other touchy subjects.

I can see his point on this. Congress certainly has not legislated a law calling for mandatory prayer or anything else so explicit as an offically recognized state religion. As such, these things are not against the first amendment in the very strict sense. However, the issue isn’t with Congress legislating laws, it is with one person’s right to free expression stepping on the toes of another person. Most people raised Christian in America assume that America is primarily Christian (which is true), but never take into account the beliefs of non-Christians. The goal of government should be to remain neutral without religion involved (and this view comes from Jefferson himself). Let the football team prayer before a game if they decide to, but don’t enforce the prayer.

Many conservatives see the removal of God as a denial of God, which is simply not true. No one has ever stopped a child from praying in class (this is legal) or a homeowner putting a nativity scene in their yard (also perfectly legal). If “under God” were removed from the Pledge (which it rightfully should be on both legal and aesthetic grounds), we would not be replacing it with “under no God”. After all, the national anthem makes no direct reference to God and the conservatives are hardly ralling around that as an anti-religious theme.

Second Amendment

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of
a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms,
shall not be infringed.”

Sajak says that liberals “hate” the Second Amendment. This is a strong word and one which I find to be wholly off-base. He believes that liberals fall into one of two groups in their beliefs about the second amendment. Either:

a. The amendment specifically mentions a militia, therefore the right to own weaponry is reserved for such a militia and not for the individual people of America. Or,

b. The Founding Fathers could never have envisioned the weaponry available today and adjusting for this oversight, we can set limits on certain dangerous items. (Sajak sidenotes that this line of thought also could be used to state that the Founding Fathers could not have predicted pornography and we can go ahead and adjust for that.)

I do not accept either of these views. Nor do liberals in general, as far as I’m aware. The assertion (usually believed by rednecks, of which Sajak is not a part of) that liberals want to take away people’s guns is absurd. I am unaware of any liberal legislator who has ever drafted a bill to remove any guns from the ownership of any individual.

What liberals do is push for such things as trigger locks, hunting licenses, and background checks on gun ownership. These are to ensure the safety of others, specifically children in homes which contain firearms. None of these expressly stops anyone from owning a gun. A background check might deny someone a gun if the person turns out to be a convicted felon. Do the conservatives think denying felons guns is a violation of their rights? Perhaps it is. We also deny them the right to vote, which I do happen to think is a disgrace (I understand why we don’t want bank robbers to own guns, I don’t understand why committing a crime makes you any less capable of deciding who will govern you).

Compare gun legislation to laws such as pornography laws keeping the magazines away from minors. Is it wrong to deny children pornography? If not, why is it wrong to protect them from other potentially harmful things?

An argument could be made that liberals were against the sale of fully automatic assault rifles. In fact, I will not deny I was hesitant when I heard the ban on these was to be lifted. On this I can understand Sajak’s point about the drafters of the Constitution not foreseeing these guns and the threat they present to law enforcement (because what purpose do these guns serve if not to kill?). But the ban was lifted, and the liberals decided in favor of ownership. (Actually, if we are to be technical, liberals were never opposed to the ownership. People who purchased these rifles before the ban never had to return the rifles. Furthermore, parts could be ordered through the mail and rifles could be assembled. Ownership was legal, the sale was the part being regulated. Not unlike the push right now to stop meth labs by locking up Sudafed, of which I’m opposed to.)

Tenth Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved
to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Says Sajak, “I don’t think [liberals] realize [amendments] nine and ten are there. If they did, I can’t imagine they would approve, given the assignment of powers away from the Federal Government and toward the States and the People.” This is as far as he goes, without making any specific examples for us to work with. I can think of a recent example (which, in Sajak’s defense, happened after the publication of his article).

Recently, the case of Terri Schiavo became an international hot topic when Congress (particularly Republican Bill Frist) tried to step in and “save” her from being left to die. Despite the State of Florida ruling in favor of her death and the Supreme Court indirectly agreeing with Florida (they never agreed outright, but refused to overrule them), the Republicans decided they would do everything to halt her death. Write new legislation, put a hold on her tube removal, and go flatly against what the judges had ruled (which is not only unconstitutional, but erodes the authority invested in the judges).

For a party known for their belief in “State’s Rights”, they did everything in their power to draft a national law that would go against Florida. I am unfamiliar with the details of the bill, but presumably this same bill would be in direct opposition to the statutes of many states, particularly Oregon which is know nfor its lenient euthanasia policies. Is this the conservative vision? To be in favor of states when it suits them and to go against the states when their “moral authority” compels them to?

A strict reading of the Tenth Amendment says what is merely common sense: the powers that aren’t controlled by the government are left to the people. If the Federal government doesn’t control something, the state may. If the state doesn’t control something, the people are free to control the power as they see fit. Implicit in this agreement is that the powers shall remain as they are, not taking away the power inherent in the people or the states and claiming it by the Federal government. The Schiavo incident showed Republicans doing precisely that.

Sources:

Sajak, Pat. “Time to Amend the Amendments?” http://www.patsajak.com/news2.php?view=says&id=28 December 1, 2004

Also try another article under Political
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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