Category Archives: Bill of Rights

Purges and Repubican Forms of Government

Vote Oregon!

Vote Oregon! (Photo credit: jugbo)

According to the Constitution of the United States individual states are required to provide to their citizens a republican form of government.  The guarantee of a republican form of government in the Constitution is vague, but it provides a wide door for rights related to voting, representative-based government, and the sovereignty of the people in all fifty states.  The clause in the Constitution is also used as a foundation for each state to organize and conduct all elections in a state, whether the elections are for local, state, and even federal offices.

The state of Florida is currently involved in a legal dispute with the federal government over the issue of voter registration rolls.  The state of Florida is arguing that it has the right to purge voter registration rolls of names of persons not eligible to vote in Florida elections.  The state is arguing that it has the right to establish voter qualifications that do not directly deny citizens of the United States their fundamental right to vote and that maintaining voter registration rolls that are accurate and based on state law includes taking reasonable steps to protect their integrity.  In the current dispute, the federal government is arguing that the state of Florida recently purged properly registered voters from the rolls causing citizens of the United States to be denied their right to vote simply because they have the same name as a person who is ineligible to vote.  Both sides of the dispute are well-grounded in law, precedent, and practice—unfortunately, the specters or partisanship and electoral self-interest are seen at work on both sides as well.  The current dispute is about to peak in the middle of a presidential election year in a well-known battle ground state.  Do you believe the issue can be addressed by the courts impartially?  Do you think the current dispute is a legitimate clash of opinions and positions or a side-show of the election season we are watching unfold?

–DENNIS FALCON

Due Process and the American Creed

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jeffe...

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of independence (1776) were all of British descent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution include references to due process any time a person is in jeopardy of life and property.  While the Amendments themselves do not specifically define what due process is, the Constitution itself provides elements of due process as have subsequent court decisions through the years.  For example, the right to know what one is charged with in all criminal matters is in the Bill of Rights, as are the rights to a public trial and the right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you.  Any legal proceeding in the United States that fails to uphold these protections is not living up to the protections we claim to value so highly.

A former U.S. Senator is currently fighting for his freedom, as is a former Hall of Fame caliber baseball player.  All over America, people high and low are depending on due process to level the playing field, to diminish the power of Goliath, and to stand a chance when forces that want to destroy them are at play.  In some cases the guilty will go free; in others the innocent will be punished unjustly.  Regardless of the particulars, every American should take a solemn oath to protect and defend the tents of due process, just like the oath sworn by the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor

What do you think?  Is due process something most Americans understand?  Can you identify how various elements of due process have been important in your life?  How important is due process to the American creed? As for me, I pledge my life, my Fortunes and my sacred Honor.

–DENNIS FALCON

The Politics of Healthcare and Birth Control

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral cont...Healthcare policy refers to the government regulations and guidelines that exist to operate, finance, and shape the delivery of healthcare. Healthcare policy covers a range of health related issues including: the financing of health care, public health, preventive health care, chronic illness and disability, long-term care, and mental health.

Currently there is a debate concerning the availability of birth control coverage to American woman and religious freedom protected by the 1st Amendment. The problem is the reality that not all women take the pill to prevent unwanted pregnancies. In fact, women are often prescribed the pill for the therapeutic benefits it offers including protection against:

  • bone thinning
  • cysts in the breasts and ovaries
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • extremely irregular menstrual cycles
  • headaches and depression associated with menstruation
  • iron deficiency anemia
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • serious infection in the ovaries, tubes, and uterus

As such, the Obama administration views birth control as merely a women’s health issue. However, for some, the whole notion of birth control violates a religious belief that life begins at conception.  Should employers be forced, as mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to provide a service that violates their personal religious conviction? In other words, which liberty is more important, the privacy rights of the employee or the religious freedom of the employer?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

The Christian Republic of America

Separation of church and state is one of many great attributes that separates the United States from Iran, the Taliban and Al Qaida. The concept of separation of church and state refers to the segregated relationship between organized religion and the institution of government. The term is originally derived from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists Association in which Jefferson states:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Nevertheless, many Americans wholeheartedly believe the U.S. to be a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. Constitutionally the United States, while a nation of Christians, is not a Christian nation. However, even in the modern era political groups are openly carrying out a Christian theology litmus test to determine which candidate for office is authentically Christian and therefore legitimate. Obama is regarded by some as either a closeted Muslim or a radical black Christian. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is viewed as not Christian enough.  Religious tests for holding public office are banned under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, yet politicians are compelled to disclose and discuss their personal faith ad nauseam.

Are we the United States of America or the Christian Republic of America?

— TERRANCE MULLINS

 

Anonymous Money and Campaign Financing

Abuses in the electoral processes associated with American democracy often result in the passage of legislation and regulations that are represented to the public as “reforms” that will correct the problems.  In fact, there is a relatively stable pattern of abuses, public outcry, and reform that many believe began in the early 1970s and continues to this day.  Specifically, campaign financing and the role of big money in the electoral process has been the focus of many such reform efforts.  Most recently, McCain-Feingold attempted to reign in “soft money” and issue ads—among other things—leading indirectly to the most significant change in American elections since sliced bread.  Just over two years ago the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission ruled, in essence, that corporations had the same rights as individuals to spend their own money as a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.  Alas, we have witnessed the birth of the latest round of abuses and reforms that will dominate the money and politics debate for the next ten years (if we last that long).

The “baby,” the Super PAC, is the instrument being used by big money to influence the outcome of the 2012 federal election cycle.  Donors are giving money to non-profit corporations that have been established to serve some basic cause, which in turn are collecting and funneling money to Super PACs that have been created to promote particular candidates.  Because the donations are going directly to non-profit corporations donors do not have to be identified to the media or federal campaign finance regulators.  In other words, anonymous money, the complete and absolute opposite of transparency and reform has found a welcome and protected place in American electoral politics.  Any attempt to sell this as good for America can only be judged for what it is, the outright abandonment of one-person one-vote in the United States and the ascendency of government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.  To claim as some have that there has always been a place for secrecy and privacy in American politics, citing examples such as the secret ballot and the use of aliases by the authors of the Federalist Papers can only be characterized as the most shameful sophistry.  How’s this for an example of anonymity, wearing a white hood and sheet to protect my right to privacy?  Why not, seems there are no limits after all.

What do you think?  Is there any way to keep money from corrupting the political process?  Is money an integral and unavoidable feature of democracy  in the United States?

–DENNIS FALCON

Video Glossary: Libel