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The Bill Of Rights: Facing A Crisis On Its Bicentennial Anniversary

By Editorial Staff
Published December 1, 1991

By Mark Shelby

The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States are commonly called the “Bill of Rights.” What are these ten amendments? Because few Americans today have a working knowledge of what the Bill of Rights actually says, they are listed below:

I. 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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
II. 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.
III. 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.
IV. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported bu Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons of things to be seized.
V. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be put in jeopardy of life and limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
VII. All suits at common law, where the value at controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.
IX. The enumeration of the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
X. 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.

The next question is: “Whose rights are these?” According to the original Framers of the Constitution: “The individual States and the people.” The Constitution as a document was originally intended to severely limit the power and authority of the federal government. The individual States and the people, however, did not think that the Constitution was sufficiently powerful enough to do this on its own, so they designed the Bill of Rights to even further limit the federal government. The Bill of Rights could more accurately be called the Bill of Limitations.

The Bill of Rights was predominantly designed to strictly limit the interference of the federal government in the affairs of the people. The Framers, and the people of that day, understood only too well what a central government was capable of, as they had seen every government on earth at that time turn into an oppressive, autocratic authority over people, with no intention of caring for the people, only caring for itself.

It is precisely this kind of central government, one which we are in danger of having today, which the Framers of the Constitution tried so desperately to prohibit. They knew the destructive power of this kind of government, and they wanted to avoid it at all costs. They also knew that a central government was the way of the worst of mankind, and that the worst of mankind was what could be expected out of man, given the fallen spiritual nature of man.

The central government encroaching upon us has been brought about, and is maintained chiefly by the actions of the Supreme Court. Thomas Jefferson saw the worst potential of the Supreme Court, and what it could do to make our government oppressive:

“We already see the power, installed for life, responsible to no authority (for impeachment is not even a scarecrow), advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions for the annihilation of constitutional State rights, and the removal of every check, every counterpoise to the engulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part.

“If ever this vast country is brought under a single government, it will be one of the most extensive corruption, indifferent and incapable of a wholesome care over so wide a spread of surface … when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”

The open movement of the Supreme Court in the direction which Jefferson feared did not begin to be realized until 1872. After the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, the Supreme Court began to use its language to link the Bill of Rights to the State and local governments in a way which forced them to conform to a federal standard. This was directly counter to the Framers’ intentions, as this took the government out of reach of the people, removing the effectiveness and integrity of it, and placed it all in Washington, where the checks and balances were rendered in effective.

The Fourteenth Amendment was designed only to get all states to declare freed slaves as citizens, and not let the states deny basic liberties to those freed slaves which were enjoyed by other citizens. Because of the language of the amendment having extensive federal emphasis, there were many states who opposed ratification. Even in the Northern states of Ohio and New Jersey, both strong anti-slavery states, rescinded their ratifications.

Since 1872 the Supreme Court has consistently removed the rights found in the Bill of Rights from the American people, and from the individual states, and has replaced those rights with what it calls “fundamental rights” – rights which are nowhere mentioned in any documents establishing the United States or its government. These “fundamental rights” have taken precedence over the “inalienable rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and the “First Amendment rights” of religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government to redress grievances.

The Supreme Court has made so many rules and regulations which every citizen must obey or be in violation of federal statutes, that the effectiveness of a government which is set up to protect the people, is in crisis. There is the real danger of liberty becoming a lost dream. We have, in fact, fewer liberties now than at any other time in our nation’s history.

In 1965 the Supreme Court went the full course by “discovering” a right to “reproductive privacy” in the Constitution. This “fundamental right” was discovered in the “penumbras, formed by emanations from the Bill of Rights.” In other words, there is nothing there. But this “fundamental right” is the direct cause of the deaths of over 27 million children, children who have been denied their “inalienable rights,” and their “First Amendment rights.”

The actions of the Supreme Court, by forcing the states to comply with federal regulations, have formed a central government which routinely and callously tramples the rights of its people. We have on our hands a government which has turned out to be a worse butcher than Hitler ever was. For the past 120 years, the Supreme Court has sat on it throne like a hierarchical demigod, passing down arbitrary judgments in the name of the Constitution, all the while disavowing the Framer’s intent.


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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

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Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

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Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

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2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
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9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

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