Sunday, December 15th, marked the 228th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. That anniversary got me thinking about how so few on all sides of the political spectrum properly understand this most important protector of our rights. This is because our elected officials on all levels have distorted the original meaning so much that the current understanding is 180 degrees opposite from the meaning as understood by those that framed and ratified it. Our abysmal education system, which teaches political correct revisionist history rather than civics, the news media, and our entertainment industry are also to blame.
Here are the most common and most dangerous misconceptions about the Bill of Rights that I’ve encountered.
1. The Bill of Rights grants us our rights,
People on the right and the left regularly spread this mistruth; most commonly by stating the we have First Amendment rights, or something similar. This is a dangerous notion because our rights could then be taken away by amending the Bill of Rights or disregarding the actual meaning, which has been done too often.
This quote from the Declaration of Independence tells us exactly where the framers of the Bill of Rights believed our rights come from:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
2. The Bill of Rights applies to the States
It is abundantly clear from the debates that occurred during the ratification of the Constitution, where the states conventions demanded a Bill of Rights, that the purpose of those amendments was to restrain the federal government only. This is also abundantly clear from the debates where the Bill of Right s was framed, and the debates where the amendments were ratified by the states. Thomas Jefferson explained this very eloquently when he wrote the first draft of the Kentucky Resolutions in 1798
3. _Resolved_, That it is true as a general principle, and is also expressly declared by one of the amendments to the Constitution, that “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;” and that no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the States or the people: that thus was manifested their determination to retain to themselves the right of judging how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom, and how far those abuses which cannot be separated from their use should be tolerated, rather than the use be destroyed. And thus also they guarded against all abridgment by the United States of the freedom of religious opinions and exercises, and retained to themselves the right of protecting the same, as this State, by a law passed on the general demand of its citizens, had already protected them from all human restraint or interference. And that in addition to this general principle and express declaration, another and more special provision has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares, that “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:” thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the others, and that libels, falsehood, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are withheld from the cognizance of federal tribunals.
Some of the readers of this article might strenuously disagree with the fact that the Bill of Rights does not pertain to the states. This was done by the framers of the Bill of Rights on purpose because they believed granting the federal government all of that power would result in a gigantic and oppressive federal government. We have this now because the federal government granted itself unconstitutionally the power to extend the Bill of Rights down to the states.
The Bill Rights is a hands off list for the federal government. Our rights are too precious for the federal government to interfere with in any way. The framers believed that state and local governments were the proper levels to make decisions regarding these rights because the people could better oversee the state and local levels.
All state constitutions have a Bill of Rights which protects the rights of the citizens of that state. Here is what Clause 13 of the Virginia Rill of Rights has to say about the right to bear arms. The current governor of Virginia should take note.
That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
3. The Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the Bill of Rights down to the State and local level
As you can see from the actual text of Clause 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, that amendment was never meant to extend the entire Bill of Rights down to the states. The only clause that was extended was the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment,
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Supreme Court created the unconstitutional doctrine of incorporation by disregarding the text of the amendment and the transcripts of the debates where it was written and ratified. Incorporation has resulted in tremendous harm such as the banning of most things religious from the public square, setting criminals free because of a technicality, and so much more.
4. The Fourteenth Amendment granted the Supreme Court the authority to overturn state laws involving the Bill of Rights.
Using the unconstitutional doctrine of Incorporation, the Supreme Court single handedly granted itself the power to overturn state laws. As you can see from the actual text of Clause 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” that power was specifically not granted to the Supreme Court by the amendment, but instead granted to the US Congress through the formal legislative process. That was because the Dred Scott ruling stood firmly in the minds of those that wrote the amendment.
The only way to restore the original meaning of the Bill of Rights is by using the internet to educate others. Please help me do that by sharing this article on social media. Also, please consider contributing to this website by using the Tip Jar.