There are two stories, one a news article and the other a letter to the editor, in the telegraph this week that highlight why it is important for everyday citizens to know their constitutional rights. Touching on each in order of the Constitutional right they touch, the first is a mater of religion.
In the article a group calling themselves "The Freedom From Religion Foundation" attempted to take away others freedom OF religion by seeking to ban the Pledge of Allegiance in NH schools.
A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on Friday affirmed a ruling by a federal judge who found that students can use the phrase "under God" when reciting the pledge.
If you have actually read the first amendment it's fairly clear in it's wording.
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.
In other words the government cannot force members of "The Freedom From Religion Foundation" to say "under God" if they wish not to but likewise the government cannot stop others from saying it if they wish.
The Constitution protects us from government established religion and protects our freedom of religion but there is no freedom FROM religion offered by the constitution. Just because someone chooses not to believe in a God or gods does not mean they can use government to prevent others from openly discussing or worshiping whatever God or gods they so choose.
Now that case is fairly straight forward and is directly related to the first amendment but this second case is one I think many may not so easily see how it relates.
In this second example a woman writes a letter with the following details:
We recently took over the care of a 6-8 week old kitten who was found abandoned in a dumpster in Brookline. She was wet and sick and scared, but oh so loving.
We managed to keep her alive over the weekend but brought her to the animal hospital on Monday when we realized she needed more care than we could give her. They kept her for the day and managed to stabilize her.
Because they do not offer 24 hour care we picked her up that afternoon. We were up every hour during that night and the following day in our struggle to keep her alive. She died Tuesday afternoon and we buried her in our back yard filled with sorrow that her poor little life ended in such a way.
The hospital called the next day not to offer support or condolences but to insist we dig her up so she could be sent to Concord to be autopsied (beheaded) and checked for rabies. Apparently when the technician gave her a bath she nipped her out of fear.
The Amherst police showed up at my door Friday morning insisting that I give her to them.
Take a moment to read the facts and see if you can think of how this above issue relates to the Constitution before going on.
When the hospital sent the police to confiscate the cat they violated the 4th Amendment.
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 warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Many people take the Constitution and the rights granted within it for granted but these two stories are perfect examples of why it is important for each and every one of us to know our rights and poses the Constitutional knowledge to defend those rights.