Government increasingly mocks Constitution

As I prepared for my first constitutional law seminar of the fall semester at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta last week, I was reminded again of the majesty of the document which forms the basis for my teaching role.  I have always considered the Constitution of the United States to be the most magnificent document ever writ by the hand of Man. It is profound in its clarity of purpose and its deep understanding of human nature.  It outshines by orders of magnitude other, more “modern” government blueprints; such as the multi-hundred page, detail-burdened European Union version.

It is the Constitution alone to which top government officials, including the President and members of Congress, take an oath upon assuming office.  They swear to protect and defend the Constitution; not their opinions or their policies; not what their constituents might want from government; and certainly not what office holders themselves seek to have government do for themselves or their constituents.  The constitutional framework our nation adopted after months of heated debate in 1788 was intended to protect the liberty of the citizenry, but equally to restrain and keep the government itself within bounds.

In 21st-Century parlance, individual liberty was to be the Constitution’s “default mode.” No longer.

Through a toxic combination of ignorance and deliberate indifference to the purposes and history of the Constitution, it has in many respects been so decimated as to provide currently only fitful protection for the liberty we as Americans were supposed to enjoy.  This once-hallowed document now affords virtually no checks on the scope, power and cost of the federal government.  Events of recent days and months have illustrated quite graphically this sad state of constitutional affairs.

The debate over construction of a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center, confirms for us that the First Amendment’s oft-quoted guarantee that in America government cannot use its power to limit religious expression or practice, is honored as much in the breach as in the practice. 

“Sensitivity” to the views of those who do not want a Muslim center to be built so close to “Ground Zero” now appears to trump the heretofore clear directive of the First Amendment — at least in the eyes of many who claim to understand and support the Constitution, including the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, and many current members of Congress.

“Fear” is another oft-played constitutional trump card.  Ever since the World Trade Center was toppled by terrorist-piloted airliners on September 11, 2001, fear of another terrorist incident has time and again trumped the Fourth Amendment’s clear mandate against baseless government snooping.  Thanks to the constitutional contortions launched by former President George W. Bush, and largely continued by the current administration, the government claims the right to listen at will to our phone and internet communications, and to monitor our driving patterns, our travel activities, and our spending habits. 

“Public Safety” regularly is used by governments to make a mockery of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the individual right to “keep and bear arms.”  

“National security” has become the Holy Grail of government action to justify all manner of intrusion into the lives of the citizenry.  No less a constitutional scholar than the former Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzalez, opined preposterously in 2007 that the “Great Writ” of habeas corpus did not enjoy constitutional gravitas in the face of terrorist challenges to our security.

The “health-care crisis” has become the justification for government to drive the final stake through the heart of the Constitution’s “commerce clause”; crafted oh, so long ago as a simple guarantee of freedom of interstate commerce.

Were James Madison alive today, he would weep for America; and his tears would not be tears of joy.

90 comments Add your comment

GB

August 23rd, 2010
1:37 pm

To Reality:

Mosque v Community Center: It will have a prayer space large enough to seat 1000-2000 people. Have you ever been to the Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church? It has a pool, a gym, a basketball court, racket ball courts, a pool, an indoor track, a child care center, and a playground. But I have never heard anyone claim it is not a church.

Not at ground zero but blocks away: yes, “blocks” away. Two blocks actually, from the WTC site. I looked at a map. Two blocks. Was the attack limited to the WTC property? Certainly not. Much property near the WTC site was damaged and destroyed also, including the building on the location of the proposed mosque.

I am not sure I catch your reference to Fox. Do facts become less factual when they are reported on Fox? Is an opinion less valid because some Fox commentators share it? Is an ad hominem attack a substitute for rational argument?

Bubba

August 23rd, 2010
1:44 pm

Yes, Reality you are wrong. Not that it matters in the context of this debate.

From the Park 51 web site:

Future plans for Park51 include a world-class facility which will house a mosque. Intended to operate as a separate 501(c)(3), the mosque will be a welcoming prayer space accessible to Park51 members as well as all New Yorkers, but will be independently run.

GB

August 23rd, 2010
1:46 pm

Reality:

Re popular vote vs Electoral College.

Not presidential election, ever, not one, not a single one, has been “determined by the popular vote.” The Electoral College’s action is pro forma, of course, but the aggregate popular vote is not a consideration. Not at all, and never has been. What counts is the electoral vote determined by the state by state vote. “Winning the popular vote,” a phrase one frequently hears, is a meaningless. It is like saying a football team “won” the rushing yardage or a basketball “won” the rebounds.

Reality

August 23rd, 2010
3:31 pm

@GB

As I have already said, it is the electorial college vote that “counts.” But, the electorial college is nothing more than individuals sworn to vote the way of the popular vote for that State. You are straining at nats and missing the point.

The popular vote does matter even if it doesn’t “count.” The popular vote dictates the electorial college vote. And, the electorial college vote does “count.”

Reality

August 23rd, 2010
3:34 pm

@GB – Yes, FOX news mis-reports and distorts very often. They will, even today, talk about the “Mosque on Ground Zero.” And, as I have already stated, it is primarily a cultural center and it is not on ground zero.

Reality

August 23rd, 2010
3:35 pm

@GB,

So your issue is with a Mosque 2 blocks from ground zero? Is 3 blocks away better for you? How about 5 blocks? And, as someone already pointed out, there is already one Mosque 3 blocks away. Do you want to tear that down?

I fear radical Muslums as much as I fear irrational individuals as you seem to be.

ATF

August 23rd, 2010
5:16 pm

Thank you, Bob.

Now, lets protect the VII Amendment from “tort reform”, which, in any manifestation I have read about it, ultimately allows a government (state or federal) to limit what the Constitution only allows a jury to determine.

And, instead of changing the XIV Amendment, lets build the border fence, hire and train the forces needed to patrol the border, increase raids on employers who hire illegal workers, deport the illegal workers and put their employers in jail. How about 1 year in jail for each illegal worker employed?

cecil

August 23rd, 2010
6:27 pm

Fascism, anyone?

J.B. STONER

August 23rd, 2010
7:17 pm

REALITY …

GET REAL.

We do not,i repeat DO NOT want any mosque ANYWHERE near ground zero.

What part of NO do you and uncle ‘BIG EARS’ not understand.

Just leave it alone, DON’T TOUCH IT, OK?

And quit trying to bait people into an already decided topic.
Talk about the Braves or the weather.

Barring Logic

August 23rd, 2010
9:18 pm

@ J.B. STONER

What in the world????? Are you kidding me? Who is this “we” you are talking about?

Isn’t this still America? Are you the Nazi speech police? Are you the dictator to say what goes where?

Not all US citizens agree with you. In fact, Ron Paul released a speech today condeming your position (along with the position of Sara Palin and others) on this issue.

You so-called “conservatives” want to wave the flag but only chose to follow your ideals when it suits you. Protect individual rights? Only when it is in your best interest – to heck with everyone else.

Muslum Americans have every right that you have. The owners of property can still (mostly) build as they see fit – or don’t you believe in that any more?

Grow up! Get your so-called beliefs in order. Apply them equally.

Justice and equality for ALL!!!! That is the American way!

Zazueta

August 23rd, 2010
11:40 pm

The fact is, there is very little hard evidence that Muslims were even involved in 9/11. Bin Laden has never been indited and is not wanted by the FBI for 9/11 due to “Lack of evidence.”
9/11 was executed specifically to overthrow our Constitutional Republic.

Visit reality by visiting Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

Acer706

August 23rd, 2010
11:41 pm

And, while Fox News amps up coverage of the Mosque, CNN will not break coverage of what is happening on FaceBook and Twitter regarding “what-if” non-issues.

Bonnie Calcagno

August 24th, 2010
12:19 am

It’s time to give up on the Democrats and Republicans and start voting Libertarian.

Matthew Cole

August 24th, 2010
2:55 am

@Reality

Sure, Muslims can build a mosque there. It’s also OK to build a Confederate museum next to MLK Jr.’s church. Both have the legal right to do so, but of course they are being a bunch of insulting little jerks for doing so.

GB

August 24th, 2010
7:07 am

Reality:

You should become more familiar with the Constitution before trying to discuss it. First, Electors are not sworn to vote according to the popular vote in their respective states. Second, the Constitution does not specify how a state’s Electors are chosen. The Constitution apportions the electoral votes among the states, and leaves to the states the decision as to how the electors are chosen.

Note also that the word is “electoral,” not “electorial.” If you ever say the word out loud put the accent on the second of the three syllables.

Re the distance from Ground Zero: the mosque (yes, mosque, seating 1000-2000 for prayer) is AT Ground Zero, not “near” it. The building was damaged in the attack.

Constitutional Contortions

August 24th, 2010
7:29 am

The final word on the ground zero mosque is that by opposing it, the Bush Choir is appeased, and votes are assured. Constitutionality is in the eye of the Tea Voter. (Period.)

If the mosque is barred from construction then the terrorists win. (Exclamation point.)

We crucify our gods, you know. (Constitutionally)

Jarhead1982

August 24th, 2010
9:05 am

Here is a suggestion, and it comes from the Quoran or practices in Islamic/Muslim countries I do believe, unbelievers are tolerated if they pay a fee as such. So why not design a fee that requires this new mosque/community center, something public, and infuriating to the extremist side of the muslim religon? Afterall, how could they deny what they force others to do?

Wiley

August 24th, 2010
9:58 am

Reality

August 23rd, 2010
10:44 am
Who pays for your retirement? Did you put all that money in the bank? Who will pay for your retire for 20 to 30yrs? Cradle to grave attitude huh.

Wiley

August 24th, 2010
10:02 am

Everyone is concerned about the mosgue. They should be! The government is not protecting its citizens from foreign and domestic enemies. Islam was born by the sword. Islam lives by the sword. Islam proclaims to be peaceful. Dont piss down my back and tell me its raining.

DawgDad

August 24th, 2010
10:12 am

Let me see, a bunch of zealots formed what is essentially a religious sect and declared (in writing) war on the United States, then proceeded to bomb New York and crash planes into the WTC site, destroying the site and much of the immediate surroundings. Now, an Imam with expressed leanings toward the views of this sect wants to construct a mosque on disaster site property purchased at a discount precisely because it was destroyed by this sect, and Bob Barr thinks this is a US constitutional issue, and people are falling for this clap-trap apologist analysis?

Methinks Bob Barr should be drafted and sent to the front in Afghanistan.

Reality

August 24th, 2010
10:18 am

@GB – Grow up. You sound like an immature teenager with a chip on your shoulder.

I challenge you to name one election (except when Bush stole the election through the Supreme Court) where the popular vote and the electorial college vote was not the same within the last 10 elections. A simple challenge to prove my point. I doubt you will do it. You are a blow hard with lots of misguided words and no action.

Reality

August 24th, 2010
10:19 am

@ Wiley – What business is that of yours? I pay for my retirement, thank you very much. What difference does that make to the current topic? ADHD much?

Reality

August 24th, 2010
10:22 am

@GB – Wow. You had better notify CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Feds, etc. They are all showing maps that show the site is blocks from ground zero. I guess that their maps are wrong! Or, more likely, you know better than everyone else, huh? Grow up!

Reality

August 24th, 2010
10:24 am

@GB – While you are right in that the Constitution allows the State to determine how they select their electorate, guess how ALL States do it? Guess. Just guess. Come on, you can do it.

I hope that you can guess correctly. Because the States select their electorate based on THE POPULAR VOTE of that State!!!!!

Get a clue.

DawgDad

August 24th, 2010
10:28 am

Reality: You get all over GB personally but then you say Bush “stole” the election through the Supreme Court? That’s constitutional due process, buddy. Awful tempting to turn this around and say “You sound like an immature teenager with a chip on your shoulder.”

John Marshall Law

August 24th, 2010
10:28 am

John Marshall Law is also a description of the possible results of military junta that takes place exclusively in bathrooms.

Rafe Hollister

August 24th, 2010
10:35 am

A mosque, a community center, a cultural center, a victory shrine, or salt in the 9/11 wounds. Which is it? Whatever it is, it is inappropriate to build it there. Have you ever asked yourselves “why do they insist on building it there”. They are making a statement, that is why. No one says they don’t have the right, what they are saying is, in light of the feelings of the victims could you move it somewhere else more appropriate.

Libs, it seems to me are always the first to come to the defense of those being mistreated. However, you rise to defend Muslims, who regularly preach subjugation of women. They segregate their meetings and impose unequal treatment on women. I won’t even get into stoning, rape, divorce, etc. Liberals were the first to jump in and ask the Clinton administration to take action against David Koresh (sp) and the Krispy Christians because of alleged child abuse. We all know how that turned out, religious freedom, my arse. So, why all the love for the Muslims? Yes, They have the right under the Constitution, but you have the right to stick your head under a chainsaw, so do you?

John Marshall Law

August 24th, 2010
10:42 am

“Whatever it is, it is inappropriate to build it there.”

You’re right Rafe. Let’s bring back the vacant Burlington Coat Factory that was there or another strip joint. Those are much more “appropriate.”

Palin fan

August 24th, 2010
10:43 am

Putting a mosk on the hollowed-ground at ground 0 is very disrespectful to our country who is still heeling from the wounds of 9/11.

Rafe Hollister

August 24th, 2010
10:44 am

John Marshall Law: Coats and nekid women did not bring down the Twin Towers.

Wiley

August 24th, 2010
10:52 am

“@ Wiley – What business is that of yours? I pay for my retirement, thank you very much. What difference does that make to the current topic?”
You brought it up! I am playing liberal and sticking my minority business into the mix to terrorize the majority. Oh and you only invest in your retirement. A small portion at that.

G'Vegas Dawg

August 24th, 2010
11:25 am

Rafe – good points. If the people who are so quick to defend this mosque would take just a second to slow down and use rational sense they may just see the problem here. CT’s blog the other day was about Dr. Laura and her use of the “n” word. The constitution gives her, and anyone else, the right to use that hurtful word as much as they please. Is it legal? Absolutly. Does it raise the question of good common sense? Yes. There is no dofference here. There are 100’s of mosques in NYC today. Is there really a need for another one? Only if there is a need for one mosque for every Starbucks. Our government wants to preach tolerance to us. Should religious tolerance not work both ways? There are no Christian churches in the Islamic countries, nor are there synagogus (sp), or any other places of worship. Christians and Jews are not even allowed inside Mecca (sp). And to top it all off the people who are plannig this project refuse to disclose where the $$ is coming from. This is clearly a slap in the face by the radical Islamic population. There is no rhyme or reason for the timing or location of this project.

Reality

August 24th, 2010
1:14 pm

@Wiley – Um no. You are wrong. You don’t know me. You don’t know where or how I work. I fund my retirement 100%. I do not pay in to Social Security. Again, it is none of your business and has nothing to do with this topic.

blind ignorance

August 24th, 2010
1:45 pm

@G’Vegas Dawg – Your argument against the mosque is full of logical fallacies. Your saying that the government is trying to preach religious tolerance to the people of the United States. Is that really a bad thing? I cannot think of the last time that I was upset with someone for allowing me to freely practice my religion, nor the last time that i was upset with an individual being tolerance of my religion. Your saying that there are no churches or Jewish temples in Islamic countries. Okay there are very few I will happy grant you that. But what does that have to do with America? We are not a Christian country that doesn’t allow other religious structures to exist inside our borders. You are confusing rational and emotional thought. Don’t be so quick to write off your ideals as fact and your thoughts as logical argument.

John Mann

August 24th, 2010
1:53 pm

While I appreciate and respect Mr. Barr’s opinion, I disagree with one point; I do not believe James Madison would weep because of our current national issues. Instead, I believe President Madison would be as proud of the United States and our progress since his death in 1836 as I am. This country and our constitution has survived a civil war, numerous economic crises, and prevailed against international enemies of enormous power and natural resources. We ended slavery and recognized women and all people of color as citizens with the right to vote. I am especially proud of progress this country made in the 20th century with the end to child labor, health and safety protection for workers, protection of our water, air, and wildlife, and creation of the national forests and national parks. As a witness to the struggle for universal civil rights for all Americans, I understand that this progress would not have been possible without both the U.S. Constitution and great American people committed to lawful change without violence.
I am proud to be an American benefitting from the wisdom and leadership of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and all our founding fathers. And I am proud of the United States, with all of its political scoundrels, there are still plenty of American heroes and great every-day Americans to make this the best country on earth.

sevgen

August 24th, 2010
2:39 pm

For those of you who consider yourselves Americans and therefore special cases who should be exempted from many of the obligations laid upon us normal, everyday people on the street, such as forced purchasing of health care insurance, have you ever heard of EMTAL? If you haven’t, Google it. That’s right. Just type it in. It is the reason for forced insurance. Basically, it says that in an emergency, you cannot be turned away from any medical facility in these United States. No matter the cost.

If you’re among those who are adamant about not participating, the rest of us consider you would-be thieves and me-first human beings trying to get just one more freebie out of a life that has already been blessed beyond all imagining. Man how I wish we could repeal EMTAL, allow you not to buy insurance, and then refuse you treatment when you showed up at someone’s ER in dire need of life-saving care and intervention!

I suppose we could make an exception in your cases–if you are able to pre-pay–in cash and in full.

G'Vegas Dawg

August 24th, 2010
3:29 pm

Ignorance – When, in my reply did I say that religious tolerance was a bad thing? I didn’t. Don’t assume that I feel one way just becuase YOU think I do. All I said was that it should work BOTH ways. You ask what that has to do with America, so I’ll break it down for you. NYC is in America, right? This mosque will be in NYC, which as we just learned is in…..America. This mosque will be commerated on 9-11, a day that will always be remembered as tragic to most AMERICANS. I am not confusing rational with emotional, just factual. America IS a Christian country that allows other religions to practice within our borders. Fact. Being tolerent is defined as able to withstand or endure an adverse environmental condition. Being tolerent does not mean that one must ACCEPT others views. I am entitled to my opinion just like you are yours. You know and I know that this mosque is not about religious freedoms. It is about rubbing salt in a wound that will never heal. It is about time that the USA stands up to the same religioin that murdered so many innocent people 9 years ago.

Barring Logic

August 24th, 2010
8:30 pm

@G’Vegas Dawg – Huh? You are still way misguided and freely loose with your statements. Again, this is not a Mosque. There is no dome on the building. There will not be calls to worship from this place.

It is a Community Center. Yes, there is a prayer room within it. But, the fact remains that it is not the definition of a Mosque.

Get over at least that part of the issue.

Also, America is not a Country that supports one religon over another. That is a fact. The government is supposed to be blind to religion. This means that it should not matter if Obama is a Jew, Catholic, Muslim, or Hindi.

And, the government should not dictate where a religion builds its buildings – and this includes the Muslim Community Center.

You are too funny. You seem to already know when the dates when this place will be open? Really? And, who cares if it is 9/11.

You are an irrational person and seem way more dangerous than any Muslim that I know.

Mary Crockett

August 25th, 2010
4:11 pm

CT, the “CONSTITUTIONAL STATE”, has been attacked by the federal C.I.A.!
In a new version of HOLOCAUST, C.I.A. simply ignores the CT prohibition against
SURVEILLANCE and ignores CT CRIMINAL LAWS prohibiting theft of electricity,
and simply uses the electricity to delivery ELECTROMAGNETIC SIGNALS carrying
auditory signals combined with hideous burns and pains and blisters on CT electrical
lines to the private homes of ordinary home-owing citizens. The C.I.A. was “outed”
years ago my Julianne McKinney, the first Administrator of the NSA/CIA program
invented by Bush and kept flush with public funds ever since.
We desperately need BORDC BILL OF RIGHTS DEFENSE COMMITTEE to provide
ATTORNEYS willing to shut down this new Holocaust which is spreading to every
state and country.

hdhd

August 30th, 2010
1:17 pm

No mention of Bob’s “Yea” vote for the Patriot Act. Hmmm……