Posted tagged ‘constitutional rights’

1st and 2nd Amendment Rights

November 8, 2009

The tragedy that took place last week at Fort Hood, Texas, was the work, it would appear, of a deranged person. It would seem that this person simply snapped, and began shooting people he did not know, and who had done nothing to him. There seemed to be no sense in these shootings and no escape for the shooter.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an officer in the US Army is alleged to be the shooter. He was said to have been depressed because he was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. What ever the reason, other than insanity it is difficult to explain his actions. While Major Hassan denied those he shot their Constitutional Rights, he took advantage of the first and second Amendment in carrying out these shootings.

Hassan purchased automatic hand guns, clips and plenty of ammunition in his local community. He just walked in and bought far more “protection” than he needed, no questions asked. He had no criminal record and his right to own multiple weapons had recently been affirmed by none less that the US Supreme Court. Common sense interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would support reasonable controls on what type of fire arms people could own and how much ammunition should go along.

But Hassan waited almost to the end to take advantage of the 1st Amendment. It has been reported that Hassan gave copies of the Koran to several of this neighbors in the days leading up to the fateful last day, and in the best of Islamic tradition, announced “God is Great” when he pulled out his guns and started firing. There should be no further evidence needed than recounting these words when, (if he lives and gets to trial), he pleads not guilty by insanity.

I do not see this as a Muslin event. The shooter could have just as well been a born again Christian or someone like the Korean who shot up Virginia Tech. The greatness of the first Amendment is the separation of Church and State. People who devoutly believe in God can be as misguided as a headless chicken, and certainly are if they take their religion’s teachings as literally true.

The Fort Hood tragedy underscores the need for much more regulation around “bearing arms”, and far more diligence on keeping Church and State separated.



October 21, 2009

Last evening at the National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia, PA, a discussion concerning the Constitutional nature of Gay and Lesbian requests for same gender marriage to place. David Boise and Keith Boykin argued “for” and Maggie Gallagher and Glenn Stanton argued against. This discussion went something like this.

For: It is unclear how today’s Supreme Court will decide on this issue, not withstanding their conservative leanings. If they decide that marriage is an important enough right, than a majority (as in California) can not deny a right from a minority (gays and lesbians). Under this light, gays and lesbians should not be denied the right to marry. If the Supreme Court decides this is a State issue, then it will be decided in each State.

Against: Marriage is a very special “idea”. It is, by definition, a union between a man and a woman, and has been so since antiquity. It is only a man and a woman who can conceive a child, and children are very important to perpetuation of the race. Further the “ideal” situation for a child is to grow up in a household composed of one man and one woman who are in a loving relationship and care about the child. (The notion here is that neither a gay couple nor a lesbian one can meet this criteria (no matter how sincere, committed or loving they may be), therefore they are not ideal. There was no also no recognition of all the marriages that end in divorce, contain incest, or are simply parented by immature and unfit adults. Some model of ideal.)

The idea of equal rights and that a majority can not over ride a minority on Constitutional issues was the mainstay of the “For” arguments. The “Against” speakers were more emotional. Marriage was so clearly the province of a man and a woman that society should decide.

The evening’s discussion at times seemed surreal. The “Fors” stuck to legal precedents although they did point out the generational difference where Americans under 30 overwhelmingly favor allowing same sex marriage. The “Againsts” used example after example which went tangential to the core legal argument and instead grew out of some religious or ideological belief.

Motives are hard to decipher and some say should not even be considered. I wonder, however, what are the motives behind those who champion either position. For sure, gay and lesbians want to gain equal rights and garner the emotional advantages of adoption and sick bed visitation. I am sure. also, the economic pluses like marital tax deductions and inheritance are also prime goals.

But why do the “Against side” protest so strongly. Do they believe these advantages they enjoy will disappear if same sex marriage becomes the norm? Or do they hold some strong Biblical or religious doctrinal belief that same sex relationships are inherently abhorrent? Or, are they even more basic and are championing this course because it is their job and others will pay them for their services?

In the question and answer section, one young woman made a statement that she felt same sex marriage “cheapened” her marriage. Astonishing is the only words that came to mind. Later I thought that this, clearly sincere person, had not a clue about what was involved in marriage and would sadly wake up someday to see her children hold entirely different view (and even sadder, can you imagine if one of her children becomes the 1 in 10 who are naturally homosexual?).

What Is It About Due Process People Don’t Understand?

May 22, 2009

Imagine in World War II (the last time the US was in a Constitutionally declared war), German or Japanese soldiers were captured on the battle field. The prisoners were sent to secure holding areas, processed for name, rank and serial number (and whatever other information that could be gotten without torture) and then placed in makeshift prisons. At the end of the declared war, they were released,  End of story.

There were no hearings or special charges and court trials. These were prisoners, captured on the battle field and held as enemy combatants. There were others, Germans, Japanese, and other nationalities, who were also detained on the suspicion that these individuals were engaged in espionage. Following interrogation these people were brought before appropriate courts and tried under crimes already defined in law.

Fast forward to the present. The US is holding about 200 detainees in Guantanamo and has held these individuals there for over 6 years, most without any charges. The Military Commissions which were created to try them resembles the court system of third rate dictatorships where hearsay, withheld information, and denial of adequate defense measures are the defining elements. The Government defense for all this is that terrorists are not your usual enemy.

The logic of this sad situation is completely lacking. There is no Declaration of War and there have been no defined boarders upon which any military action is taking place. Detainees have been gathered by many sources in addition to those captured by the US. Without a doubt among the detainees are individuals who have plotted, conspired, or carried out crimes against the US home land. For many others, who may hate the US or be willing to follow the instructions of their religious leaders blindly (including doing harm to Americans and American interests), they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. How fragile our Countries values and judicial system must be if we are too worried about sorting out those who deserve prison time form those who don’t.

Yesterday we were treated to a theater of the absurd. President Barack Obama gave a mostly positive and spirited defense of changes his Administration has made to the Gauntanamo situation. At the point when you were almost ready to stand, applaud, and cheer for a return to our Countries historic values, President Obama reiterated the Government’s right to hold people without charges. You can’t be half pregnant.

While we were being encouraged and disappointed listening to the President, former Vice President Dick Cheney gave the Country the perfect example of why due process is so important. Standing before cameras and a live audience, Cheney proceeded to reassert the Government’s right to both hold people without charge (suspicion was sufficient) and on top of that to torture in an effort to obtain information. Cheney rested his case on the foundation that all these transgressions of the Constitution were done to protect Americans. (Cheney, of course saw no transgressions and claimed all of these actions were in the prerogative of the President.)

The Greeks, centuries ago, boasted the world first Democracy in Athens. When Athenians were threatened by the Persian and the Spartans, they freely empowered their leader with extraordinary powers. They reasoned that in those difficult times they would be better off if their leader stood beyond their assemblies and were free to decide all matters. They called this person with new powers a Tyrant. Over time we have come to learn that Tyrants are not temporary and freedom is not returned to the people freely. Tyrants develop blind spots about the rights of others and ultimately see the world as for or against them personally. Dick Cheney showed us yesterday what a modern day Tyrant looks and sounds like.