Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 21, 2014

The Constitution as homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 21, 2014

This is the seventh in a series of posts closely reading the Constitution of the United States for homeland security implications. Readers are encouraged to use the comment function to add background, analysis, exegesis or exposition related to the text highlighted.

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THE PREAMBLE

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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The Bill of Rights was adopted to address the concern of many Americans that the seven article  Constitution ratified in 1788 was insufficiently explicit regarding the nature of liberty.  Or in the words of the first Congress assembled under the Constitution, “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its (the Constitution’s) powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.”  Government restraint is an essential corollary of individual liberty.

The First Amendment treats together three rights that were viewed “of a piece” in 1789 in a way we may now not readily recognize.

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.

Freedom of conscience was, especially, freedom of religious belief and unbelief.   From this freedom of opinion in matters religious emerges a radical understanding of the role of belief — and reason — in other matters.  In his 1777 draft of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, Jefferson wrote:

To suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy.

While Jefferson’s text was focused on religious opinion, its wider implications were clear enough.  This is one of the reasons the Statute was not adopted by Virginia until 1786.  Patrick Henry, another champion of liberty, did not quite agree.  But once we acknowledge our understanding of ultimate reality — of God — as a matter of opinion, our differences of opinion regarding other matters become such that “all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain.”

In the late 18th Century the blessings of liberty were often linked to life and property, but when taken alone liberty was the ability to believe, to discuss, and to argue what one understands to be true without the government interfering.  From this blessing it was thought would flow many others.

This has many implications for homeland security, but there is a particular relevance for counter-terrorism.  Religious liberty desacralizes government.  Government is understood as the province only of human reason and very human folly.  To understand how radical this notion remains, look to Iran, Egypt, India, or the charter of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), or even our old nemesis the British monarchy.  It is also possible to look closer to home.

We continue to refine our opinions.

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5 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 21, 2014 @ 3:01 am

A wonder of a Post! Thanks Phil! The Pursuit of Happiness [Liberty?] continues in no small part to these words of the Bill of Rights.

Comment by john comiskey

January 21, 2014 @ 8:51 am

No rights are absolute to include religion.

Analogous, to the maxim that freedom of speech does not allow you to yell “fire” in a crowded movie house; freedom of religion does not allow you to impose your religious/belief ideologies involuntarily upon others.

Case in point is AQ and its affiliates/associates/wanabees who profess a Pan-Arabic world replete with Wahhabis Islamic Fundamentalism wherein nonmuslims are subordinate to Muslims, women are subordinate to men and those that oppose fundamentalist Islam and especially apostates must convert or fall victim to the sword.

As an aside, but certainly relevant here, I would like to share a thought that has puzzled me since I have studied AQ.

I do not understand why women’s movements have not more aggressively attacked fundamentalist Islam and other belief systems that subordinate women to men.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 21, 2014 @ 11:47 am

What would a Bill of Citizen obligations look like?

Perhaps mandatory voting or your taxes double?

Comment by john comiskey

January 21, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

Bill of Responsiblities should address this. As you suggest, the Constitution limits civic responsiblities to paying taxes.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 21, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

….and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….

Thanks Phil! Certainly an informative series.

America had fought long and hard for liberty…freedom from a tyrannical government that imposed unjust laws, and placed the goals of the English Crown above the individual. Sounds like the same lack of representation then is much as it is today where the 2014 elections will see many independent voters march to the polls and change

While I, like many today who hold no preference for political party and perceive the defending of the Constitution as a Citizen’s responsibility and while seeing the “beltway charade” and outright travesties of Washington the beltway permitted to continue when our strategic global position becomes even more weakened by blatant lies and deceitful and self-serving agenda mostly political, our Constitution so trampled on by the Executive Branch and this President as well as the Attorney General and so many other folks representing this administration and outside as well as supposed journalists all “entrusted” to assure our nation continues an even keel, well, whether the Executive Orders are legal, ethical or moral for instance, any and every attempt by anyone to circumvent the Constitution or to compromise the checks and balances of our government and our Judeo-Christian values should be subjected to much citizen objection….and I consider such acts a threat to Homeland Security!

Now to look closely here over the waterfront as I saw a news clip today stating that the thugs of Tehran intend to send their vessels into the Atlantic and I guess it is time for not only keeping a close eye on the sharks, but the “Brutes of Tehran” who will soon have WMD in hand and the game will be over and in seeing the blood soaked hands of Tehran laying their wreath this past week and honoring their brave, well, it is quite obvious to them and to many of us here on “Main Street USA” that this White House and its narrow perspective in personal ideology does not bode well for America, yet the fact remains, few on either side of the aisle or or network television care to stand up and be counted!

God Bless America! God Bless the Constitution of the United States of America!

Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645
chris.tingus@gmail.com

*as I have contemplated and stated for years, an evolving Germany with its fast deployment army and shiny naval vessels already in the Mediterranean are slowly and methodically encircling Tehran and it will be Germany, not the Israelis or the US which will swipe at these thugs and as in history, Germany again to lead us to War!

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