The Liberal Conservative Examines The Bill Of Rights, Part I

Welcome to the Liberal Conservative’s look at the first ten amendment to the United States Constitution better known as the Bill of Rights.

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.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution may very well be the most beloved and important piece of legislation in this nation. The idea that we can what say we feel, worship how we please, and openly voice our disappointments with the government is not just romantic: it’s an absolute necessity. But how exactly does it fit with modern politics and today’s government? Let’s take this one step-by-step…

Let’s begin with the first and – in my opinion – most important words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

As much as Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry may want to argue about it, this amendment makes it pretty clear that the U.S. is not a Christian nation in much the same way that it is not a Muslim nation or Jewish nation or Buddhist nation or Hindu nation or Pagan nation. It’s been said many times that this is not only to protect the government from religion, but religion from government. After all, how much would all these religion-in-government folks like Governor Perry or Senator Rick Santorum like it if their government stepped in and told them they couldn’t teach the story of Noah? Or Adam & Eve? Not very much. The separation of church and state protects both church and state.

And that brings us to something that really hits the Atheist community at home. There are seven state governments which have banned Atheists from holding public office. From what I know about our nation’s law the individuals who passed these state bans really should be brought up on federal charges seeing as Article VI of the United States Constitution clearly states that “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” You can worship as you please and the law cannot discriminate against you. Period.

Next up: “…or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

This is what most people think of when speaking about the First Amendment. We can say what we want and voice our opinion however we please so long as we are not openly threatening an elected official’s life. As we know, the Tea Party totally holds that rule in high esteem. It does seem pretty great, though. Doesn’t it? We don’t have to like what the government does and we don’t have to be a silent about it.

Now there’s plenty not to like about President Barack Obama. I won’t get into it here – I’d rather save that for another piece down the road (spoiler alert: the things I don’t like about the POTUS are 100% different from what the Tea Party whines about). However, even with everything he has done that I don’t like it’s hard to call him a dictator. After all, we still have freedom of speech and freedom of press – even if most of our news come from the same small handful of big businesses.

Finally: “…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This one seems like it’s a no-brainer. We all know that we can protest the government and petition for changes we want – no matter how unfruitful those demands may end up being. This leads us to an important point and sad reality: the United States population – in particular, the left – has no idea how to protest.

Since this is Liberal America, I’ll do the right thing and start with the “Truckers For The Constitution” protest where truckers – angry about the Constitution being “stepped on” by Barack Obama, but who were also just fine with George W. Bush stepping on it before him – threatened to shut down the major motorways until the American people were treated properly. Six trucks showed up. Six. And then they scattered like roaches in the light when they realized how ridiculous they looked.

Now here’s the fun part: Occupy Wall Street, a.k.a. the left’s greatest failure. Look, we can be sure that most people would agree that the bankers who used and abused the systematic destruction of banking regulations to screw over the American people should be – at the very least – prosecuted under the full force of the law; however, sitting around playing drums and pissing and moaning down in NYC did nothing but make people’s daily dog-walks a more difficult, more annoying experience. Better to mess with the banks in some pretty unique ways as to slow their profits. Take a few dollars out of their wallets in a totally non-violent, hilarious way and chances are they’ll start to take notice. It also didn’t help Occupy Wall Street that they had no spokesperson and no real collection of demands of the U.S. Government. Claiming to be many with one voice is cute, but without someone to actually project that voice with the changes you want to see made you’re just a gaggle of hippies getting pepper sprayed in the face by some chubby, Magnum P.I.-looking rent-a-cop. You wanna’ know how to protest the right way? Look at the Suffragettes and look at Civil Rights. Those folks were as brave as brave can be and set the standard for protesting in support of equal rights.

So, How Does This Amendment Apply To Modern America?

It’s a mixed bag. On one hand we have states telling Atheists that they cannot hold office, politicians screaming about the nation’s unfounded Christian roots, the news being operated almost solely by the big business interests, and a complete lack of ability to protest even remotely properly. On the other we can speak however we please about whatever we please and what limited independent news sources there are allow for unbiased, truthful, honest reporting.

So, overall it’s like this: when it comes to what people think of when somebody brings up the First Amendment – meaning freedom of speech – it looks pretty good. As an avid fan of art and freedom of expression I can say that free speech goes a long way toward a liberated society. However, we are losing the war on religious zealots who are openly abusing even their own faith and it’s gotten to the point in our country where we can’t even really trust the major, mainstream news sources. Plus with lobbying being a legal thing that is somehow allowed to exist – $$$ – politicians will always vote in favor of their business interests before the interests of the American people so there goes the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In conclusion, the most precious and beloved constitutional amendment happens to be the one that is in the most dire need of not just repair, but rescue. But who are we kidding? This is America. And there are new gaming consoles out next month…

I'm Jonathan Lenhardt; fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican. I'm pro-choice, pro-2nd Amendment, anti-Tea Party, and happily atheist just to name a sparse few things about me. You can direct all hate mail to [email protected]. Also, you can find me on Google+, Twitter (@JonLenTheLC), and I have an L.C.-specific Facebook page (Jonathan Lenhardt, The Liberal Conservative).