Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Independence Day quiz answers

Wait with bated breath no longer. Here is the answer to the Second Thoughts query posted on the Fourth of July: "Q: What are the five freedoms specifically protected by the First Amendment?"

A: Religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

The full context of the First Amendment is as follows:

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.

For extra credit, consider the whole amendment in relation to the first clause: "Congress shall make no law..."

If you're a "strict constructionist" or prefer "non-activist" judges, that means your definition of the First Amendment means only that the U.S. Congress shall make no laws abridging those five rights. Pretty narrow construct, that.

It was only during the past century that federal judges began to consider these rights as extending inalienably and specifically to the people, not simply as a prohibition against the federal government's power. That's a development that I'm wholeheartedly in favor of.

So next time someone rails against "activist" justices, refer them to judicial precedent. And ask them if they enjoy what judicial activists have done for them.

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