Bill of Rights Turns 225
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Bill of Rights Turns 225

October 14, 2019


SOLEDAD: OUR CONSTITUTION’S BILL OF RIGHTS TURNED 225 YEARS OLD THIS WEEK, RATIFIED ON DECEMBER 15, 1791. WRITTEN BY JAMES MADISON, THE DOCUMENT LAYS OUT OUR INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS AND LIMITS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S ABILITY TO INTERFERE WITH THEM. A CRITICAL, FOUNDATIONAL DOCUMENT. SOMETHING AMERICANS MUST KNOW LIKE THE BACK OF THEIR HAND. RIGH>>I AM NOT SURE.>>CAN YOU NAME THEM? WHAT OFFHAND, I CANNOT.>>MY TEACHER WOULD BE MAD AT ME. I FORGOT.>>THE BILL OF RIGHTS?>>I DON’T KNOW.>>HIGH SCHOOL WAS A WHILE AGO.>>IT LIMITS THE POWER OF GOVERNMENT AND PROTECTS THE RIGHTS OF CITIZENS. SOLEDAD THAT, OF COURSE, WAS AN : UNOFFICIAL STUDY. HERE’S DIANE ROBERTS WITH MORE. DIANE: THE BILL OF RIGHTS, HOUSED HERE IN THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES IN WASHINGTON, D.C., LAYS OUT THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSONAL RIGHTS FOR ALL AMERICANS. ROBERT COTTROL: I THINK PEOPLE KNOW SPECIFIC PARTS MORE THAN THEY KNOW THE WHOLE BODY OF WHAT WE CALL THE BILL OF RIGHTS. DIANE: ROBERT COTTROL IS A PROFESSOR AT THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL IN WASHINGTON AND SAYS THE COUNTRY OWES A DEBT TO FOUNDING FATHER JAMES MADISON, WHO AUTHORED THE BILL OF RIGHTS, THOUGH SKEPTICAL ABOUT ITS VALUE. ROBERT COTTROL: JAMES MADISON BELIEVED THEY WERE SURPLUS, AND THAT THE REAL PROTECTION WAS I FEDERALISM AND SEPARATION OF POWERS AND NOT IN A SPECIFIC S OF RIGHTS. I THINK HISTORY HAS PROVEN HIM WRONG. DIANE: THE FIRST 10 AMENDMENTS LIMIT THE POWER OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO INTERFERE IN CITIZEN’S PRIVATE LIVES. SOMETHING UNIQUE TO AMERICA. ROBERT COTTROL: LOTS OF NATIONS HAVE GRAND STATEMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, BUT THEY DON’T HAVE THE MECHANISMS FOR ENFORCEMENT. DIANE: DEMOCRACY COMES WITH IMPERFECTIONS AND PROFESSOR COTTROL SAYS SOMETIMES CAN BE DIFFICULT TO SUPPORT. ROBERT COTTROL: THE FIRST AMENDMENT MEANS WE HAVE TO TOLERATE UNPOPULAR SPEECH AND GROUPS WE MAY NOT LIKE, INCLUDING RELIGIOUS GROUPS WE MAY NOT LIKE. THE SECOND AMENDMENT MEANS WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS, AND WE HAVE TO TRY TO BALANCE TH WITH CONCERNS OVER CRIME AND VIOLENCE. THESE ARE INCONVENIENT AND THERE ARE ARGUMENTS AGAINST THEM. RIGHTS WERE MEANT SO THAT TEMPORARY PASSIONS AND MAJORITIES WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SWEEP THEM AWAY.

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