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Saturday, July 22, 2006

U.S. Constitution First (and Fourteenth) Amendment 

Good time for a reminder of the actual text of the first amendment to the U.S. constitution:

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.

And before we get all hung up on the word "Congress," here's Section 1 of the 14th amdnement (emphasis mine):

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Here's what usconstitution.net says about the link between these two amendments:

[The 14th Amendment] states that no State shall make any law abridging the rights of any of its citizens without due process of law. The 14th Amendment is important, but the first clause is the most important. Prior to the 14th, states were free to ignore the Bill of Rights; a series of Supreme Court rulings made it clear that the Bill was to apply to acts of the Federal Government only. With the establishment of the 14th, the Bill, or at least parts of it, is made to apply to state law, too....

In the 1900's and 1930's, [the Supreme Court] extended the clause to the protection of workers against state regulations, allowing national standards for work conditions and minimum wage to be set. The due process clause has been used to extend most Bill of Rights Amendments to some extent, and is the basis for the "Right to Privacy" extended in the in infamous Roe v Wade decision....

Note: some have tried to argue that because of the representation reduction clause and the implications on States' Rights, that the 14th Amendment is unconstitutional. However, since it is an amendment to the Constitution, it cannot possibly be unconstitutional. Some argue that it was passed in an unconstitutional way, which is an interesting and plausible argument. The fact remains, however, that it is a part of our Constitution, and deserves as much respect as any other part, unless it is at some point repealed.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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