History is fascinating as it teaches us about ourselves and our nation. To study it is not an effort to dwell in the past as much as it is understanding what has shaped us. For instance, on September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States approved twelve amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and sent them to the states for ratification. These amendments were known as the Bill of Rights and were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens. We hear about them all the time but what were they? Could you name them if you were asked?
This Bill of Rights, as it was known, guaranteed the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the exercise of religion, the right to fair legal procedure and perhaps one of the most controversial, the right to bear arms; it ale stated that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states and the people. These were sweeping amendments that have deeply shaped our country and individual lives.
George Mason, a Virginian, significantly influenced these rights. He was a known critic of the final draft of the Constitution for lacking protection of basic political rights. As the Constitution was ratified by the states a bargain was struck. Mason and other critics agreed to approve the Constitution in exchange for the assurance that amendments would immediately be adopted. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was adopted with the required two-thirds majority of states.
These freedoms are quintessential America. They have been narrowly interpreted and broadly interpreted and often completely misrepresented and ignored by the general population during different periods of our nations history. I would love to tackle the amendment known as the “establishment clause,” which deals with religion but I will wait for another day.
Think of the freedom you have. We often limit ourselves from achieving what we are able, while complaining about how others keep us from achieving. If you were to write your own Bill of Rights, what would you include? I would include the study of the Bill of Rights for every citizen. We need to know what freedom means and not just toss the word around. Be free and know why. So much of our nation is founded on religious principals held by the “Founders.” It is easy to forget that so many of these people were deeply faithful leaders. I for one thank God for their foresight.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for selfishness, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13