Five Things You Thought Were in The US Constitution
We've all heard people shout, "It's my Constitutional Right!" or "That's Unconstitutional!", but how much of that is actually true? While there may be court cases that questioned some of the items in the Constitution, or laws that state otherwise, does the average person actually know what is in the Constitution? Here are five "Constitutional Rights" that you may not actually have...
I'm Innocent Until Proven Guilty!
This is a popular misconception of what the Constitution states. In the United States, you're actually guilty if you did the crime, no matter what you think your rights are. Our legal system only presumes innocence until it is otherwise proven that you did it. The concept of the presumption of innocence is one of the most basic in our system of justice. However, in so many words, it is not codified in the text of the Constitution. This basic right comes to us, like many things, from old British laws. Although, it has been a part of our system for so long, that it is considered common law. What you can find in the Constitution is your Right To Remain Silent (which means information can't be forced out of you) and your Right To A Trial By Jury (so you can try and prove your innocence).
No Taxation Without Representation!
Ahhhh, the rallying cry that gave rise to the birth of a nation. Not in the Constitution, however. If you aren't represented in the United States, you still have to pay taxes (whether you do or not is subject to opinion). Those taxed without proper representation in government include: Convicts, Immigrants (the legal kind), and Citizens of Washington, D.C. What? It's true, Washington D.C. does not have a vote in congress. While, they have been allowed to have 3 electoral college votes and a silent member of the House of Representatives (without voting rights), the people of our nation's capital don't get to say "Boo" when it comes to our Federal laws being made. Where did the notion of "No Taxation Without Representation" come from? It evolved out of the Sugar Act of 1764. The British levied a tax on food to help pay for the French-Indian War. It became a rallying cry for colonists to have Independence. They cared less about having a vote in Parliament. Don't believe this is one of your Constitutional rights, however, because you won't find it there.
I Have A Right To Vote
Well...you might, but it isn't in the Constitution. The Constitution contains many phrases, clauses, and amendments detailing ways people cannot be denied the right to vote. You cannot be denied voting privileges due to race or sex. You have to be 18 years old to vote (this used to be 21, until people realized you could be drafted to die for your country, but not allowed to vote). However, the Constitution never gives you the Right to Vote. It does state that Representatives be chosen and Senators be elected by "the People," and who comprises "the People" has been expanded by amendments several times. Aside from these requirements, though, the qualifications for voters are left to the states. As long as the qualifications do not conflict with anything in the Constitution, that right can be withheld. For example, in Texas, persons declared mentally incompetent and felons currently in prison or on probation are denied the right to vote. It is interesting to note that though the 26th Amendment requires that 18-year-olds must be able to vote, states can allow persons younger than 18 to vote.
There's A Separation of Church and State
No there's not. At least not in the Constitution. Where we get this concept is through a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists in 1802. In it he said that there was a "wall of separation" (from which Jefferson stole from English philosopher John Locke - not the guy from "Lost"). Years later, in 1878, the Supreme Court mentioned it and nothing was said again until 1947. The phrase is commonly thought to mean that the government should not establish, support, or otherwise involve itself in any religion. Yeah...that's not the case. Really, the Constitution offers Freedom of Religion, which means you can't be forbidden from holding office because you don't believe in a "Government sanctioned" religion. It means that the U.S. isn't a Theocracy. However, this also means that you can choose not to worship any religion and you should also not be able to dictate how other people practice their religions. People - on both sides of this argument - take this too far.
The Federal Government vs. Immigration
Since this has been in the news so much, I thought this should be included into this list. First off, the Constitution never mentions immigration, so how is it that the rules for immigrants, and quotas from countries, are set by the federal government and not by the state governments? The Supreme Court has ruled that the Congressional power to regulate naturalization, includes the power to regulate immigration. According to their thought process, it would not make sense to allow Congress to pass laws to determine how an immigrant becomes a naturalized resident if the Congress cannot determine how that immigrant can come into the country in the first place. The United States, as a sovereign nation, has the right to determine who comes within its borders. Where the issue becomes gray is that the 10th Amendment allows for states to control that which isn't the Constitution. The Federal government falls upon their naturalization jurisdiction. The future may prove very interesting when it comes to the new Arizona law.
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