Era of Unrest: It Is Here, Now
Freivogel, William H., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
WE ARE LIVING through a time of uncommon uncertainty about our constitutional freedoms - much of it born of fear that the social contract is torn.
The list of constitutional changes is long:
- The House of Representatives has passed a constitutional amendment to permit states to make it illegal to desecrate the flag. If ratified, the amendment would be the first to limit the First Amendment.
- A move is afoot to pass a constitutional amendment to allow organized prayer in the public schools. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court lowered the wall between church and state this year by permitting public money to go for a religious activity.
- The long trial of O.J. Simpson has led to national doubt about the venerable jury system.
- The Supreme Court ruled last month that public schools could require athletes to take drug tests, even if they aren't suspected - a step away from the traditional notion that the state has to have suspicion of wrongdoing before invading a citizen's privacy.
- Affirmative action is threatened in the courts and Congress, and school desegregation plans are being dismantled.
- The president and Congress are trying to control smut on computer and television networks.
- Gun owners claim that the right "to bear arms" means they can carry any gun they want. Militia leaders say the Constitution doesn't give the federal government authority over them or their guns.
- Congress is on the verge of limiting the writ of habeas corpus, which guarantees a prisoner a hearing to prove that he or she is illegally jailed. And it is considering an amendment to deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal aliens.
- Congress is close to giving new protection of the right of private property, beyond that already in the Constitution (an action that would jeopardize environmental rules).
Much of this constitutional uncertainty grows out of our uncertain times. Many Americans fear that freedom has become licentiousness.
City dwellers are afraid that their children might get hurt or hooked on drugs in school. They are afraid that their children aren't learning and that part of the problem is the absence of religion. …