Does the AmericanConstitution guaranteefreedom? A presentation by Group 3
We will consider…What the US constitution is and why it was madeThe freedoms within the first amendmentThe Bill of RightsThe right to bare arms and how this relates tofreedomThe patriot act and Guantanamo BayJudicial Review
What is the American Constitution?The American constitution is arguably the singlemost important document in US politics.It is a guidance for effective, but not oppressivegovernance in America.The constitution is dynamic as it can be formallyamended or revised with consideration ofeconomic and political progression.Is the constitution about freedom or security?
The Philosophy behind the ConstitutionThe constitution was influenced by John Locke‟s ideas whichopposed the concept of „Divine Right of Kings‟ and stated thateach man has natural rights.The constitution was designed to protect these basic naturalrights, such as life, property and most importantly freedom.Another of Locke‟s ideas was that governments heavily rely onthe consent of the people.So the constitution was aimed towards maintaining theindependence of the citizens, whilst allowing America to moveforward.
The Separation of the PowersThe purpose of the separation of the powers was toprevent despotism and tyranny.It was vitally important that none of the institutionshad too much power because otherwise the peoplewould not have a say, and their freedom would bethreatened.Rational, autonomous beings should be allowed tomake choices for themselves, others do not knowbest.
What is the Bill of Rights?Bill of rights is a collective name for the first 10amendments to the constitution.They serve to limit federal governmental powersand protect the natural individual rights ofAmericans and their property.
Why was the Bill of Rights needed? Growing fear of creating a strong dictatorial government resembling the pervious British rule. This is what sprung the anti-federalist movement into action. Too little to late: Constitution was already being ratified and no alterations could be made. So they proposed a set of individual rights that limited federal governmental powers and their jurisdiction.
Strong anti federalists likeJames Madison assertedthat the bill of rights wasboth necessary andproper.He contended that themajor danger to personalliberties came fromcongress rather than theexecutive.„all powers necessary andproper to carry into effectthe foregoing powers‟Article 1, Section 8,Paragraph 18: ImpliedPowers Clause James Madison, 4th president of United Sates of America
What freedoms does the Bill of Rights refer to?The amendments were drawn because theconstitution did not clearly state what the federalgovernment were not to do. Therefore, the bill ofrights carries a theme of „freedom from‟Republican freedom = Freedom from domination.Individuals lose their freedoms even when theyare not subject to interference.
Does the Bill of Rights guarantee freedom?The bill of rights has stood the test of time and hasbeen able to adapt to changing America. There hasbeen great social and economic change since itsexistence. In recent years, these 10 amendmentshave been appealed to more so then ever before.First Amendment – protects the freedom to believeand practice any religion peacefully. This isguaranteed in a series of Supreme court rulings.Fourth Amendment - to restrict unreasonable searchand seizure of property by governmental authorities.
The Right to Bear Arms A guarantee of freedom or simply a security measure?
The Second AmendmentAmendment II of the American Constitution: Awell regulated Militia, being necessary to thesecurity of a free State, the right of the people tokeep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.There has been much debate about what shouldbe considered as a „well regulated militia‟ andwhether the „the right of people to keep and beararms‟ is only when involved in this militia.
The wordingThe operative statement of the amendment is„the right of people to keep and bear arms‟. Sothe right to bear arms is protected in theconstitution but is this only to provide for a statemilitia? The amendment does not mention theneed for arms for hunting, self-defence orenjoyment. It is simply said that the right to beararms is needed for a militia.
In the modern worldMilitia groups within the USA claim to beprotecting the constitution and are willing to fightagainst an oppressive government. Howeverthey are often considered a form of domesticterrorism and are classed as such by the FBI.Gang crime
Supreme CourtFound that: „The Second Amendment protects an individualright to possess a firearm unconnected withservice in a militia, and to use that arm fortraditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defence within the home‟
A guarantee of freedom?While at the time of writing the right to bear armswas needed in case of future oppression orinvasion, the amendment is now archaic asmilitia groups are no longer made up of theordinary citizens they used to be. The right tobear arms is now used to excuse the massmanufacture and sale of weapons. This is aproblem with written constitutions, as they areharder to adapt to the modern world of automaticweapons and gang crime.
The Patriot Act Is a highly controversial piece of legislation, passed by the U.S Congress and signed by president George W. Bush on 26 Oct, 2001. This act, was the legal response to the September 11 attacks, granting increased powers to law enforcement and antiterrorism agencies. Most aspects of it are still in effect today.
Main aspects Lifted many legal restrictions from law enforcement agencies concerning the collection of intelligence, domestically in the United States. Allows law enforcement and immigration agencies to detain and deport individuals suspected of terrorism-related activities. Broadened the ability of the Secretary of the Treasury to regulate financial institutions, in an attempt to fight money laundering, both in the US and internationally.
Concerns and Criticism While the US Congress passed this Act almost unanimously following the 9/11 events, a large percentage of the public disagreed with the increased powers the government received, and on repeated occasions described the Act as “unconstitutional”. Critics of the Patriot Act support the law has made it too easy for law enforcement to spy on people. “The law cuts too deeply into personal liberties and privacy rights”.
What about immigrants? Under Section 412 of the Patriot Act it states : “An alien detained....may be detained for additional periods of up to six months”. The article ironically is named : “Limitation on Indefinite Detention”.So where do these suspected-terrorist prisoners go, for 6 months?Special holding facilities?US public prisons?
Not exactly.US Naval base, Guantanamo bay,Cuba. “The Legal Black hole.”
General information-Established in January 2002, still active.-Considered outside U.S. legal jurisdiction.-Detainees do not have the right to anylawful representation or fair trial.-Detention time is only determined by the authorities managing the base, in accordance to the provisions of the Patriot Act.-Many former prisoners have complained of torture and mistreatment occurring in the camp.
Most definitely.-It is not a matter of personal opinion. Arresting someone without charges and keeping them imprisoned indefinitely with no chance of fair trial, is simply against the constitution and what it was meant to provide.-The US Supreme Court, in 2008, ruled that the proceedings in Guantanamo Bay are unconstitutional and that the prisoners there have the right to Habeas Corpus, i.e. the right to be brought before a judge after being arrested (Which is guaranteed in the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments).
Judicial ReviewDoes judicial review coincide or just interfere with the constitution?
Amendment 1 of the American constitution Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting thefree exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom ofspeech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Cohen v California Was this case a violation of his right to freedom of speech? Cohen was arrested after wearing a t-shirt brandishing the words „Fuck the Draft‟ as a policeman found it offensive as families were present it was a violation of section 415 of the California Penal Code
Judicial review a judicial re examination of the proceedings of a courtAlexander Hamilton- Judicial review helps the courts ensure that the will of the whole American population is supreme over the will of legislature. Few other countries allow for the same authority and none have exercised it as strongly as America
In conclusion…The American constitution carefully balances freedom with the need to live in a civil community, and if this meanshaving to allow for judicial review then so be it for the good of the people. But… As shown in the bill of rights there can be contradictions It is outdated and in some ways cannot be updatedAnd, some practices within America have not followed the constitutional law, so how can the constitution be guaranteed when it is not followed strictly.