The Bill of Rights is constantly in the news, especially for hot-button topics such as gun rights, freedom of religion, and eminent domain. Not every issue has a clear answer, as the clarity of the law often relies in interpretation.
An article by Harrison Berry states that Idaho’s House of Representatives has passed a measure making concealed carry legal in city limits to persons of 21 years of age and older without a permit. It also allows concealed carry for persons 18 years of age and older outside of city limits. The bill is awaiting signature from the governor to take effect. The House approved this bill with an overwhelming 54-15 vote (Berry, 2016).
This bill definitely upholds the 2nd amendment, which states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” (Bill of Rights, 2016). This bill poses less infringement on the right of the people to have weapons. Opponents to this bill argue that this will increase gun violence and unintentional gun violence, but the 2nd amendment clearly states it as a right.
In Georgia, the first amendment and right to religious freedom is under debate. Georgia is trying to enact a religious-liberty bill which will stop forcing religious organizations to perform same-sex marriages. However, the bill also allows religious organizations to discriminate regarding employment and the use of their facilities. Gay rights groups argue it is against the bill of rights, but religious groups say it is unconstitutional to have to perform acts against their beliefs.
It is complicated to determine whether or not this bill provides more or less discrimination, but the first amendment says that government shall not make laws regarding an “establishment of religion” (Bill of Rights, 2016). This has been paraphrased and accepted as all-encompassing religious freedom. I am in a quandary regarding this issue. I could argue that it gives religious establishments the freedom intended by the Bill of Rights, but I could also argue that the first amendment does not allow government involvement. In that case, religious organizations would be forced not to discriminate based on other civil liberties afforded the public through other laws. If that was true, religious organizations would not be allowed to discriminate, much like they are not allowed to murder.
The last event related to the Bill of Rights is an eminent domain lawsuit from St. Louis. The city wants to take, or purchase, 100 acres to give to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to build a facility inside the city. They’ve recently included 13 more properties in an amendment to their suit. Due to a competitive larger amount of land from a different city being offered pro bono to the NGA, the city would also offer the land to the organization for free.
The government has the right to exercise eminent domain, so long as they are compensating people for the land they take. There is a lawsuit to ensure that all persons are justly compensated, and this upholds the 5th amendment because there will be compensation that is court-determined to be just. According to the article, there is little conflict in regard to the amounts offered for the land, but there is some.
Each of these current events clearly involves Bill of Rights issues, and some are more clearly-defined than others. I argue that the right to bear arms and the right of the government to take land with just compensation are fairly black-and-white. The issue of religious freedom is more of a grey issue and not so clearly delineated. Clearly, there is not one issue that is crystal clear, as far as interpretation of the law is concerned, and that is why opponents and proponents of each issue are in heated, passionate debates over it that could result in lengthy litigation.
- Altman, M. (2016, March 18). City’s eminent domain suit for NGA land expanded. St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved from http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/city-s-eminent-domain-suit-nga-land-expanded
- Berry, H. (2016, March 18). Permitless concealed-carry gun bill clears Idaho legislature, awaits gov’s signature. Boise Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/permitless-concealed-carry-gun-bill-clears-committee-sent-to-idaho-house/Content?oid=3741834
- Bill of Rights of the United States of America (1791). (2016). Bill of Rights Institute. Retrieved from http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/
- Choksi, N. (2016, March 21) Gay rights group wants Hollywood to walk if Georgia enacts religious-liberty bill. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/19/nfl-suggests-religious-liberty-bill-could-affect-georgias-super-bowl-bid/