December 15 is “Bill of Rights Day” — a day to celebrate, honor and renew support for our precious Bill of Rights.
It was on December 15, 1791 that the Bill of Rights — the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution — went into effect.
One hundred and fifty years later, in 1941, December 15 was officially proclaimed Bill of Rights Day.
Some classrooms will hold Bill of Rights Day discussions, and some citizens and organizations will celebrate Bill of Rights Day.
Still, most Americans remain tragically unaware of the significance of this date. As Chris Bliss of MyBillofRights.org observed in 2011:
“The sad fact is that at this key crossroads in the life of our nation, the Bill of Rights is barely taught in our schools anymore, and is nowhere to be found in our public square. Worse, it is so uncelebrated in our public discourse that last December 15, while flipping through the morning news shows, I heard the following on no less than three networks: ‘It’s December 15, and you know what that means? It’s National Cupcake Day!’”
All Americans should be familiar with their Bill of Rights freedoms. Sadly, numerous surveys indicate most are not. A 1991 poll commissioned by the American Bar Association found that only 33% of Americans even knew what the Bill of Rights was. In one Gallup poll 70% did not know what the First Amendment was or what it dealt with.
The Bill of Rights is, of course, the great protector of American liberties. It boldly declares that people have certain inalienable rights that government cannot abridge — fundamental rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and more. It also provides procedures for defending those rights — such as fair trials and limits on federal power.
The Bill of Rights doesn’t belong just to America. It has inspired freedom fighters around the world. The Founders viewed their Revolution as the first blow in a struggle to win liberty for all the people of the world. The Bill of Rights is truly a document for everyone.
Thomas Jefferson made this clear in a letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”
Bill of Rights Day is a great time for letters to the editor pointing out the vital importance of our Bill of Rights freedoms — and urging citizens to stand up for the Bill of Rights and reject the too-often-heard calls by politicians to sacrifice our precious liberty for (alleged) security.
Bill of Rights Day is a great time for speeches, public events, and other creative celebrations. For talking with family, friends, colleagues about this American treasure.
Here’s something that might be helpful. Several years ago students at Liberty Middle School in Ashley, Virginia prepared a short summary of the Bill of Rights.
While this condensed version doesn’t have the majesty, depth and detail of the entire document, it is short and easy to understand, and may be useful to you in discussions and letters. I’ve edited it just a bit.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS: First Ten Amendments to the Constitution
1. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to assemble peaceably, right to petition the government about grievances.
2. Right to keep and bear arms.
3. Citizens do not have to quarter soldiers during peacetime.
4. No unreasonable searches and seizures.
5. Rights of the accused.
6. Right to a fair trial.
7. Right to a trial by jury in civil cases also.
8. No cruel and unusual punishments.
9. Unenumerated rights go to the people.
10. Reserves all powers not given to the national government to the states or the people.
As Adam Summers of the Reason Foundation observed in The Libertarian Perspective:
“The Founders must be spinning in their graves. Nearly everything the government does today is unconstitutional under the system they instituted. Governmental powers were expressly limited; individual liberties were not. Now it seems it is the other way around. …
“If the Bill of Rights is to regain its meaning, we must rededicate ourselves to the principles it asserts and be mindful that a government powerful enough to give us all we want is powerful enough to take away everything we have.”
Let it begin with you. This December 15, remind all Americans that we are, as the National Constitution Center puts it, a nation of “Bill”-ionaires.
Happy Bill of Rights Day!
Yours for Liberty,