The United States Constitution turned 236 years old on Sept. 17. While most citizens associate the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with the Constitution, those words are not mentioned in this great document.
In recognition of Constitution Day, Sept. 17, and Constitution Week, Sept. 17-23, the Robert Raines Chapter of the Daughters of theAmerican Revolution will share some forgotten or overlooked facts about the United States Constitution and urge all Americans to study the Constitution and know your rights!
Did you know…
• “It’s a free country” is not in the Constitution? Amendment 1 does not include the words “freedom of expression” but over time it has been ruled to include limits to the freedom of speech/press/assembly for defamation, perjury, contempt of court, hate speech, size of public demonstrations, trade secrets, noise pollution, classified information and treason.
• The Fifth Amendment states that “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law” and it protects us from double jeopardy and incrimination. However, the phrases “innocent until proven guilty” and “presumption of innocence” are not found in the Fifth Amendment nor in any part of the Constitution. These phrases are derived from English law and are part of our system and considered common law today.
• The only place in the Constitution that “Lord” or any reference to God is where the date is written? Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.
• “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” and “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” are not in the Constitution, but both are in the Declaration of Independence?
• “Of the people, by the people, for the people” is neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration but comes from the Gettysburg Address?
• You cannot be denied the right to vote because of race or gender? But remember, the Constitution never clearly ensures us the “right to vote.” The 26thAmendment requires that 18 year-olds must be able to vote; however, states can allow persons younger than 18 to vote if they chose. The qualifications for voters are left to the states, as long as they do not conflict with anything in the Constitution. In some states, felons who are in prison or on probation are denied the right to vote.
• Privacy is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but over the years the Supreme Court has made decisions that have established that the right to privacy is a basic human right and as such is protected by virtue of the Ninth Amendment.
• Did you know that Inauguration Day is set in the 20th Amendment? The Presidential and Vice Presidential terms end and the next term begins on Jan. 20 following an election. For Senators and Representatives, it ends and begins on Jan. 3 following an election. The time between the election and Inauguration Day is known as the Lame Duck period, particularly if the president was not reelected.
• The Equal Rights Amendment, which reads in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” was proposed by the 92nd Congress March 22, 1972, but was not ratified because not enough states approved it. The main reason that states did not approve it was that the process was already in practice.
• The Constitution does not give the right to have cases heard by a jury of “my” peers? The Constitution does not have the words “separation of church and state” anywhere in it. The only crime that is defined in the Constitution is treason. Specifically, it is adhering to or giving comfort to the enemies of the United States. The Constitution neither prohibits nor encourages that the president and the vice president be from the same party.