Editorial: Let’s remember our Constitutional rights in this time
–A few months ago, most of us could not imagine a pandemic might cost us our job or close our small business, or require us to shelter at home for an unknown amount of time. We probably didn’t think about losing the rights to assemble and protest, to have our day in court, to purchase firearms, to maintain our privacy. Were we thinking wrongly? Are these rights not inalienable?
We want to help save the most vulnerable. We want to do our part to “flatten the curve.” We encourage social distancing and voluntary cooperation with these new orders. We also ask, aren’t our Constitutional rights equally essential?
Last week, the County of San Luis Obispo decided which businesses are allowed to stay open and those deemed “non-essential.” Firearms dealers were initially listed among the “non-essential.”
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson consulted with county leaders and reached an agreement that firearm shops may stay open. We commend the sheriff and county for defending this important right.
Another right that needs protection is “due process.” The Constitution says no one shall be ‘deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.‘ These words are a promise that all levels of government will operate within the law and fair procedures.
Last week, the Justice Department asked Congress for the authority to suspend habeas corpus and court proceedings, which could permit citizens to be held indefinitely. SLO County announced last week that courts have limited their operations, except for the most critical matters. SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow assured us today that the courts will carry on with reviewing important cases.
We are being asked to comply with many new orders, and trust our government officials to look after our best interests. Many of our public servants are working around the clock. We applaud their efforts.
This coronavirus is a real threat, let’s not downplay that. Studies show it is twice as infectious as the seasonal flu, and is 10 to 30 times more deadly. Its uncertainties are troubling. We are concerned about the virus and also concerned about our livelihoods and our American way of life.
When we lay our heads to bed at night, we think of our families, our friends, and our community. We believe a joint, communal, and multi-faceted approach is needed to bring us back to normal.
Questioning the decisions of our leaders is important, perhaps now more than ever, during a time when our civil liberties could be vulnerable.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate those rights:
The Bill of Rights
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
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.
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
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- San Luis Obispo County COVID-19 website – readyslo.org