Yesterday, I wrapped up my summer by attending the Minnesota State Fair. While there, I had the fun of watching a true piece of Americana: a bull riding rodeo competition.
Exciting? Absolutely! The bulls were bucking, the cowboys were flying, and once the rodeo hands had to scatter, practically scaling the walls of the arena in order to get out of the way of a particularly perturbed animal ready to trample whomever stood in his way.
But even more inspiring than the excitement of the rodeo were the opening exercises which preceded it. You see, the Master of Ceremonies did something which is rather unusual in this day and age: he reminded the audience of the many freedoms they continue to enjoy under the Bill of Rights. Several of these, he noted, were being enjoyed by the audience at that very moment, including the right to peaceably assemble together and watch the rodeo, as well as the right to freedom of speech and religion, which he went on to exercise by opening the rodeo with a word of prayer.
His words inspired me to take a look at the Bill of Rights and refresh my memory concerning its contents. After all, we will not value what we fail to remember.
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 offence 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 defence.
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 re-examined 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.