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 Chapter 6

The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights

NO human document is perfect. Only the Word of God can be claimed to be perfect because it is inspired of God, the source of infinite wisdom. Yet it can be articulately argued that the words crafted to protect the citizens of the emerging United States of America come closest of any human document to that perfection. This is undoubtedly because many of the framers of the Constitution deeply revered the Word of God and the principles enunciated in the Scriptures. Though not American, we have tried to look objectively at these documents.

Having not been educated in the United States, we do not have the complete scope of American history background that is available to those who are educated citizens of this nation. However, both of us have studied history extensively. Both of us have a major in history in our baccalaureate degree from the University of Sydney, and so we came to our study not in complete ignorance of the background that led to the Declaration of Independence, the establishment of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Nor are we unmindful of the history that led to the developing freedoms in Great Britain which represented increasing understanding of the true freedoms that governments must preserve for the citizens of their nations. The impact of the Magna Carta, 1215, while making little change to the quality of life for the average citizens of Britain, did widen the authority and power of the barons of England. The peasants’ revolt of 1387, led by Watt Tyler, though in many ways leading to a tragic outcome, nevertheless can now be seen as a stepping stone toward the freedoms of the common citizens of England.

In the wake of the forced abdication of King James II, the British Bill of Rights of 1689 promised greater freedom and rights for the ordinary citizen of that nation than had been granted to any people in the Christian era. In this world, freedom is rarely achieved without bloodshed. American freedom was no exception, being won at the loss of both British and American lives during the War for Independence. While such sacrifices are mourned at the time, subsequent generations who enjoy the blessings of such benefits often give little thought to the sacrifices of the past. Thus these freedoms are taken for granted, leading to the peril that step by imperceivable step, those freedoms suffer erosion.

Freedom is the result of constant vigilance, for small steps of change become large steps, and large steps become giant steps. The United States is fast changing the intent of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which intent is rapidly being destroyed by invalid legal interpretations. One of the best memorized sections of the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America is in the Preamble, as follows:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Declaration of Independence

These are powerful words, but we would offer some comments on the issue of the pursuit of Happiness. We see happiness as a result, not a right. Indeed, we believe that one of the more dangerous practices is the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness frequently leads to the greatest unhappiness. Men and women who pursue happiness find that it is a bottomless pit, because such a pursuit is inevitably built upon egocentric and selfish goals. The Bible teaches that happiness is the result of walking in the ways of the Lord.

Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways, For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Psalm 128:1, 2

And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Deuteronomy 10:12, 13

The only pursuit that will lead to lasting fulfillment and happiness is the pursuit of the ways of the Lord. Certainly we can strongly support the concept that these rights of liberty can be secured only when—

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Declaration of Independence

It took courage for the representatives of the thirteen colonies to sign what would be seen as a treasonous act against King George III. The people of the United States chose a republic rather than a monarchical form of government. Their experience with King George III no doubt had strongly influenced this decision. But deeper than this was the belief that no one should by right of birth have right of rulership or control over his fellow humans. It was the hope that no one be excluded from the highest offices of the land. These men believed that no person was qualified to rule simply by right of birth. They felt rather that ability, integrity, and talent ought to decide who should hold responsible positions in government. Further, it was decided that only someone affirmed by the people themselves through the electoral processes would have the right to hold high offices in the land.

It was four years after the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, that the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments), effective December 15, 1791, guaranteed the highest level of protection for the citizens of the nation. What is most difficult for the authors to understand, is how men of such noble understanding of freedom as Jefferson, Madison and Henry, could be content to see these freedoms withheld from the African slaves of the new nation. The subsequent fight for emancipation and equal protection under the law for all citizens has indeed been a hard-fought one; one that has reflected, often unfavorably, upon the dominant white majority.

The Bill of Rights also guaranteed the American people the freedom to worship according to the dictates of their consciences. No provision has sustained these freedoms more effectively than the First Amendment,

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.

The First Amendment, in the most emphatic way, guaranteed the separation of church and state. While it can be argued that the Bill of Rights does not use the clause "separation of Church and State," it cannot be argued validly that the concept of church-state separation is not inherent within the words of the non-establishment clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This principle of church-state separation that has been held so nobly up to recent times, however, is rapidly being eroded, not by a constitutional convention, but by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. (See chapters 7 and 8.) With regard to the two great arms of freedom, civil and religious, any violation in either area steers a nation closer to oppression.

Also of special interest to us is the Second Amendment to the Constitution: "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." The more than two centuries that have elapsed since this article was incorporated within the Constitution have greatly eroded its effectiveness, as is explained in chapter 9, entitled, "The Rise of Tyranny." The high goals of the framers of the Bill of Rights have been eroded by the march of technology. In contrast to the eighteenth century, governments can amass weapons of mass destruction beyond anything likely to be ordinarily available to a citizens’ army. This makes the people of the United States, or indeed any nation of the world, far more responsible to protect these freedoms through the electoral box and through the jury system, so that the sacrifice which led to the freedoms in the first place will not be lost. We reject out of hand the only other alternative, the use of terrorism.

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