Literal, sarcastic interpretation of the Bill of Rights

After the Second Continental Congress did a hatchet job with the Articles of Confederation, the Philadelphia Convention set out to right a few wrongs.

What became of that effort is now known as the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, which was written over a four-month span in 1787 and ratified in 1788.

In the more than 200 years since then, life for the average American has changed drastically. Some amendments have become practically obsolete while others have taken on new meanings based on technological advancements and Supreme Court rulings.

Below is a list of the amendments, with my satirical and not-to-be-taken-seriously interpretations.

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.

But corporations are entitled to deny health benefits based on what their pastors tell them on Sundays. If you know a governmental secret, you had better not tell a reporter. And, of course, you cannot, under any circumstances, even think about saying “bomb” on an airplane.

Second Amendment: 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.

Unless you are a convicted felon. And I wonder what well regulated militia Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold belonged to.

Third Amendment: 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.

So when we finally tap into domestic Marcellus Shale deposits and Pennsylvania becomes the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, that could create conflict on the homefront. Just remember, soldiers need consent from land owners to stay at their residences.

Fourth Amendment: 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.

We are all spied on. Social media and Internet activities can be and are constantly monitored, so you are never really secure. If you get pulled over, step out of the vehicle. And hand over that cellphone while you’re at it.

Fifth Amendment: 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.

Unless bureaucracies want to widen a road, run a pipe through your backyard or make your storefront a war zone. Then a price is named and you take it. That qualifies as just compensation. Because the government said so. Now hand over that property.

Sixth Amendment: 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.

I am not even going to beat around the bush here. There is nothing, NOTHING, not a thing speedy about trials these days.

Seventh Amendment: 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.

I wonder what $20 centuries ago equates to now, considering inflation and all that.

Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Depending on your crime, however, we might kill you. And if we really want you to remain jailed while the legal system churns its way forward at a sloth’s pace, we will make your bail unaffordable. Or even deny it altogether.

Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This is where people like to pretend the Bill of Rights guarantees privacy.

Tenth Amendment: 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.

So if the feds neglect to mention it, the ball is in your hands. Yup. Or the states’ hands. Go crazy, governors and state houses. Go crazy.

About Mark Walters

Adams County reporter for The Evening Sun in Hanover. You can find me somewhere between Adams and York counties.
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