Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bill of Rights Day 2009

Each December 15 since 1999, the Jefferson Area Libertarians have celebrated the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution with a gathering in downtown Charlottesville. Last year and this year, the gathering took place at the First Amendment Monument near City Hall, an appropriate place for such a commemorative ceremony.

Charlottesville libertarians were not the only people marking Bill of Rights Day today. Cato Institute legal scholar Timothy Lynch put a sadly dismal assessment of the current state of civil liberties on Cato's blog, Cato@Liberty (ending, however, with a brief optimistic note). A blog named Bungalow Bill's Conservative Wisdom asked its readers to "take the time to read the Bill of Rights" and courteously provided the entire text, including the seldom-read preamble. (The whole thing -- preamble, too -- was recited in Charlottesville today as part of the celebration. You can watch the video, below.)

In the course of my research for this post, by the way, I found a satirical article about a Third Amendment advocacy organization and a reference to the only Supreme Court case litigating that provision of the Bill of Rights, Engblom v. Carey. As it happens, there are a number of Facebook groups devoted to the Third Amendment, including one called the National Anti-Quartering Association and another called 1,000,000 People for the Third Amendment, which has 3 members.

And, lest we forget the broad and inclusive reach of the U.S. Constitution, a colleague forwarded me a link to an article with a reminder the the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, even gay and lesbian students in government schools. Freedom of speech and freedom of association are basic human rights.

The program that the Jefferson Area Libertarians began, as noted, with an acclamation of the Bill of Rights, led by JAL's James Curtis.

Curtis was followed by radio talk-show host Rob Schilling of WINA-AM. Rob, who is also a former Charlottesville city council member, talked about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, two elements of the First Amendment. He noted, in reference to free assembly issues, that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann named local civil-liberties champion John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute as the "Worst Person in the World." The reason for this honor? Whitehead has asked Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA5) to move his office to a place where citizens can peaceably assemble in order to petition the government for redress of grievances, without also violating the rights of the owners of the property where the office is located. (Perriello's current office is on private property where Tea Party-like protests disrupt the business of his neighbors.) Olbermann's left-handed compliment to the protection of property rights can be found here, on YouTube.

Other speakers included Dr. James Lark, the former national chairman of the Libertarian Party, who noted that the Bill of Rights limits democracy while protecting individual liberties and human rights, and local entrepreneur Paul Perrone, who spoke about the importance of the Tenth Amendment.

The keynote speaker was Christopher Horner, a scholar with the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in energy and climate issues. Horner is the author of Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism). Given his field of expertise, naturally, he addressed how proposed "cap-and-trade" legislation -- whether Waxman-Markey, which passed the House of Representatives in June, or Kerry-Boxer, which is happily languishing in the U.S. Senate -- will adversely affect the civil liberties of Americans. As John Munchmeyer put it in his introduction of Mr. Horner, by regulating carbon dioxide as an evil pollutant, "I guess this bill is going to regulate life at its basic core," because CO2 is what humans exhale and what plants use to make oxygen.

Here are the speeches from today's Bill of Rights Day celebration in Charlottesville, divided into six segments:

Part I -- Reciting the Bill of Rights:

Part II - Remarks by Rob Schilling:

Part III -- Remarks by Rob Schilling (continued):

Part IV -- Remarks by Jim Lark:

Part V -- Remarks by Paul Perrone:

Part VI -- Remarks by Chris Horner:

You can see video of the Charlottesville Bill of Rights Day celebration of 2007 here, and Bill of Rights Day 2008 is here. (Update: I also found video from 2006, with further information about that year's event here.)

Update: The Daily Progress had a nice front-page photo of the event, featuring John Munchmeyer passing out copies of the Bill of Rights, in today's paper. It is not, of course, available on the Daily Progress web site. There is, however, a page one story about John Whitehead and Keith Olbermann.

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