In a word, yes. The “Patriot Act” was one of the single greatest assaults on our Constitutional Rights that this country has ever endured. It seems, however, few people either realize this or believe it. But history tells us a very different story.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s Germany was nearly bankrupt. Its economy was in free fall, unemployment was extremely high, and there seemed to be no hope. Adolph Hitler took advantage of those extreme circumstance to wrest control of a constitutionally based government into a government-run at the whim of an individual political party, the Nazis. Hitler used fear and prejudices early in role as chancellor of Germany to convince the German people that his draconian measures were necessary for the German economy and for the survival as Germany. The German people allowed their fears to control them and fave Hitler carte blanch. It was not long before those who opposed what he was doing to be called unpatriotic and arrested. Laws were changed to suit his political ambition. The judicial branch became so compromised that it was rendered impotent. What happened after that was very predictable. We know the history from then on but can such things happen in America today?
The degree to which Hitler took things in Germany are unlikely to happen in the U.S. but that does not mean we are immune from treading on similar grounds. One of the best known portions of the “Patriot Act” was the corruption of our absolute right against unreasonable search and seizure, the 4th Amendment. What it did was allow certain government agencies the right to search without a warrant, the right to wire-tap without a warrant, and the right to detain people without the ability to retain an attorney or be charged within 24 hours. Our 5th, 6th, and 7th Amendment rights, the right against self-incrimination, speedy trial, and trial by jury were all compromised. Americans allowed their fears to control them and so allowed Pres. Bush to put this act in place with very little opposition. What we should know, it is harder to repeal a law than put one in place. We need to be extremely judicious and cautious about any law that even gives the appearance of reducing any of our Constitutional rights.
Another very common attack is the one against our first amendment rights, the part that says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In 1963 a woman named Madeline Murray O’Hare challenged the reading of the Bible in public schools. I can tell you I personally believed her to be the devil incarnate at the time. Prayer in school was a tradition. The furor raised over the issue at the time was immense. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayer and Bible reading in public schools was unconstitutional.
It took me a long time to get my arms around this but I now see that such separation is absolutely necessary. One simple question needs to be asked of each person. Whose prayers or whose Bible would we read and say? There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of translations to the Bible and just as many different religions. But just as importantly is the right of an individual to not believe in God and therefore, not be put in a position where someone’s God is forced upon them. And that is exactly what the writers of the Constitution were thinking when they proposed this amendment. They knew of the English law requiring the Church of England be part of the government and they did not want that repeated in the U.S.
Section 8 of the constitution states that Congress shall have the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;” That power is being systematically eroded by powerful political action committees. Various industries in the United States, and abroad, have formed coalitions to prevent or reduce regulation of their business. These PACs have become so powerful that they know they can sway a Congressional vote to favor them at almost any time. This is an absolute assault upon us because the government is “of the people” as Abraham Lincoln noted. Nowhere is there any reference to our government being responsible for the well-being of individual commercial adventures, and yet that is exactly what is happening today.
We need to jealously guard of civil rights and question anyone who even suggests we give up even the smallest portion of any one of them. We cannot become complacent about protecting them because any freedom lost is doubly hard to regain.