The title of this post is taken from Kathleen Parker’s excellent editorial on this topic which was published yesterday. My father has a saying. When 20 people say you’re drunk, it’s time to lay down. It appears that we have a president who is three sheets to the wind on preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution, drunk on his own power, and oblivious to the fact that the very thing he covets will eventually hang him, IF (and it’s a big IF) We, The People, are vigilant.
Do you think Mr. Obama simply woke up one morning and said, “You know, all women in this country deserve free birth control and abortion services. In fact, they have a right to receive free reproductive services. I’m the president of the United States. I can take care of that.”
[callout]Right to reproductive services? While there is a right to freedom of religion, there is no right to reproductive services[/callout]Obama Plan A: push the “reproductive rights” agenda by mandating religious organizations pay for these services. OOPS! That didn’t work. Move to Obama Plan B: push the “reproductive rights” agenda by mandating insurance organizations pay for these services. Result: less religious backlash, but the root behavior – exceeding Constitutional authority – remains. By moving to Plan B, Mr. Obama has lessened the wrath of religious organizations, but failed to address the real issue. He has taken the focus off of the well-known first amendment, and shifted his violation of the Constitution to amendments nine and ten, which are not as well-known by our primarily ignorant electorate.
Fortunately for The People, the Constitution forbids this type of action, but only if we can see the affront to liberty that this behavior creates. I think Andrew Jackson, in his farewell address said it best. “But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.”
Although much of the debate this week has focused on religious freedom within the context of rights of conscience, I believe that the violation of the first amendment is actually a secondary consequence to the real threat, which is violation of the ninth and tenth amendments. I’m not going to go into the details of the debate on birth control and abortion services. Many have commented on these during the course of the week, and I can’t add anything to the conversation. For an excellent article on the topic, checkout the recent article on Bad Catholic.
The first amendment to the Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” The first amendment goes on to enumerate rights of free speech, press, assembly and petition. I include this only to point out that the founding fathers ranked freedom of religion first in this list of rights. I, for one, don’t think this was an accident. I think they thought (as do I) that freedom of religion was and is that important.
Moving right along, the ninth amendment to the Constitution states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” What this amendment is saying is that any powers granted to the three branches of government that are not enumerated in the Constitution are given to the people, AND that the Constitution should not be interpreted (construed) to include rights and powers not explicitly enumerated.
Finally, the tenth amendment, which is similar to the ninth, states, “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.” The consequence of this amendment is that states, through the representative voice of the people of those states, may decide rights and powers that are not explicitly granted to the federal government in the Constitution. An example of this would be gay marriage. Under the tenth amendment, states may determine for themselves, bound within their borders, the will of the people of their state and incumbent only upon their citizens. An important point is that legislators of the state do NOT have the power to usurp such rights and powers without the voice of the people.
What powers are specifically granted to the federal government? The Constitution spells this out. Article 1, Section 8 defines the powers of the legislative branch, Article 2 Section 2 defines the powers of the executive branch, and Article 3 Section 2 defines the powers of the judicial branch. Focusing on the powers given to the executive branch, the president commands the military, and has the power to make treaties, appoint the Supreme Court and other judges, appoint ambassadors, appoint the Cabinet and heads of departments, and make recess appointments. This is the extent of the explicitly enumerated powers of the executive branch. Period. End of story. That’s all she wrote.
It is clear that the Constitution draws tight lines around the powers granted to the Federal government. And herein is the crux of the argument. Mr. Obama has unilaterally asserted a power to force citizens and/or organizations to purchase a specific product. He has done this ostensibly because women, “Have a right to reproductive services.” There is no right to reproductive services in the Constitution. There is no power given to the executive branch of government to create such a right. Therefore, such a power is given to the States to decide, or to The People to retain. Forget that this is an affront to religious rights of conscience. It is an affront to the Constitution, and will only be allowed to stand if it is granted sanction by the people through indifference and lack of action.
“Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind those we are obliged to trust with power…. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1799