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Building Blocks of our Republic

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights is a fundamental building block of our republic. I support those rights. But every right has a corresponding limitation..

Rights, such as the freedoms of religion, of free speech, of the press, and to assemble all reflect considerations of both the individual’s right and the public good. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but tax exempt religious organizations cannot endorse political candidates or talk about politics from the pulpit. Religious accommodations are granted to the extent they do not harm others. For example, a Seventh Day Adventist, fired for refusing to work on Saturdays, was compensated, but employers are not required to permit individuals to observe whatever holy days one choses, because that “right” generated an undue burden on others.

Freedom of speech is limited: you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater; cannot use speech meant to “incite an immediate breach of the peace” or to incite an imminent lawless action; obscenity and child pornography are limited (although subject to subjective standards); and deliberately “false statements of fact” are restricted.

Limitations on freedom of the press recognize that a principal may review and suppress articles for the school newspaper given that the newspaper was funded by the school and published in its name.

The Freedom of assembly is guaranteed, even for purposes of protest, but limited in the name of the public good. Gatherings posing immediate threats to public safety can be prohibited or stopped. Protests that block freeways and bridges can be stopped. Large gatherings (like recent marches in Traverse City) require permits and are afforded police protection as a matter of public interest and safety.

The common point is that rights recognized in the Bill of Rights are granted in the name of individual and societal interest and they are bounded by that same intent—we regulate those actions, which on a personal level and in the extreme, may reasonably pose a threat to the public good.

The 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.”) deserves the same consideration. That right cannot exist without consideration of the greater public good.

In the Heller decision the Supreme Court recognized “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited”. We restrict possessing firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and restrict it from sensitive venues, including schools and government buildings. Additionally, certain kinds of firearms have been restricted. They could be again and the refusal by our Congressional leadership speaks, I believe, to their attention to the financial and political presence of the NRA and other political action groups rather than their duty to provide for the public safety.

I don’t have the full answer, but I voted to elect public servants to address both private rights and public safety issues. Failing to address this fundamental question is dereliction of duty.

Sirs, do your job.

Steve Horne Interlochen, Michigan

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