Where Has Our Personal Freedom Gone?

I think it is time to take a look at where our legislators are leading us. America has always been based on the concept that all men are free and there should be no barriers put up barring a person’s freedom regardless of any defining characteristics that a person has. The most obvious examples are race, color, creed, or religion. But there are others, also.

There are many historical examples of what has happened when caste systems are put into place. The most obvious is Nazi Germany, where millions of people were sorted out of the population and any group that was disliked had added restrictions and requirements placed on them. Eventually, this led to their murders. Not only the Jews but Romani (more commonly known in English by the exonym “Gypsies”), Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents; which occurred regardless of whether they were of German or non-German ethnic origin. Using this definition, the total number of civilians murdered by the Nazis is between 10 million and 11 million (around 5.7 million Jews and a roughly equal number of non-Jews.

We all think about the pictures of people being loaded onto trains like cattle and taken to the concentration camps. But stop and think about what their lives must have been like before it got that far. Everyone had to carry papers with them continuously including children to show who they were and any official could stop them and ask for their papers. If they didn’t have their papers or they were out of date they were imprisoned or worse.

Names were published in local papers if they were on the disfavored groups list. And if one member of a family was defined as a member of the disfavored group the entire family suffered from that stigma. They were denied jobs and places to live. They were forced to live in ghetto type surroundings. If they did own a business it was vandalized and eventually forced to shut down for lack of clients. If they worked for someone else and their employer found out that they were on the list they lost their jobs. People on the disfavored list could then be barred from certain types of employment. They were prohibited from using state hospitals.  Public parks, libraries, and beaches were closed to them. There were communities that had signs outside their borders that literally said no Jews (or other disfavored groups) allowed. It took a world war to straighten out that mess, and millions of good people died because of what started out as registries based on bigotry and justified by saying it made society safer and protected the children.

People that believe in this type of law or even that this type of law is necessary would fit right in to the upper echelons of Nazi Germany. We have started to re-create the Nuremberg Laws from prewar Germany.

As Americans, we pride ourselves on the freedom that everyone in our country has. But today we too are creating caste’s of people that we dislike; forcing them to register and constantly update their Information. Some communities have forced them out of their homes and made zones where they cannot live; they have forced them to put signs up in their yards or have license plates that shame them for something they have already paid for. Now our politicians are trying to force a more diverse group of people to be on those registries. If we saw this happening in another country, Americans would be outraged. We like to say that the least of our people has the same freedoms as everyone else in this country. That is no longer true. We, as a country, have always had bigots and we have allowed ourselves to follow them; then later been ashamed of our actions. The most obvious examples are the way we treated blacks, Hispanics and Asian. then what we did to the Japanese Americans during World War II, and of course what happened to people black listed during the McCarthy Era Right after World War II.

If, out of your hatred, self-righteousness, or bigotry, you believe that these types of laws are justifiable, then you do not understand what it is to be an American. You need to leave this country and go live somewhere else for a while. I would suggest North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, or any number of countries in Africa. Maybe then you would understand personal freedoms and how fragile and sacred they are. Any time you pass a law that takes away somebody else’s personal freedoms you are shooting yourself in the foot and eventually you’ll bleed to death

The Supreme Court began to overturn Jim Crow laws on constitutional grounds. It took nearly 50 years to overturn these bigoted laws that took away America’s rights. The court held that a Kentucky law could not require residential segregation. The Supreme Court ruled segregation in interstate transportation to be unconstitutional, in an application of the commerce clause of the Constitution. The court held that separate facilities were inherently unequal in the area of public schools, outlawing Jim Crow in other areas of society as well, and slowly dismantled the state-sponsored segregation imposed by Jim Crow laws.

Along with Jim Crow laws, by which the state compelled segregation of the races, private parties such as businesses, political parties and unions created their own Jim Crow arrangements, barring Disfavored citizens from buying homes in certain neighborhoods, from shopping or working in certain stores, from working at certain trades, etc. The Supreme Court outlawed some forms of private discrimination in which it held that restrictive covenants that barred sale of homes to blacks or Jews or Asians were unconstitutional, because they represented state-sponsored discrimination, in that they were only effective if the courts enforced them.

It is difficult to estimate the number of victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs. Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous. Suspected homosexuality was also a common cause for being targeted by McCarthyism. The hunt for “sexual perverts” (lesbians and gays), who were presumed to be subversive by nature, resulted in thousands being harassed and denied employment.

Since the time of McCarthy, the word McCarthyism has entered American speech as a general term for a variety of practices: aggressively questioning a person’s patriotism or a person’s character, making poorly supported accusations, or to discredit an opponent, subverting civil rights in the name of national security or group safety and the use of demagoguery* are all often referred to as McCarthyism. McCarthyism can also be synonymous with the term witch-hunt, both referring to mass hysteria and moral panic.

It seems in the light of history that only when they come for you will you realize that you should have stood up for the civil and equal rights of even those that you thought were the most despicable? By giving up their constitutional rights, you will lose your own and have nobody to blame but yourself.

Second-class citizen is an informal term used to describe a person who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, second-class citizens have limited legal rights, civil rights, and economic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment or neglect at the hands of their putative superiors. Instead of being protected by the law, the law disregards a second-class citizen, or it may actually be used to harass them. Second-class citizenry is generally regarded as a violation of human rights. Typical impediments facing second-class citizens include, but are not limited to, disenfranchisement, limitations on civil service, as well as restrictions on language, religion, education, freedom of movement and association, housing, and property ownership.

If you think you absolutely have to have registration and notification. Then it is the Legislator’s duty to all the citizens of this country to set the laws down in such a way that only the less than 1% who have the probability of re-offending are placed on that list. Not a general catch all for anybody who falls underneath the definition of a conviction for a crime. This is because we have to protect the Rights of the 99.9% of American citizens that will not re-offend. But recognize as the list gets smaller the damage to a person’s life gets greater. If you put one person on that list who would have never re offend then that person is murdered by some psychopath in the community because of his placement on the list or even worse if that person goes out and commits another crime, because he feels so hopeless and lost and so cut off from the community that he can only see himself as a terrible person with no other options, this will be a direct result of them being placed on the list. Then where is the blame to be placed for the loss of that person or their new victim? On the community, the legislators, and the persons designing the risk assessments, or possibly the therapists who helped in making the decisions? They must take part of the blame for the crimes. Before anyone is placed on a list the legislative body had best layout the rules very very carefully using every tool at their disposal and find a very accurate way to determine if a person is absolutely going to re-offend because, as the Supreme Court has said time and time again, it is better to release a guilty person into the public than it is to convict an innocent one. The Supreme Court has even gone so far as to say it is better to release a mentally ill person into the community then to place a non-mentally ill person into a mental institution. That is what this country is all about—personal freedom that is not easily taken away or denied to all of its citizens.

American jurisprudence is consistent on the subject of punishing innocent people. The Supreme Court first commented on the issue in 1895, when the majority opinion in Coffin v. United States cited. Virtually all of the Supreme Court-level guilty-men jurisprudence was created in the 1970s, starting with In re Winship (1970). The majority opinion in Winship stated, somewhat noncommittally, that “it is critical that the moral force of the criminal law not be diluted by a standard of proof that leaves people in doubt whether innocent men are being condemned.” Justice Harlan’s concurring opinion, though, Athenian law, Trajan, Fortescue, Hale, and Blackstone all at once, to underscore the long history of the presumption of innocence, The Court revisit the issue in 1959 and established that “it is better, so the Fourth Amendment teaches, that the guilty sometimes go free than that citizens be subject to easy arrest.” was much stronger and has been more widely cited.  “I view the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case,” Justice Harlan wrote, “as bottomed on a fundamental value determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.”

In 1829 a D.C. court cited Matthew Hale’s 5 guilty men. The court also pointed out that if Hale’s opinion had been required, “there can be no doubt that his patriotism would have prompted him to say, that it is better that ten guilty persons should escape punishment, than that any one of those rules of the common law which were adopted for the protection of the personal liberty and safety of the subject or citizen, should be abrogated.”

Are such laws creating a caste systems really acceptable under our Constitution U.S. v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437 (1965), U.S. v. Lovett 328 U.S. 303 (1946)[, and In re Yung Sing Hee (1888) establish bills of pains and penalties as punishment without trial, and included within the prohibitions of bills of attainder. The precedent that best reflects most of the original intention of the mandates is from Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. 277 (1867). It states, “A bill of attainder, is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without judicial trial and includes any legislative act which takes away the life, liberty or property of a particular named or easily ascertainable person or group of persons because the legislature thinks them guilty of conduct which deserves punishment.”

U.S. v. Lovett was a case historically relevant. It states: “Legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a trial, are ‘bills of attainder’ prohibited under this clause. It would seem that from this forcing people to register and have the community notified would fall into that category.

Further insight comes from examining several questions. Are bills of attainder and ex post facto laws disjunctive; is one a subset of the other, or do they overlap partially but not completely? Clearly, ex post facto laws are bills of attainder when they apply to the class of convicted persons and operate to increase the penalty, or likelihood of penalty, for them. Therefore, a class of persons convicted of something can be a suspect class for which, if a legislative act imposes a penalty on them, either after sentence is passed, or not as part of the sentence, that act is a bill of attainder.

Does it have to be a legislative act to be a bill of attainder or ex post facto law? No. Executive acts, purportedly under color of authority of a legislative act, such as regulations or administrative actions, can have the effect of a bill of attainder or ex post facto law, and therefore the act which authorizes the executive action, to the extent it authorizes that executive action, is a bill of attainder, and if the effect is retroactive, an ex post facto law.

The discussion during the Federal Convention limited bills of attainder and ex post facto laws to criminal disablements, but examined more carefully, they are actually just a complementary way to restate the requirement for due process in the Fifth Amendment, and include vested property as well as life and liberty. The Fifth Amendment says constitutional rights may only be deprived by judicial due process, and the prohibitions are against doing that by legislative process or executive process not based on a court order. Together, they emphasize that any disablement of a constitutional right must be by order of a court of competent jurisdiction upon petition and proof under due process protections of the rights of the defendant.

Nearly 150 years ago in Cummings v. Missouri, 71 US 277 (1867), the Supreme Court struck a Missouri statute that required, among other persons, members of the clergy to swear a loyalty oath that they had not supported the government of the rebellion, lest they be forbidden from working. Because many citizens of Missouri were loyal to the Confederacy, they could not make such an attestation, lest they be subject to imprisonment for perjury. Though the language of the opinion does not help us clarify the question of “how to recognize a bill of attainder,” the Court held that the Missouri law acted as an unconstitutional bill of attainder and wrote: “A bill of attainder, is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without judicial trial and includes any legislative act which takes away the life, liberty or property of a particular named or easily ascertainable person or group of persons because the legislature thinks them guilty of conduct which deserves punishment”

Violation of separation of powers: There is also a fundamental constitutional problem with officials of one sovereign imposing a penalty, either civil or criminal, based in whole or in part on the actions of officials of another sovereign. It is a violation of federalism and the separation of powers. Each branch and level of government is accountable solely to its own electors, and may not delegate authority to officials of another branch or level. In Lewis, what happens if the federal government convicts and sentences someone of the offence of carrying a firearm, on the basis of a conviction of a felony in a state court, and then the state offense is pardoned or overturned on appeal? It simply does not work, constitutionally, for the decisions of a state court to determine whether an act is a federal crime. That applies not only to state criminal proceedings, but to things like protective orders, competency hearings and commitment orders, indictments, arrests, issuance of licenses or permits, or any other official action

There are ways to fight and stop these registration laws. Americans must come to realize how onerous these laws are. That they are insidiously taking away in very small bits and pieces everyone’s rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Rights people have fought, bled, and died for. If you believe in this country and what it stands for, the time is now to stop this madness and bring back all Americans rights before this country turns into another Nazi Germany.

*Demagogy or demagoguery is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes. Though this definition emphasizes the use of lying and falsehoods, skilled demagogues often need to use only special emphasis by which an uncritical listener will be led to draw the desired conclusion themselves.

9 comments for “Where Has Our Personal Freedom Gone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.