Bill of Rights Day

Lisa Gollihar and Gail Hanna

Did you know that Dec. 15 is Bill of Rights Day in the United States?

This important date commemorates the day in 1791 when the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a historic radio address and stated, “No date in the long history of freedom means more to liberty-loving men in all liberty-loving countries than the 15th day of December 1791.”

Well, why did we need a Bill of Rights if we had the Constitution?

The Declaration of Independence makes clear that “all men are created equal [and] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” and that the purpose of government is “to secure these rights.” The Bill of Rights added a safeguard to protect the basic freedoms, rights, and liberties of American citizens and to prevent the abuse of power or usurping of individual rights by the central government.

The First Amendment prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion and protects the freedoms of speech and assembly. The Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The Third Amendment is intended to protect citizens’ rights to the ownership and use of their property without intrusion by the government. The Fourth through Eighth Amendments protect the rights of people suspected of committing a crime and put limits on searches and seizures. The Ninth Amendment was added to make it clear that the Bill of Rights was not a complete list of the rights granted to the people. The Tenth Amendment says that the federal government only has the powers mentioned in the Constitution. If it is not listed, it belongs to the states or to the people. Its purpose was to keep a check on unlimited federal powers.

On Oct. 27, 1964, at the Republican National Convention, President Ronald Reagan gave his famous freedom speech, saying, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” The protection of freedom he spoke of began with the brave men who insisted on having a Bill of Rights, and we need to continue to place a high value on preserving and protecting our freedoms today, or they will be gone.

Let’s join in celebrating the Bill of Rights Day in 2022!