Monday, January 6, 2014

Freedom is a Wonderful Thing

Two news stories recently caught my eye, both having to do with our freedoms in this country. In both cases, an extreme argument is made regarding some of the freedoms that are laid out for each American in the Bill of Rights. in both cases, an extreme view of the rights in question are taken, and a dangerous precedent seems to be set.

The first story is regarding that group of nuns who have sued the government over the ACA contraception mandate. While the nuns and their Catholic hospital are already exempt from directly providing contraception, they are now arguing that their 1st Amendment rights to freedom of religion allows them to deny their employees access to contraception from anywhere. In essence, they are arguing that their freedom trumps that of individual citizens that they employ. They are saying they cannot fill out the form for religious exemption because it would "deputize a third party to sin on their behalf." In other words, if you work for the nuns, you can't use contraception even if you believe in it because your employer doesn't. Thankfully, it doesn't seem like many people are buying this, and the government has already responded saying that the nuns don't have a legitimate case for lawsuit.

The second story is a bit more concerning, in my opinion. A recent case before the Supreme Court was regarding a man who claims his 5th Amendment rights were violated. According to the report, a man by the name of Genovevo Salinas was questioned by police about a double murder. He answered their questions to a point, and then he stopped. At trial, the prosecutors used the fact that he stopped answering questions against him as evidence of guilt. Salinas argued that this violated his 5th Amendment rights because he has the right to remain silent. But the Supreme Court ruled that, because Salinas was there voluntarily, was never read his Miranda rights, and did not specifically invoke his right to remain silent, his rights were not violated. That is just a bit insane. What this means is that we only have rights when we publicly invoke them. So, if you are questioned by police, you don't have the right to remain silent unless you specifically tell them you are invoking that right. Otherwise, they may be using that silence against you.

In both of these cases, suits have been filed (and in one case, ruled on) that directly impact our rights as Americans. Imagine if your employer's rights trump your own. You may find yourself working for a company that doesn't allow you to access certain healthcare benefits because they don't believe in it. You may find yourself required to submit to search and seizure unless you specifically tell the authorities you are invoking your right to protect against it. These two cases open up a whole new battle over who has rights, what those rights really are, and how far they extend.

I strongly believe that every American citizen should have the freedom to exercise their beliefs, regardless of who they work for, and that every right that is guaranteed to American citizens should be honored without having to be specifically invoked in a given situation.
Matt Wuerker

1 comment:

samp said...

My only comment here is that you too are a "victim" of this warped sense of justice. Because you volunteered to co operate and not initiate your right to remain silent even though you were not "mirandized" you fell victim to the injustice of the justice system. I've lost a lot of confidence in our justice system. I find it abhorrent that something like this can happen in a just democracy. My advise to all who come in contact with law enforcement NEVER EVER talk to them without an attorney. NEVER.. You are paying a great price for being innocent and honest..until this happened I always thought honesty was the best policy. I still do but not without an attorney present in these situation. Honesty is still the only way in the long run otherwise in all things, i.e. with the exception of "chatting" with law enforcement.