“…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law…” Mr. Emiliano Gonzolez was never charged, let alone convicted, but he still looses his life savings. The State gets to keep the $124,700 they seized from the car he rented. Under congress’ Forfeiture Act a drug dog barking at a rental car, used by possibly hundreds of people, is enough evidence to convict his money of drug trafficking.
Continuously reinterpreting and expanding the meaning of the Constitution has weakened our liberties from freedom of speech, association, religion, the right to assemble, assumption of innocents, among others. It has given the police state new liberties, including no-knock-warrants, warrantless phone taps or searches and, as the above victim can verify, assumption of guilt. This is due to an idea that the Constitution is a “living document”, that it is some how outdated or, as others reason, for society to interpret the intent of it. The Constitution as a “living document” is dangerous and has contributed to the erosion of our liberties.
Changes in the meaning of the 5th Amendment have undermined the stability of property rights. At first the words “public use” meant just that, roads, post offices, and government buildings, a little later railroads and utilities where added. Then in 1954 the Supreme Court in Berman v. Parker, unannounced to Mr. Webster, proclaimed the word “use” to mean “purpose” for fighting blight. The loss of protection the 5th Amendment provided the lower classes was only the beginning. Land grabs by gluttonous, cash starved municipalities increased. With each grab the courts allowed additional leeway in the reasoning for it. Some like GM were given older middleclass neighborhoods to build plants, that would supposedly create jobs. Others like Lakewood, Ohio for condominiums or Susette Kelo and her neighbors whose properties are planned to go to the multi-million dollar company Pfizer. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in the Kelo v New London principal dissent, “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing a Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or an farm with a factory”
Speaking of farms, Roscoe Filburn was fined $1606.08, adjusted for inflation, for having the audacity to grow more wheat then the Secretary of Agriculture gave him permission to. In Wickard v. Filburn the Supreme Court said that Mr. Filburn’s wheat still fell within the interstate commerce clause; not because it went over a state line but since he didn’t have to buy wheat, he affected the supply throughout the US. In theory, this means that if the Secretary of Agriculture feels that the country has too many tomatoes he can ban your grandmothers garden.
Wickard v. Filburn allowed Washington’s tentacles to taint even medicine, reaping needless suffering and, unfortunately, death. Several states have passed medical marijuana laws. This gave glaucoma suffers the ability to see, cancer and other terminal illness victims relief from their pain, and the bodies of AIDs victims the ability to keep down their life saving medications. The Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich, once again using the “living document” mentality, declared that the state and its people had no right to decide what was best for them; not because the medicine was transported over state lines but merely because it could be. Peter McWilliams an AIDs and cancer victim, died on June 14, 2000. Unable to hold down the drugs without the marijuana treatment a doctor had prescribed to him but a federal judge had forbidden him to use, he drowned on his own vomit. That same so called pillar of justice had prohibited the defense, in his trial, from telling the jury that Mr. McWilliams needed the marijuana to keep down his medications, or even that it was prescribed by a doctor and legal in California.
The Declaration of Independence states we have “…certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…” These rights were not given to us by politicians, judges or a document. They are natural, obtained by our existence, they are our birthright. The framers of the Constitution believed that it was government's duty to protect these rights for us against anyone that would take them away. They also mistrusted men of power, those who as the protectors, could become drunk with power, abuse their positions and become the very ones that they were to protect our rights from. For some time now politicians and judges have ruled over us by using the "living document", saying its meaning can be changed to fit the needs, wants, demands, and even ideology of large, powerful groups. If this is true our “unalienable Rights” are no longer rights protected by the Constitution, but privileges granted or denied us by the courts and the whims of politicians. Tomorrow grandma's garden could be outlawed or the State might decide to give her home to the Seneca Casino and take her pain killers away. Then again, the police might decide her walker can transport drugs and convict it.
Alexander Hamilton feared a democracy leading to politicians catering to the masses at the expense of the individual; Thomas Jefferson feared a strong central government catering to the rich and big business would do the same. To which Jefferson proclaimed, "In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution." The “living document” mentality is shattering the chains that kept the State and politicians from acquiring unlimited power and the Supreme Court keeps hitting it with an ideoligical sledge hammer.