Mitchell Hamline Professor Mike Steenson: The Constitution gives freedom a voice

Mitchell Hamline Professor Mike Steenson: The Constitution gives freedom a voice

Editor’s note: This series of explanatory columns began last Sunday with an overview by Professor John Radsan and continues today with a discussion of “rights” from Mitchell Hamline Professor Mike Steenson. Here’s more about the series . We all have different concepts of what our basic rights are. We might think we have a right to a living wage, or a right to adequate housing, or a right to food security. Constitutional rights are a little different. The Constitution does not give us a right to demand something from our government. Rather, the Constitution gives us certain freedoms from government interference for certain actions we might take (or refuse to take). In general, government (federal, state, or local) must act in order for us to have a claim that it has violated our constitutional rights. The Constitution was adopted in 1789, but it did not include what we commonly refer to as the Bill of Rights. There was a dispute at the time the Constitution was being considered for ratification by the states. There were serious concerns that the broad power given to the federal government would make it easy for the government to infringe on important rights and liberties. The Federalists, supporters of the Constitution as originally written, argued that the United States government would have only the power given to it in the Constitution and that the Constitution did not give government power to interfere with those basic rights and liberties. The opposition, the Anti-Federalists, argued that […]

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