by Paul Keating
There’s a new threat to your freedom. At some point in the future the Secretary of the Army and the secretary of defense may decide you cannot serve in the Army.
Of course, we haven’t gone there yet. But the Supreme Court case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger and several similar lawsuits allow courts to intervene against a person’s choice of religious belief and values that conflict with public policy. If we allow courts to correct our government’s failure to balance liberty and security, you may not be able to serve in the military. What can the American people do in the face of such a situation?
The best way for the American people to challenge or protect their constitutional freedom is through active participation in the Constitution. That’s why I support the first amendment. It protects you against infringement on your right to speak freely. It protects you against being restricted from participating in the political process. It protects you from being denied rights conferred by the federal government. And it protects you from being deprived of your liberty.
But the first amendment does not set up a mechanism for alerting the public to abuses against individual citizens or the government. Nor does it protect you against having to defend or preserve rights that have been damaged.
When I served on the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, I could testify as a citizen. I could testify as a member of the military. And I could testify as a citizen against the actions of the members of the Armed Services Committee.
But I could not testify in support of the constitutional rights of individuals whose rights might be endangered by a vague, highly contested and speculative (to say the least) governmental action.
The opportunity to comment on or defend our rights is never guaranteed by a citizen or a state or local official, nor is it made available to individual citizens whose rights may be called into question by a legislative action.
And until we have a system that ensures to our government the ability to protect the rights of citizens to protect their individual rights, a citizen will never be guaranteed this right.