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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Jul 31, 2008

Since Welcome Home Troops: Thanks For Your Service is the theme of this year’s Sweet Corn Days, we thought it would be good to review some of the basic rights for which our troops have fought and died.

We want to offer a special welcome home to our Guard unit, active duty and reserves.

Amendment 1 to the Constitution of the United States

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is probably one of the most misinterpreted amendments to the Constitution. Note that it specifies both the Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” That means that the government cannot force us to worship a certain way. And neither can the government keep us from worshipping the way in which we desire.

Many laws have been made in various attempts to rectify or interpret how religion should be practiced. How far should that freedom go? One standard is that one’s freedom can go as far as the next person’s nose. So if practicing a particular religious practice infringes upon another person’s right to worship, then it should not be allowed. Should Utah have been forced to outlaw polygamy, a fundamental Mormon religious practice, before the state was allowed to enter the union?

Abridging freedom of the press is of course something with which all journalists are continually concerned. That is why we have an open meetings law in Iowa and a federal Freedom of Information Act. For more information, see www.iowaattorneygeneral.org/images/pdfs/Openmeeting and www.usdoj.gov/oip.

The right of people to peaceably assemble means that we can assemble just so long as it does not interfere the rights of others.

In an interesting related case, on June 5, 1978, the Village of Skokie, Ill., filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court requesting review of the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals 7th Circuit, rendered in a case in which the Nazi party wanted to march in a neighborhood occupied by known Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust. The point later became moot when the City of Chicago relented and permitted the group to march in Marquette July 9 of that year.

The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances means that the government should be open to and acceptable of any reasonable suggestion for change by the public. If if the government is not responsive, our alternative is the ballot box.

For a discussion of more of the first 10 amendments comprising the Bill of Rights, see Friday’s Daily News.