Still land of the free?

July 3, 2008
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Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a celebration of America’s birthday and all the freedoms we have as American citizens. The U.S. is the “land of the free,” but it sometimes feels like it’s slowly turning into the “land of the free – in certain circumstances.”

We are afforded certain unalienable rights by our Constitution, but is one of them the right to smoke? Smoking bans are happening across the country. Depending on where you live in Indiana, you may not be able to smoke in any public building or smoking bans may be limited to those buildings that admit minors. What justification does the government have now for limiting people’s rights to smoke a cigarette when 50 years ago, people could smoke in the workplace, on television, and just about anywhere they pleased.

States have passed laws telling us that we can’t use our cell phones when driving or we are only allowed to use a hands-free set. States argue it’s for the safety of everyone on the roads, but then why aren’t there laws banning applying makeup while driving, eating while driving, or singing at the top of your lungs to your radio? Those things can be distracting to drivers as well.

Some laws may have good intentions – to protect minors from obscene material – but are overbroad, such as the law struck down Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. House Enrolled Act 1042 wanted to protect kids and communities from materials that are considered obscene, but the law actually violated First Amendment rights, according to the judge on the case.

Then there are the people who protest Victoria’s Secret stores’ displays of mannequins wearing lingerie. The protesters believe these scantily clad plastic figures erode the morals of society and negatively influence their children. Instead of either avoiding the store when they are with their children, explaining that the mannequins are dressed the way they are because it’s a lingerie store, or actually discussing the birds and the bees with their children, the protesters want the government to step in and cover up the mannequins.

How far is too far for the government to step in and begin to micromanage Americans’ lives? Are we still the land of the free or are we less free than we were when the country was founded?

The IL staff will be out of the office for the Fourth of July, but we’ll be back Monday with a new post.
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