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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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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