The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
As I continue my series on the amendments to the United States Constitution, I come today to the Fourth. As with the others, it deals with a basic American freedom that remains important today. Like the Third Amendment, it reminds us that the government should not and does not have complete power. No one person or collection of people (in this case the government) can walk over the person/rights/property of another without a darned good reason. Might, in other words, does not make right.
Issues of national security have in particular tested this principle in the past decade, and questions about its practical application remain. Let, like the other amendments, the fact that it exists provides for a necessary pause or period of reflection that is essential to the continuation of a free society.
Thinking a little deeper, though, I wonder if sometimes various partisans apply different levels of strenuousness to the amendments. For some , bearing arms (2nd) with little limitation is held as an inviolable axiom. So too the fact that the government has no right to control their property (3rd). Yet when it comes to “offensive” free speech or warrants for terror suspects, they might be a little more lenient. For others, it is easy to imagine an almost inversion of this: the supposed inviolability of 1st and 4th Amendments, with the 2nd being a bit more negotiable. And then there’s this: the sense that these amendments are always meant to work in our favor, but on occasion ought not to be applied to “others.”
Perhaps I’ve created some “straw men” here and ought not to have. (After even a little reflection, I do think I have.) Short-form blogs can, after all, favor the simplistic. But the question remains: are we willing to consider whether we apply different methods of interpretation or application to different portions of our nation’s Constitution…and, if so, why?
I can imagine that good reasons exist. Whether they do or not, let’s talk about this.