Residents urged to celebrate their freedom safely

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

As Kenai Peninsula residents get ready for the Fourth of July, we hope this year's holiday will mean more than just a day to enjoy parades, picnics, barbecues and fishing. We hope it also will be a time to reflect upon just what it is we're celebrating.

Independence Day, which is Sunday, marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the document has been described as "the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty." Many of the freedoms we hold so dear today, however, were set forth in what is known as the Bill of Rights, the original 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments were passed by Congress Sept. 25, 1789, and ratified Dec. 15, 1791. Reacquainting ourselves with our Bill of Rights is perhaps one of the best ways to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy today:


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.


A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.


No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


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.


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.


In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Because of this Bill of Rights, we as Americans are able to enjoy the freedoms we will celebrate Sunday.

Also, we'd like to remind you to use good judgment when celebrating our nation's independence. Each year, far too many Americans are injured or killed this time of year because of careless behavior on the roadways, on the water and with fireworks.

Remember, local law enforcement agencies will be out in force this weekend, watching for violations of drunken driving and fireworks laws.

Please show your pride in America this year by celebrating a safe and happy Fourth of July.

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