Top 10 Things That You Think Are In the Constitution (But Aren’t)

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For any true blue American who drinks Bald Eagle tears and pisses Freedom, the Constitution of the United States is one the most important pieces of paper in history. It is the foundation on which the country was built, thrived and became the superpower it is today. Therefore, it’d be logical to assume that the people of the US has, at the very least, actually READ the damned thing, right? Sadly, judging by the number of misconceptions people have about the Constitution, the answer seems to be a “No.” Did YOU know that the Constitution makes no mention of…

10. “(The) Pursuit of Happiness”

life liberty

Immortalized at its most orthographically incorrect in the hit Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” the phrase is known by heart by almost every American: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Seven simple words which put into law our inherited right to live, be free and be happy. But wait. You and I are all the saddest sacks this side of the Suicidal Burlap factory and the government is not using stimulus money to send us to Bali and protect our rights to be happy. What gives?

What gives is that the phrase is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. It actually comes from the Declaration of Independence which—while still being a very important historical document—is about as legally binding as your 2nd grade writing assignment where you declared that you’ll be an astronaut when you grow up. The 5th Amendment does protect our rights to “life, liberty and property” but not happiness. Apparently you have to earn that stuff the old fashioned way: by marrying a dying billionaire.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_happiness

9. God

God

There’s been a lot of debate whether the US is a Christian nation and what the legal consequences of that are. It’s a complicated issue with valid arguments at both sides of the debate but you have to admit that if the Constitution itself makes references to God or Jesus then religion (specifically Christianity) should have at least some part in our legislative process, right?

I dunno. Maybe? But the Constitution actually makes no mention of God. Not once. Zero. God in the Constitution is like the Loch Ness monster: crazy people will swear they totally saw it there but when you actually go to check it out all you end up with is a big fat pile of nothing. To be totally fair, there’s that ONE part in the Constitution that says: “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven” but if that’s a declaration of religious beliefs then Carl Sagan is a diehard theist for using the terms “BC” and “AD.”

Source: http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_reli.html#original

8. No Taxation Without Representation

taxation

When Young America was rallying its future citizens to go and kick the British right in the crumpets with a pair of steel-tipped boots, the one phrase that could be heard everywhere was “No taxation without representation” – a protest of the unfair taxes imposed on the colonies by the British crown. Surely the battle cry of the revolution had to make its way into the Constitution of the ensuing country, right?

Of course not. It’s actually quite scary how many taxes are levied today in America without any representation.  Most of those ARE taxes imposed on foreigners (both laborers and tourists) who have no representatives in the US government so it might not seem like such a big deal to you if you’re a regular citizen. But know that the Constitution, as it stands now, really doesn’t protect you from being taxed without representation somewhere down the line.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_taxation_without_representation#Modern_use_in_the_United_States

7. The Right to Vote

the vote

Voting. It’s one of the most basic things we ask of a developed nation: for its citizens to have an active part in the governing of their country. The US Constitution actually does mention voting a number of times, like how you cannot deny anyone the chance to vote based on gender, race etc. But nowhere in there is there a mention about the unequivocal RIGHT to vote.

Why does that matter? Because it means that states can pretty much deny the right to vote to anyone they want, as long as it’s not based on gender, race etc. You might have gathered as much if you knew that, say, convicts are not allowed to vote, as there’s nothing in the Constitution that would protect their rights to vote. If tomorrow the government of California decided that fat people cannot vote because, I don’t know, God told them to, it wouldn’t really be unconstitutional. And that, kids, is why details matter. Well, that and performing self-circumcision (don’t ask.)

Source: http://www.salon.com/2006/09/21/no_right_to_vote/

6. Unrestricted Freedom of Speech

freedom of speech

OK, this should be simple. Freedom of Speech. Love it or hate it, you’d have to be some Communist Nazi to hate it. And the fact that I can call you a Communist Nazi, hypothetical straw man whom I’ve just invented, is all thanks to Freedom of Speech, aka the First Amendment, which gives us the right to say whatever we want, when we want, purple cat banana pudding.

Oooor so you’d think. The First Amendment is actually pretty clear on that one: Congress will make no law to stop you from shouting “Poop penis!” at a nunnery and that’s great but it doesn’t say anything about laws NOT passed by Congress. Take a typical college campus. If tomorrow your college decided to ban the public uttering of verbs then that would be A-OK with the Constitution. The office you work at forbids you from using the letter E in conversations? Tough luck – perfectly legal. If that depresses you, take comfort in the fact that the above also mean that it’s illegal for some dumbass to yell “Fire!” in a crowded cinema. We just have to take the good with the bad.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States

5. Paper Money

paper money

When you get down to it, paper money really doesn’t make sense because it has no monetary value. Yet we all agree to sort of pretend that it does because the government promises that it won’t collapse overnight and we won’t be forced to hunt each other for sport and food. With such high stakes, the usage of paper money MUST BE carefully defined and controlled by the Constitution, mustn’t it? Well, it’s not.

You can try arguing that the Constitution doesn’t mention paper money for the same reason it doesn’t mention iPods: because back then all transactions were done in chickens and sexual favors. But of course printed money did exist back then, and it was a pretty hot topic. The original version of the Constitution did explicitly permit the government to print paper money but many of the dignitaries were so against the idea that the phrase had to be taken out of the document. In reality, the only reason we have paper money today is because of an 1871 Supreme Court decision, which frankly doesn’t sound like a reliable foundation for the biggest economy on the planet.

Source: http://www.usconstitution.net/constfaq_q154.html

4. Marriage

marriage

Lately all talks of marriage seem to be of the gay variety and its validity. No matter what your opinion on it might be, we can all agree that it’s an important social issue which needs to be resolved and what better place to start with than the Constitution? So what does the document say about marriage? Is it solely a union between a man and a woman?

But of course the Constitution makes no mention of marriage. Social conventions, which marriage is a part of, is not really something you worry about while founding the crap out of a country. The issues of what constitute marriage are thus left entirely to individual states because who’s better suited to decide what’s “normal” for a society than state-level legislature?

Source: http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_marr.html

3. Innocence Until Proven Guilty

innocent

We arrive at yet another fundamental block of our democracy. Presumed innocence until you are found guilty in the eyes of the law, judged by the jury of your peers, as the Constitution clearly says. It’s a truly beautiful thing when you think about it; a beacon of enlightenment which probably blinded the other nations with its wisdom and human decency when it was first introduced in the U.S. Constitution!

But was it really? Nah. The concept is actually more British than tea and rampaging wealth disparity because that’s where it originated: In British law. The Constitution makes no mention of it because by the time the document was drafted the Presumed Innocence bit was so common throughout the Western world that it actually did become common law, so it was in no need of codification. Which, if you’re been following this closely, cannot stop anyone, especially the government, from crapping all over the idea like a flock of pigeons with digestive-tract infections, if they wanted to.

Source: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/innocent-until-proven-guilty.html

2. Jury of Your Peers

jury of peers

Hey, speaking of court proceedings. Let’s say you’ve been arrested but the System is framing you, man! You have absolutely no idea how that half a bag of weed got into your apartment but whoever planted it there also cleaned out your fridge and really smoked up the place. You’ll fight the charge, dammit! You’ll plead your case to a Jury of your peers—as the Constitution guarantees you—and win! Ha!

Well, the Constitution does make mention of juries in a couple of places guaranteeing that you get one and that they are impartial. But the “peers” part? That ain’t there and never was, and for good reason, because how do you even define a “peer”? What criteria are to be used? And how can I even have peers if I’m the most awesome, handsomest person in the universe? It’s an ontological nightmare, and is therefore not mentioned in the Constitution. It’s also why rape trial juries aren’t stocked with other rapists.

Source: http://www.crfc.org/americanjury/jury_peers.html

1. Separation of State and Church

church and state

Great, so the US Constitution is actually full of legal crap and not red-blooded American freedom and God. Next we’ll probably find out that besides specifically guaranteeing separation of state and church (as everyone knows) it also makes it mandatory for every 12 year old to burn down at least one church, right? Damn, you can be so dramatic, overly-dramatic straw man! Also wrong, because there’s no separation of state and church mentioned anywhere in the entire Constitution.

The phrase actually comes from a Thomas Jefferson letter where he was commenting on the 1st Amendment but you might be surprise to learn that personal correspondence has no legislative power. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion but that doesn’t mean that a government, be it federal or state, has to separate itself from religion. And you probably already knew that, only didn’t want to admit it. From Creationist textbooks to Gov. Rick Parry (not a typo) calling in a prayer meeting, state and church are really more in a controlled separation spiced up with occasional one night stands rather than a full-on divorce. All those two love birds need to get back together is a pair of rascally twins and a good helping of shenanigans!

Source: http://www.usconstitution.net/jeffwall.html

By Rick Raule


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37 Comments

  1. Time to correct you:

    1. The concept of “a jury of your peers” is found in the Sixth Amendment, where, and I quote, “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”. The concept of “peers” doesn’t mean your friends – it means the people in the state and district you live in.

    2. The concept, if not the words, of innocence until guilt is proven, is found in the 5th amendment where a person cannot be “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. That means that they are innocent (and thus, able to be deprived of life, liberty, or property) until found guilty.

    3. Despite what it says on the internets, a right to vote is guaranteed under the Articles of the Constitution, not the Amendments. Article 1 dictates that the House is to be elected every 2 years “by the People of the several States”. The Senate was originally chosen by the legislatures. The President is chosen by electors, and while the Constitution doesn’t say how the electors should be chosen, most states switched to popular election back in the 1800’s. This means that there is a right to vote, so long as you meet the basic requirements (18 year old adult whose rights have not been taken away by due process).

    • First of all, way to be a condescending know it all. “Time to correct you”, I wonder if you get pleasure in that.

      Second, all your examples of Correcting the author are leaps of logic, they don’t actually say what you are inferring. Exact wording in which we all have lived on never appears in the constitution, just like when popular quotes are attributed to sources they never came from. This is the same thing. So shamble off back into your dungeon and search the internet for more proof on how everyone is wrong but you.

      Thanks

      • Yes, it does give me pleasure. Lots of pleasure. Thanks for asking.

        The leaps of logic I am correcting are called “accepted legal interpretations of the US Constitution”. What the author did was to pull from a bunch of sources on the web without actually checking to see exactly what those sources were or if there were any contrary opinions on the subject.

        But hey, while I’m at it, let me point out a few other things:

        4. Taxation without representation. Again, while the exact words “taxation without representation” don’t appear in the Constitution, it does say, in Article I, Clause 8, that “Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises”. Since Congress is representative, that means that taxation with representation is ultimately guaranteed by the US Constitution.

        5. Paper money. Boy, did the author miss the boat on this one. For one, the Constitution empowers Congress to “coin Money”. The definition of “coining”, however is very flexible. The 1871 SCOTUS ruling referred to by the author was Knox v. Lee, where the court found that the government had the right to issue representative paper money to cover the coinage. Subsequent rulings (such as Juiliard v. Greenman) backed this decision and ultimately led to the interpretation that Congress has the power to regulate the money supply. And as much as the author would like to toss aside the repeated opinions of the Supreme Court as not being a “reliable foundation”, their interpretation is the law.

        Hope this helps me feel better about myself. I also hope that the opportunity for you to complain about my comments helps you feel better about yourself. I’m all about the love.

        • 5minutes ur kinda missing the point….the author is saying those things are not literally in there quote for quote. Yes we understand how it is interpreted and such where those things came from but not quote for quote. So just take a chill pill and relax guy, not as big a deal as you are making it out to be….

        • And the point you’re missing is that the constitution is an interpretive document and that the items I listed are interpreted as actually being in there. The other point you’re missing is that several of the items I listed are actually in the constitution, word for word: trial by jury of your peers and the right to vote.

          See, the author went off to other websites that had these items and “borrowed” the material. Had they actually taken the time to read the constitution (as they suggested Americans don’t do in the opening paragraph), the author would’ve caught these errors.

        • tryingtobereal on

          5minutes: I don’t understand how you can say “I’m all about the love.” when you make comments like these. I do understand that this article may not be 100 percent correct, but is that really a reason to get all worked up? If you truly want to be all about the love, then be slow to anger and quick to listen. Love is patient and kind, and listening is a great way to learn–and learning HOW to love is just as important as liking the idea of “love.” Please take this the best way possible, as I am just another man trying to make it in this world, just like you.

          just tryingtobereal

        • Wow. Welcome to a year-old article.

          Here’s an idea, just a suggestion: go to a dictionary and look up “sarcasm”. Get back to me on that.

        • tryingtobereal on

          Yep, sarcasm. Good stuff!

          Now do me a favor and look up the word “respect” you might learn something. In fact, you could learn a lot!

          As Bryant H. McGill has said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

          Obviously, you did not do that. Please note in my last post that I stated, “please take this the best way possible, as I am just another man trying to make it in this world, just like you.” In that I meant that there is no hate needed here, and I certainly did not post that in order to call you out to the rest of the users, only to voice my own opinion and to maybe help you out. Is voicing your opinion not why you started posting here as well? I respect your opinion, even though I may not agree with it 100 percent, however, it is your own opinion. And I also respect that you would be courageous enough to voice it. I would like to share a mutual respect with you, but at this point, I see that it probably is not going to happen.

          once again,
          just tryingtobereal

        • I used to feel respect was earned too, but then I thought that means I don’t respect anyone until they earn it? That doesn’t make sense. So I think respect is given to everyone, but it can be taken away if it isn’t appreciated.

    • Like I'd Tell You on

      That’s exactly what I was thinking… The article was awful, and those things are all very obviously implied in the Constitution. The article was clearly clickbait. 🙁

    • Zsopa fortunately did motmake it but then thered:’s acta and much worse like rece t law allowing indefinate detention without charge, trial, lawyer or anything really but the gov’ts decisioj to do so. OF course it’s “xonly for terorists”. How do we know the prisoner is a terrorist if there is no trial? Would your goverment lie to you? Anyone can now be be snatched at will and locked up forever for any reason pr no reason. Of course no one in our goverment would ever abuse this power, or make a mistake, or cover up an error or their own corruption. Constitution? Pfft! That old thing? By bye land of the free. Don’t get me started on the unpatriotic acts. Won’t callit patriot acts because patriots support the constitution

  2. Did any of you people actually check out the sources in this thing? It`s not like the author pulled this out of his ass.

    • Read 5minutes’ responses above. The author may have quoted sources, but many are incorrect interpretations, or the author is incorrectly interpreting them.

  3. I think the author took some artistic license with this article. Maybe the exact wording is not in the constitution but the many of the concepts are covered in the Bill of Rights (Admendments) if not in the Constitution itself.

    One common miss that should be in the list is “All men are created equal” which does not appear in the Constitution but is in the Declaration of Independence.

  4. First amendment of the US Constitution – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    The author missed the first part of the first sentence of the amendment…

    • “Congress” shall make no law…………..
      Does not say the U.S.
      Review the meaning of each word not just part of the phrase.

      • Considering we’re talking about the U.S. Constitution, and the Congress is a part of the U.S. government, I’m pretty sure they’re referring to the U.S. Congress and not that of another country….

        Which Congress did you think they were referring to?

        • A BiPolar Guy on

          I think he was implying that other us government bodies – state and local level – are not covered. I think the courts disagree, reading it that congress – meaning the lawmaking branch, is a general statement that covers all lawmaking bodies in the US.

    • There is a great deal of debate over the interpretation of the 1st Amendment. The SCOTUS has adopted Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between the state and religion, but in doing so, has opened the door to effectively establishing secularism as the state religion.

      My own interpretation is this: I think the courts have gone way too far in denying the right of religion a role in our government. Just because Congress is forbidden from establishing a state religion doesn’t mean that religion and the state are whole and separate and should always be thus. The founders certainly didn’t view it that way, as they established a government that acknowledged God in practice if not in law.

      And we have to remember that government is made up of people, and those people have religious beliefs. To expect them to give up their beliefs and values the minute they adopt the role of a government official is as wrong as expecting them to sign an oath of loyalty to a church.

      Or, to put it another way: while I think a moment of silence in schools in the morning is OK, a teacher-led prayer is not.

      Allowing faith-based organizations to provide charity through government agencies is OK, but allowing only specific religions is not.

      Local governments setting up passive nativity displays and menorahs during the winter holiday season is fine.

      Holding a candlelight Christian Christmas Eve service led by city officials on city property is not.

      Inviting multiple members of the community to open government meetings with a non-sectarian benediction is OK. Opening the same meeting in the name of Jesus is not.

      • Your comments are intelligent and insightful. What the hell are you doing on the internet? It’s not safe here for people like you. GET OUT…SAVE YOURSELF!

      • Secularism is neutral. It doesn’t choose a religion. It is “nonreligious.” The Founders? did not establish a government based on any god. They purposely left all gods out of government. They were still trembling over the Salem Witch trials during which Christians had burned their own to death, including children. No way did they want to mix religion and politics. I think you need to study early political records and read accounts by the like men Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. You will find our Founders were secularists and Deists, not Christians. *shudders* You are not for RELIGION in politics. You are for CHRISTIANITY in politics. I doubt you’d be happy having Sharia Law enacted for those who believe it should be in place.

        Allowing faith-based government control opens the door for fundamentalist control. This includes the control of ANY faith. Perhaps even one that YOU don’t like. Think about it.

        No one asks anyone to give up their faith when they assume a government position, but they need to keep it in the privacy of their homes. If you are a Christian, then do as your bible says and pray in the closet. Thanks.

        And I know I’m replying old posts, but oh, well.

        • A BiPolar Guy on

          not that it effects your main point, but in the interest of accurate history – the Salem trials were in 1692 – 96 years before constitution was written in 1788. So I don’t think any one was trembling even metaphorically. No one was burned, they were hung. Although some were accused, nor children were killed or even brought to trial so far as I know. 19 men and women were hung on 4 different days, 5 more died in prison. Sometimes you get the impression that all one had to do was accuse someone in this hysteria and they were condemned, but more actually were acquitted than convicted.
          In additional support that religion and government should be separated – the trials were very likely an example of people manipulating religious ideas for personal and secular reasons – not really the act of sincere believers. It’s not certain, but personal grudges seem to have been a major motivator of accusations. The 3 girls often blamed as major accusers only did so under great pressure form adults – another evidence of personally motivated manipulation of the system.

  5. The author would have been better off saying that these PHRASES are not to be found in the constitution. The concepts are there, either inferred (people vote every two years for House representatives) or penumbral (rights acknowledged by the courts as essential to the intent of the constitution but not specifically ‘enumerated’, such as the right to privacy.) To note another example, while colleges and workplaces may limit speech, they cannot extend that to off-campus or off-work.

  6. Very poorly researched article. Separation of Church and State, the Right to Vote, Trial by Jury of Peers, Innocent Until Proven Guilty, all these are CONCEPTS found in the Constitution, but not under that exact phrasing. Just like the 3/5ths Compromise isn’t to found under a heading “3/5th Compromise for Counting Slaves”, but IS in the Constitution. Author might as well say “Holy crap! Did you know that the Constitution doesn’t even mention the 37 other states! Told you they didn’t actually exist…”

  7. To find out what is, or is not, in the Constitution of 1790, use this Word document of the original Constitution of 1790 to do a Find and Replace for various terms. So, if you want to challenge all the political rhetoric in this article, and in the all the comments shown here, do your own search with this tool:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1z_i8tC4gepB0Mxg97tgZk9MojOSL3js-3_DVQKr3zwg/edit

    For example:
    democracy: 0 times
    capitalism: 0 times
    citizen rights: 0 times
    voting rights: 0 times
    conservatism: 0 times
    war: 9 times
    taxes: 3 times
    states rights: 0 times
    freedom: 2 times
    slavery: 2 times
    liberty: 3 times
    welfare: 2 times
    election: 12 times
    power: 42 times
    lobby: 0 times
    corporations: 0 times
    states: 133 times
    religion: 2 times
    laws: 13 times
    guns: 0 times
    firearms: 0 times
    bear arms: 2 times
    crime: 9 times

  8. A BiPolar Guy on

    when you are are dealing with concepts, not specific words, such a list of words as posted is next to useless.

    Is a word absent? That proves nothing – the concept contained in a word may be expressed without using the word (for example every definition in a dictionary does this.)

    is a word present? Likewise means nothing. A word may mean different things in different contexts (again see how dictionaries provide multiple meanings ) Words also change meaning over time, and the document is of varying ages.

    Stop arguing about what words were used or not, and deal with what it means, not only in it’s historical/cultural context, but in terms of it’s application today. Only then will you know what is there. Not that people will all agree, since dealing in concepts is not as simple as dealing in specific words.

  9. The First Amendment (freedom of speech) applies to the states (see Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652). The example of a public university or college (state run institutions, therefore, part of the state) being able to control your speech is wrong. Speech codes enforcing politically correct speech have constantly been overturned by courts as a violation of the First Amendment.. See Doe v. University of Michigan, 721 F. Supp. 852 (E.D. Mich. 1989), Roberts v. Haragan, 346 F. Supp. 2d 853 (N.D. Tex. 2004), Dambrot v. Central Mich. Univ., 55 F.3d 1177, 1184 (6th Cir. 1995), and DeJohn v. Temple University, 537 F.3d 301, 317 (3d Cir. 2008).

    Under the “incorporation doctrine,” the Supreme Court, in numerous cases, has held that the Constitution applies to the states. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_doctrine.

    Additionally, whether you agree or disagree with Court rulings, virtually every example given has been upheld as a Constitutional right by the Supreme Court. The mere fact you can’t find the right to vote, for example, specifically mentioned, Court rulings have affirmed it is there.

  10. While God was not mentioned in the Constitution, you can find God referenced in the declaration of independence. While the declaration is not legally binding, it is in the spirit of the founders and reflects
    their political ideas. I don’t know of any founders who were atheists (see bottom about Paine). While a number of them were deists, (ex. Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, if you count him as a founder) the majority were christian, or at least were members of a church. So most of the founders came from that mindset and didn’t need to lay that out in the Constitution (which is very proper in form as opposed to the more poetical declaration). We must remember that political theory is not always
    an easy thing to write into the constitution, which was more focused on function. The equality of men was not included because men were assumed to have rights so you could write a constitution that lists those rights. No explanation was given because it was already assumed. Therefore the constitution may not list out broad philosophical topics like God or natural rights because they were already laid out in things like the Declaration of Independence.

    P.S. Before someone replies by saying, “Paine was an atheist, not a deist!” I will go ahead and say that they are dead wrong. If anyone really doubts me, you can find his beliefs in his “Age of Reason”

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