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Common misconceptions about the Constitution

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While a good number of American citizens can quote parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights by heart, there are a whole host of common misconceptions that many people have when it comes to rights or privileges that aren’t really mentioned in either document. Often times, court rulings can build on existing aspects of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and create protections that the Founding Fathers did not explicitly spell out, but the belief that these protections are an original part of either document is false. Let’s take a look at just a few examples of rights we all take for granted each and every day that aren’t a part of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Perhaps the most talked about and debated part of American life that isn’t really mentioned in either document is the right to privacy. While privacy in the traditional sense is nowhere to be found in these two guiding documents, there are aspects of privacy that can be found. Often times, the First Amendment’s provisions protecting Americans from a state-sponsored religion and its related section guaranteeing the right of religious expression is considered a form of privacy since it forbids any federal agency from interfering in one’s ability to worship how they please. Constitutional scholars also point to the Third Amendment that forbids the government from housing soldiers in private residents’ homes. Although there is nothing clearly spelled out here that guarantees a right to privacy, it is clear that the Founding Fathers viewed a private home as a space in which citizens deserved a certain degree of privacy. A final example of how privacy alluded to but not spelled out in the traditional sense is with the Fourth Amendment which protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. While the definition of the word unreasonable would be up for much debate, the Founding Fathers again clearly and unequivocally highlight their belief that a private home is just that, private. Based on the existing contents of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, it is easy to see how so many people believe that privacy in a broader sense is guaranteed when it really isn’t.

There are a few other interesting rights that many of us take for granted that are not spelled out in the Constitution. As was seen in the case of Roe v. Wade, there is no mention of abortion in the Constitution. The governing principals that determine if such a procedure is legal or not is determined by the courts and by laws passed in various jurisdictions. There is also no inherent right to marry in the Constitution. While some may debate on why this is, it is likely because the Founding Fathers viewed marriage as a religious ceremony and not one that was any business of the state.

Most constitutional law scholars agree that the Founding Fathers showed remarkable vision when writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They included provisions that have served as a guiding light even though 200 years have passed, but there are still many common misconceptions about rights and privileges that simply are not spelled out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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