Constitutional Rights

Bull Horn

The American Constitution and Bill of Rights lie at the heart of our society and our democracy. Millions throughout the world long for what we take for granted: the ability to criticize our government and assemble for the betterment of society without reprisal, the ability to worship (or not) as one earnestly believes, and system after system built to protect the unjustly accused from imprisonment.

Our rights were written in ink and sealed in blood. For the defense our freedom and the greater incorporation of all into its protection, millions of Americans have given their lives. In every generation, threats to our fundamental rights arise, and, while we may not face threats the likes of the Civil War or World War II, even a single generation of complacency could wash away everything our nation has worked so hard to accomplish.

Perhaps no greater threat to our rights exists today than our hyperinflated partisan hatred. In its name, politicians propose sweeping restrictions which too many go along with in order to “win” and punish the other side. But in the end, they lose as much as those they sought to defeat.

Our society can work better than this. Our politics can work better than this. Only by protecting the constitutional rights for us all can we achieve our greatest flourishing. Your rights are my rights.

Let’s cherish our First Amendment right to free speech, which above all other civil rights allows our society and government to function. Attempts to self-define and censor “hate speech” and “misinformation” by the state, the media, our schools, and our employers must be opposed. No matter how incorrect your opinion is, the government has no right to take it away.

Free speech is not only key to political rights, but also worker rights. Right after Amazon pulled the AWS servers hosting upstart Twitter competitor Parler, Twitter began a campaign to silence supporters of worker unionization efforts at Amazon warehouses.

Let’s follow the footsteps of California and add political identity as a protected class under state non-discrimination laws. Let’s fine media sites which ban Washington users from the online public square.

I believe government should be neutral on matters of faith. No law should be passed solely on religious or anti-religious grounds. Similarly, no one should be denied the right to believe or not believe any religious or anti-religious tenet. Unfortunately, Washington’s bureaucracy under Governor Inslee has repeatedly violated religious freedom. Never again should Washington take away a child from family on account of their faith. Never again should Washington force a church to pay for an abortion they deeply believe takes the life of a child.

Gun violence is a serious issue, one which has affected me personally. 60% of deaths caused by firearms are self-inflicted, a statistic which includes my little sister. Washington’s 10-day waiting period did little to stay her hand compared to the pandemic’s toll to her mental health. The US Surgeon General reported that teen and young adult women have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, with emergency room visits for self-harm increasing by 54% from 2019 to 2021.

More broadly, gunfire in Seattle surged to record levels in 2021, caused both by gangs using Seattle’s lax criminal enforcement to their advantage and deteriorating mental health through the pandemic. It is abundantly clear that mental health had been on the decline before the pandemic, and COVID only supercharged this trend. The demand for therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers during the pandemic has been so great that many long time patients have had considerable trouble finding any available appointments and providers. One way to ease up on the bottleneck is by allowing psychologists and licensed social workers limited ability to prescribe medications. States which have enacted prescription liberalization have seen measurable drops in suicide.

Rebuilding mental health will require more than changing regulations and funding programs, something I’m quite open to– it will require a culture shift in Washington toward embracing strangers, looking after neighbors, and expanding our bubbles far beyond ourselves and the virtual. We need community. We need each other.

Even though firearms can be abused, I still support the Second Amendment right for law-abiding citizens to own firearms. While background checks are necessary to keep criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing guns, I believe national restrictions on assault weapons are sufficient and less dangerous firearms should not be banned by our state. Nor do I support further restrictions on ammunition or magazine size, laws which harm farmers who need to protect their land and livestock.

But, as any responsible gun-owner would tell you, the right to bear arms comes with immense responsibility, one which we must all take very seriously. This has never been more true in a time when people feel more alone, bitter, angry, and trapped than ever.

Civil asset forfeiture refers to the ability of law enforcement officers to confiscate assets, often money, from individuals they suspect of criminal activity without due process and keep it for their department. Regaining their assets requires individuals to prove it was not earned through criminal activity, a complete reversal of the typical “innocent until proven guilty” mindset of our judicial system.

While I support fully funding police, this is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and is not a proper method to generate revenue for police departments. Washington must end this practice.