Government is my passion. Where some people have posters in their rooms of “Reservoir Dogs,” I have the Northwest Ordinance. I voluntarily purchase books about federalism. And, I’m not afraid to admit it – I have a heterosexual man-crush on James Madison, the father of the Constitution.

It’s hard not to admire a government which, under that 217-year-old document, has overcome civil war, enormous depression, two massive international melees and thirty years of unprecedented partisanship, all to protect our valuable rights and ideals.

In the recent weeks, the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has created disputes centered on the right of privacy. Never explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights, but established by 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut, this delicate entitlement is often regarded as invaluable.

The status of our right to privacy makes for interesting debate, but there are many misconceptions.

Although many freewheeling hippies believe that President George W. Bush is establishing the Fourth Reich as we speak, all is not as it seems.

The USA PATRIOT Act is generally a cornerstone of the liberal argument that the federal government under Bush is trying to annihilate our rights. Unbeknownst to anyone who never bothered to read the legislation, the USA PATRIOT Act only states explicitly the powers of the government that already existed in the judiciary, but is certainly nothing groundbreaking.

Furthermore, federal district courts have overturned all parts – by my count, a whopping three – that could legitimately raise the ire of rights activists. Rest assured, President Bush will not be called Big Brother anytime soon.

Next on the list of privacy matters is the feud surrounding the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Well, I hate to harsh anyone’s buzz, but welcome to politics.

It was made as a statement to the House members’ constituents that they were doing their job of serving the interests of the electing majority – even though the Senate Republicans overwhelmingly crushed the amendment. Finally, note that it is actually the states who are holding referendums that are banning gay marriage, not the national government.

It’s a terrible infringement upon rights, but I am at least willing to recognize who really deserves blame – our fellow voters.

Currently at the center of the privacy debate is John Roberts, Bush’s nominee to the Chief Justice position. Leftist groups attack Roberts for his lack of empathy concerning women’s rights – many of which are connected to the right to privacy – especially because of opinions written as solicitor general. However, as Senator Arlen Specter points out, for all those who read the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting to vote on Roberts – and yes, I actually read committee transcripts in my spare time – those opinions could be moot. Specter, agreeing with Phyllis Schlafly, president of the Eagles Forum, said “those memos were written by a young bachelor with little life experience, who has since married a prominent lawyer.”

Additionally, Roberts has continually denied he would overturn the precedent of Roe v. Wade. You have no more to fear from Roberts than you did from O’Connor – perhaps even less.

It is our duty as citizens to speak out when we feel our rights are being infringed upon, and we do so excellently. But, as a nation, we need to learn to analyze just how our rights are being infringed upon.

It is through introspection and deliberation that our rights are maintained, not by shouting mindlessly.

Brenneman can be reached at rbrenneman@campustimes.org.



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