Does the Constitution Restrict American Citizens?
Published on January 03, 2022
constitution limits government

I remember the story of a High School Valedictorian who was planning his speech for the graduation ceremony.  The school said that due to the “Constitutional” requirement of “Separation of Church and State”, the young man could not mention God in his speech.  He wanted to say, “God bless you” to his fellow graduating classmates but was not allowed to do so.  So, he made a plan…  With a little coordination ahead of time with the other students, he gave his speech and at the end, he faked a sneeze.  After he sneezed, the entire class roared, “GOD BLESS YOU!”  I remember the first time I read this story.  I appreciated that it was written with a feeling of victory for the students who had accomplished an expression of God’s blessing, while the school had attempted to restrict the students with rules allegedly taken from the Constitution of the United States.  In stories like this, and they are sadly becoming more frequent, I hate the fact that the Constitution is being grossly misapplied to restrict American citizens. 

The Constitution Limits the government, not the people!

The Constitution of the United States defines strict, limited roles for the federal government.  It limits government – it does not place limitations or restrictions upon individual citizens.  The restrictions in the Constitution are placed upon the government to prevent government infringing on the rights of the people- not the other way around!

What does the Constitution say?

Let’s consider a few things to show this is true – We will look briefly at where our rights come from, and we will also consider especially 2 of the amendments from the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment is where people tend to say “Separation of Church and State” resides.  So, we will look at it together to find out what it says.  We will also consider the Ninth Amendment which deals very specifically with the rights of the people.   

Rights are given by God

In our article, “Foundational Principles of The United States- What are they?”, we discussed the Declaration of Independence, and we saw that it clearly tells us our rights are given to us by God Himself.  In fact, it says, the purpose of government is to secure rights given to us by God.  So, since this entire entity of federal government was created for the purpose of securing rights given to us by God, it should logically be very clear that nothing within the legitimate power of the federal government would restrict a graduating High School student from saying anything he wants to say at his graduation ceremony. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

-Second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, 1776

Separation of Church and State in the Constitution?

Often times, people will assert that “Separation of Church and State” is a foundational principle upon which our country was built.  However, that term is found nowhere in our Constitution.  While many who hold to this idea of Church and State have no idea where it is supposedly specified in the Constitution, there are others who will claim it is found in the First Amendment.  Let’s consider the text of the First Amendment.

“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.

First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
First Amedment

Notice the entity that is limited by the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law…”  The First Amendment is simply a list of different areas where Congress’ power to legislate is specifically prohibited.  “Congress shall make no law”…  Congress is limited by the First Amendment – not the graduating high school student.  Nothing anywhere in the First Amendment says a citizen can’t express himself, or be vocal about his faith…  In fact, it really says the opposite.  It says the federal government can do nothing to prohibit this kind of expression. 

Enumerated powers

On PatriotsHope.com, we have a category of blog articles that discuss the idea of Enumerated Powers – this simply means that in order for the federal government to have a power, it must have been specifically listed in the Constitution.  Many of our founders believed the First Amendment to be unnecessary because these items were clearly not listed in the enumerated powers of Congress and were therefore already off limits to the federal government, but they gave us the First Amendment in order to make absolutely sure that the federal government was prohibited from ever trying to assume any authority whatsoever in these five areas:

  1. Establishing a National Religion or preventing Americans from exercising their religion
  2. Abridging freedom of speech
  3. Abridging freedom of press
  4. Abridging the right of the people to peaceably assemble
  5. Interfering with the right of the people to petition their government for redress of grievances

The First Amendment ensures that the federal government may not violate any of these 5 prohibitions.  There is no mention of “Church and State” in the text, but it is also very clear that this amendment limits government – not the citizens of the United States.  When we allow government to place limitations on the expression of the faith of individuals, we are using the First Amendment for exactly the opposite purpose for which it was designed. 

What’s in the Ninth Amendment?

The Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is also significant in this discussion.  Our founders wanted to make sure that just because certain rights of people had been mentioned, that the Constitution should not be considered an inclusive list of rights enjoyed by Americans.  The Ninth Amendment reads as follows:

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

Ninth Amendment to the U.S Constitution

The founders were pointing out that rights do not have to be listed in the Constitution to be recognized or protected.  The people have many, many rights that cannot be listed in the Constitution.  That is not the purpose of the Constitution.  The purpose of the Constitution, and for the institution of government as a whole, is to secure rights given to people by God. 

Conclusion

In the Declaration of Independence, we learn the rights of Americans come from God Himself – not government.  In fact, we learn the purpose of government is to secure these God given rights.  The First Amendment limits government – not citizens – and the Ninth Amendment explains that rights of the people go well beyond those specifically listed.  In our founding documents, our government was designed to be limited.  Conversely, the rights of the people are many!  Let’s not allow ourselves to be deceived into believing this works the other way around. 

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Patriot’s Hope is a place to encourage each other as we strive to restore the American form of Constitutional government.

We speak the truth, point out the hope, do our duty, and leave the results to God.

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Comments

18 Comments

  1. Lin Coombs

    I remember reading about this valedictorian speech maybe 10 years ago and thinking, that’s one clever student. I love it! I still do.
    While we are not limited by the government, in this case, it wasn’t the government limiting the student, it was the school administration. The school, much like businesses, can, and does, impose limits on people.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Thank you for your comment! Yes, I agree the heart of the illustration is fun and seems like the right side won! My problem with it, though, is that people often attribute this kind of limitation to the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the First Amendment limits government – not citizens. If it was a business, like a private school, and it was a school rule, for example, then I agree the student would have opportunity to take his business elsewhere and not to support that business.

      Reply
    • Trisha Barton

      I wish this was taught in our schools. I never really understood what our declaration and constitution meant for us as a people. I believed our government was governing in our best interest, not their own. It is my prayer that we can take back our government and truly have our freedoms. I shared this article and hope many more will read it and share.

      Reply
      • Jason Southerland

        Amen – I share that prayer for sure! Thank you for your comment and for sharing!

        Reply
  2. Dr. Gould

    In Lin’s comment the school was acting as the government.
    It is a federally connected system. In many cases the funding
    received has limits set that may well limit individuals.

    I agree we have to start speaking out when we hear or see
    these violations. Too many times we simply “turn the other cheek”.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      I agree! We have much we need to “undo” with our education system… and in the time since I wrote this article, I have learned a lot more about the things going on in our schools. Not only are they limiting free speech and free exercise of religion, but in many cases, they are also actively teaching all kinds of horrible things that undermine traditional values. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  3. Ken Clifton

    I’ve always said the State cannot interfere with the church, but the church can be in the state.

    I was at the movies recently watching 2000 Mules, and an army vet was spouting off bout the separation of church and state. He wasn’t for it but was saying it was in the constitution and we needed to listen to him because he had been in the military and knew the laws.

    Because of Patriot’s Hope and the Constitution Class, I was able to clearly debunk his misguided ideas without being a jerk.

    Only when we know the truth can we realize when we are being lied to.

    Thank you for your many blogs, as they give us more bullets for our debates when needed. Until I started listening to the conversations I didn’t know how little American’s know about the truths in the Constitution.

    Let’s start with one, and get them then two, four, eight, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024. and keep doubling it, and in 30 days we will have over five million new people who understand the constitution the way our forefathers intended us to understand it.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Amen Ken – sounds great! Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  4. Crystal Doherty

    That Valedictorian speech was brilliant! However, “We the people” need to more so now than ever educate ourselves and others on the constitution so that we may defend and protect our rights and freedoms for all citizens. Great blog Jason! Keep spreading the truth!!

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Amen! Thank you so much! Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  5. Carol Visser

    Jason – Great job! We all need to be more informed! We have allowed ourselves (and I am one of them) and our children to be spoon fed and we have not been getting the truth! I’m grateful for Patriot Academy and the articles available on your blog. I can read for myself what the founders intended and not have it told to me with a biased perspective. MSM and politicians have been feeding our citizens lies for years! It’s shameful!

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Yes, I understand, and I agree with you… Yes, by learning the original intent of our founders we can be better prepared. Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  6. Susan Whitener

    Great article!! Thank you for the explanation of “separation of church and state.”

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Thank you! Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  7. Rhonda K

    Thank you, Jason for your enlightening blog posts. I love that story about the Valedictorian’s speech. Brilliant move!
    I have enjoyed learning so much from our classes. Sadly, I was not taught this in school, or I wasn’t listening as a typical teenager does.
    I am a very proud Patriot and love my country! USA!

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Thank you! I am so glad you found the classes helpful. These truths are not being taught in our schools – so I don’t think it is a question of listening… 🙂

      Thank you for your comment, and thank you for loving our great country!

      Reply
  8. Bridget

    Jason, I thank you for your blogs and for you and RaShell teaching these Constitutional classes. I’ve learned so much in the Constitutional Alive and Biblical Citizenship classes – I don’t remember any of this when I attended public school. I praise God for both of you and I pray that he gives you the peace, knowledge and wisdom to continue with them as along as you can. I love both of y’all!

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Thank you so much for your comments, and for your participation with the classes, and more importantly, all you are doing to impact our society for good. RaShell and I very much enjoy doing this stuff together and doing what we can to get the material out to as many Americans as possible. Thank you for your prayers, your participation, and for your comments on the articles! We are gonna win this thing and get our country back!

      Reply

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