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

I remember the story of a High School student 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 limit 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. 

The Constitution Limits the Government

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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Comments

28 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
  9. Suzy Enney

    Well done once again. In the past two weeks I have been doing research for a school board meeting I will be attending. The comments in your blog affirms one of my findings in regard the curriculum for public schools. Seeing them limited credit hours on American history as well as government foundation and no policy, our youth graduate with a sliver of information where the lies presented are easy to swallow. Therefore, their ignorance is ours as well. I remembered it was mentioned in one of our first session of a kids version of this class. That were we need to start as well. Even more so, I believe. Let us reason together! Thank you for all your thought provoking blogs. Very much appreciated. Blessings to you and your family.
    One tHing I do know. When we are the hands and feet. God shows up.

    After taking this class it have

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Amen – we have to get these truths out to as many Americans as possible to get us thinking correctly again in this country. Thank you for your involvement in the school board meeting. I am interested to hear how it goes! Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  10. Tim Rennie

    Very good, thank you for writing.

    As a country it does feel as though we in a “race to the bottom” when it comes to limited powers and the rights of the people.

    Even so much so that polls indicate that a majority of Americans feel it that abortion is s right – a right to what, murder? When our minds have become seared the point that laws can be established that no longer respect the right to life, just where does it stop?

    We saw a rare turn of events when the Supreme Court realized their jurisdiction and reversed Roe V. Wade and returned to the states the issue of abortion. So now this travesty lay at the feet of every American and how they vote for their elected officials, the ones who will be called upon to establish laws regarding the practice of abortion, bot at teh state level and at the federal level. This is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Yes – I agree… and then to make it worse, we have a President talking on TV about needing to “codify” this unconstitutional, criminal, murderous, theft of life into “law”. He clearly has no idea (or more accurately, he has no intention of keeping his oath to the Constitution) that Congress can’t use an act of legislation to make something Constitutional. On the issue of life, as you know, it is the first example in the Declaration of Independence of an unalienable right given by God, and that governments are instituted among men to SECURE these rights. If we want to save this nation, we have to cry out in repentance to God and ask for His healing hand to intervene. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  11. Jeffrey B Segal

    This article was great. And during the Covid-19 pandemic we saw that some governments made mandates that were unconstitutional because they said that people could not go to their houses of worship because the government felt that by doing so would help spread the virus which we found out was not true. and that all of the mandates also violated the First Amendment for FREEDOM OF RELIEGN AND FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY. And even the U.S. Supreme Court found that some of these mandates were unconstitutional as well. Yet the Federal and some State governments still made them. And now we know that everything we were told about the virus were wrong and were also lies as well. Yet they still keep pushing these false information to this day. And in some places they are still pushing these unconstitutional mandates. Like in some schools systems and colleges they are still requiring that people get the vaccines or they cannot attend classes. And we know know that the vaccines don’t do what they said they’d do. But in fact caused more harm than good. and for some age groups caused serious health issues or killed some that got them. Yet the government are still pushing for everyone to get them. An clear violation of the First Amendment.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Unfortunately, many times in history, we see that “emergencies” become something where governments take more power. Then, when the emergency is over, things don’t seem to find their way back to the way they were. Sometimes it may be a war, but yes, definitely the covid response was one of those times. In fact, RaShell and I started hosting classes during the covid lockdowns (and have been doing them ever since) for that reason. Americans have to trust our proper form of government – not just in the day to day, but also during the strained times as well. Generally speaking, our proper form of government has more power at the lower levels. When you have lots of power happening at the national level, that is a good sign that we have departed from what our founders gave us. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  12. Savannah

    Thank you for this information!! It is really cool to see the Declaration and Constitution unfolding. Our government, or specifically our president has not kept his oath to secure our God given rights!

    It is important for EVERYONE to read, acknowledge and apply the original intent our founding fathers put into those important documents.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Yes Maam! I whole-heartedly agree with your assessment of our President, but I also hold especially Congress responsible for not exercising the duties given to them under the Constitution. But really, all of them are all sworn to the Constitution of the United States, so we should hold all of them accountable! There are many that need to be voted out, sent home, and replaced with those who would honor their oath and our proper form of government. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  13. Madison

    The government is supposed to secure our God given rights and you explained that really well. Also the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is amazing! I learned that kids need to learn this in school and the school needs to allow more Christianity in its systems.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Amen! I completely agree! The foundational principles of our country were taught in schools for years and years, but in recent times have been largely removed from our educational systems. I even have a couple of Bible study books that were approved by the Texas Board of Education in the late 1940s, and early 1950s and were used in the Dallas, TX Independent Schools. The truth is not that old… these things are right under the skin in our country. They have just been under relentless attack for the last several years. That is why it is important to share these truths with as many as we can reach so Americans will once again know the truths we were founded upon. Thank you so much for your participation in class and your encouraging comments!

      Reply

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