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Obama and the Bill of Rights: Mandates, Guns and Drones

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By Gayle Trotter, senior fellow, Independent Women’s Forum

For all of the newfound political freedom that President Obama now enjoys as his second term is under way, his administration has spent the last four years shrinking our essential constitutional liberties. Our liberties preserve a place for the individual apart from the government, the local community apart from the state, and the state apart from the federal government.

Despite Obama’s pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, he continues to limit our freedoms under the Bill of Rights. His second term promises even more encroachment.

Americans face dire challenges today. The disastrous Obama economy has created a higher poverty level than we have experienced since the 1930’s. Obama’s increases to the national debt exceed all of his predecessors combined.

Al Qaeda operatives murdered an ambassador and three other citizens with impunity. Pressed for answers, the administration’s response was, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” We lurch from one crisis to the next.

Today, our country finds itself far afield from Bill Clinton’s state of the union in which he declared that “the era of big government is over.” If only.

Instead, for every challenge, Obama is ready to propose a federalized, big-government, one-size-fits-all solution. These counterproductive responses consistently diminish our constitutional rights.

Our first amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion. Soon after Obama first took office, though, he began to restrict the rights of religious people to practice their beliefs.

ObamaCare requires all group health plans to provide services — contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization — that violate the deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans. Religious organizations face crippling fines if they decline to provide these conscience-defying products and services.

Now, the Obama administration seeks to restrict our second amendment rights, limiting the ability of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense of the home. Over 90% of violent crimes occur without a firearm. In those cases, guns reverse the balance of power for law-abiding citizens, especially women, defending themselves against a violent attacker.

The administration’s attempts to limit citizens’ second amendment right to choose to defend themselves places undue burdens on this right. Instead, sensible enforcement of existing gun laws, including meaningful and consistent penalties for violent felonies involving firearms, would increase public safety without limiting the rights of the law-abiding or jeopardizing their safety.

The Obama administration has also dramatically reduced the scope of fifth amendment due process rights. Under the fifth amendment, no citizen may be deprived of life without due process of law.

Today, secret decisions within the Obama administration provide the ostensible legal basis for assassinating U.S. citizens overseas. Obama personally approved a drone strike that specifically targeted a sixteen-year-old Colorado-born American boy, incinerating him from the sky.

The administration has claimed that these secret deliberations satisfy the fifth amendment due process rights of citizens targeted in drone attacks. This approach to due process is nothing less than a “legal disaster,” according to Harvard’s Noah Feldman. Claiming to apply due process while altering the term’s meaning in this way casts “a long shadow over what the term means everywhere else,” Feldman says.

The last four years under Obama have cast a long shadow over many Americans’ liberties. Under Obama, we have watched the unfolding legal disaster of a diminishing Bill of Rights. Now, having successfully acquired the additional “flexibility” that Obama notoriously promised to President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, we can expect even more attempts to expand federal power at the expense of our personal liberties.

Trotter is an attorney and senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum, her views are her own.