“I plead the 5th! ” That phrase is heard from the mouths of children as well as adults. It has become a cliche. Children learn early in life what the phrase means and how and when to use it. They use it as a tool to keep themselves out of trouble or to keep from having to tattle on a sibling or friend.
As children advance in their education, they study American history and are surprised to find that phrase comes from a very old document that the founding fathers of our country drafted and set into place as an integral part of our government’s system of law. That document is called the “Bill of Rights”. The statement, “I plead the 5th” is a reference to the Fifth Amendment from that document in which a citizen is protected by law from self-incrimination. There are now 27 amendments to the U. S. constitution, but the first 10 are collectively called the Bill of Rights.
James Madison who was part of the very first Congress led the charge in drafting The Bill of Rights in 1789, and the amendments officially became law in 1791. They were established to protect the American citizens against certain interferences from the federal government. (The Bill of Rights, 2012) A summary of these inalienable rights or guarantees is listed below.
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- Guarantees the freedom of speech, religion, press, and peaceful assembly
- Guarantees the right to keep and bear arms
- Guarantees the right to not be forced by the government to house and feed soldiers in peacetime
- Guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of our homes, our bodies, or our property, conducted by government officials
- Guarantees the right to indictment by grand jury, to due process of law, and prohibits compulsory self-incrimination and double jeopardy
- Guarantees the right to a speedy trial, and to be represented by a lawyer, have the chance to challenge prosecution witnesses, call witnesses for our defense, and have a trial by jury of our peers if charged with a crime
- Guarantees the right to a trial by jury in a civil case involving at least twenty dollars
- Prohibits excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment
- Guarantees people have rights not specified in the Constitution
- Establishes that those powers neither delegated to the federal government nor denied to the states are reserved for the states (Miller, 2013)
Each Amendment is a study in itself, but this paper will focus on some of the effects the Bill of Rights has on businesses. Courts recognize that corporations take on many of the characteristics of a person; therefore several of the rights apply to businesses.
The role and influence of corporations in the political realm has continued to expand over the past 100 years. An example of the influence a corporation can have in politics and in fighting for the rights of the American people is the current debate over the 2nd Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. Gun manufacturers and sporting goods retailers are taking a stand against the recent gun control legislation being passed in New York and other jurisdictions around the country, by refusing to sell or severely limit the sale of firearms in these jurisdictions including sales to state officials like the police department.
LaRue Tactical made the following announcement: “Effective today, in an effort to see that no legal mistakes are made by LaRue Tactical and/or its employees, we will apply all current State and Local Laws (as applied to civilians) to state and local law enforcement / government agencies. In other words, LaRue Tactical will limit all sales to what law-abiding citizens residing in their districts can purchase or possess. ” (Party, 2013) In many respects large companies can have a greater influence on the overnment than individual citizens, and the individual citizens can show their support of the corporations by shopping at their establishments. The freedom of religion clause of the 1st Amendment has been under attack in regards to Hobby Lobby, a family owned successful retail chain. The company faces heavy fines for their refusal to comply with the ObamaCare directives which state the company has to finance certain drugs that the FDA notes can terminate pregnancy after conception.
The owners of Hobby Lobby are Christians and these drugs go against their beliefs in the area of abortion. By forcing corporations to include these drugs in their health plans, it is forcing corporations to finance infidelity. (Flax, 2013) By insisting corporations must finance these drugs, the government is dictating what is acceptable in society instead of letting the beliefs of the company’s owner decide what benefits they will provide to their employees. The government is overstepping its boundaries.
Businesses that are willing to take a stand against the government and protect their rights ultimately are protecting the rights of the American people. It is not always easy for a corporation to take a stand. It can have severe consequences to their business. David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby is racking up millions of dollars in fines by not conceding to the government’s mandate. Yet, he believes that what the government is trying to do go against his rights as an American business owner and as an American citizen. It is people like David Green that helped make America what it is today; people not afraid to risk it all in order to have freedom.
- The Bill of Rights. (2012, August 2). Retrieved February 25, 2013, from RevolutionaryWaranbBeyond. com: http://www. revolutionary-war-and-beyond. com/first-ten-amendments. html
- Miller, R. L. (2013). The Legal Environment Today. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning. Party, T. (2013, February 16). Gun Companies Refuse Sales to State Governments with Strict Gun Laws. Retrieved Feruary 18, 2013, from Tea Party. org:
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