Last week President Barack Obama threw a Hail Mary pass to win votes of Latinos. He promised to issue an executive order barring enforcement of deportation laws for children of illegal immigrants. This week I heard Rep. Steve King of Iowa threaten to sue the President for this and other usurpations on the Congress’ constitutional authority to legislate. But I noticed something about Rep. King’s comments. Not once did he say anything about the Congress’ enumerated powers over immigration policy. Just that he took offense that the power to issue executive orders was legislating from the Oval Office. (His toes were being stepped on!)
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the exclusive power “To establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” Hence, the President has no power over immigration whatsoever. Thus, President Obama’s edict was illegal. But I bet you didn’t know that. This is not a condescending statement by any means. The fact is that before I attended law school more than a decade ago, at the ripe old age of 29, I didn’t either. Few do. Thus, I have decided to do something radical to help my clients and anyone interested to become better informed about the Constitution. I have decided to write a couple of books. This first is called “The Bill of Rights: What every patriotic American needs to know.” It starts each of the ten chapters (for 10 amendments in the Bill) with the amendment’s text, then expands on it by citing case law describing how Courts apply these rights today. I am almost finished with Chapter 6 and plan to finish the first draft by mid-July. Once this book is finished, I will follow up with a shorter one on what federal powers the Constitution reserves to Congress and the President, and what the States should be permitted to legislate and regulate. Suffice it to say that I do not agree with where the courts have permitted our legislators and president to go.
In summation, our government is out of control and the only way to get it in control is for us, the citizens, to know what lawmakers are doing to destroy our constitutional form of government. As a tease to the first book, following is chapter one:
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.
The First Amendment guarantees “free speech.” Ask the man on the street what this means and his likely response is that he can tell anyone whatever he wants and he can’t be punished for doing so. For example, if an employer fires him for telling him he’s full of poop, he might respond by saying, “My freedom of speech was violated!” Indeed, I’ve fielded many phone calls from people facing similar circumstances who wanted to sue former employers for so-called wrongful termination. Suffice it to say that I did not accept them as clients since they were wrong in their interpretation of “free speech.”
In general, the Constitution protects us from government intrusion, not private. Hence, whatever “right” we’re discussing, if the offending party is not employed by a government entity, and it’s not a Civil Rights matter protected by the 14th Amendment, you probably don’t have much of an argument. You also don’t have the freedom to yell fire in a crowded movie theater due to the risk posed to the public. See Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S. Ct. 247, 63 L.Ed.2d. (1919).
The 1st Amendment protects religious freedom
The 1st Amendment provides two protections of our religious liberties, the freedom of and from religion. Freedom of religion means we can practice whatever religion we want, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Catholic, Pagan, Atheist, or Satanist, although certain religious practices that are deemed unhealthy, dangerous, or contrary to a legitimate governmental interest can be prohibited. See, e.g., Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) (upholding Oregon’s ban of peyote even though the use of peyote was part of Native American religious ceremonies). Thus, if the government bans the practice of a particular faith, it has infringed on this unalienable right. Conversely, the government cannot establish a religion by engaging in acts the give the public the impression that it endorses a particular religion. C.f. Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School Dist., 508 U.S. 384, 113 S. Ct. 2141, 124 L.Ed.2d. 352 (1993) (community groups stating religious views in public schools after hours is not an establishment of religion). The history of this aspect of freedom of religion stems from the tradition in Europe of establishing State churches and banning the practice of other faiths. The Puritans and other religious communities immigrated here for that very reason, though a few, ironically, imposed similar bans in the colonies. The Founding Fathers abhorred this so included the ban of this unwarranted government intrusion within the 1st Amendment, although it is doubtful that they would have endorsed the current state of the law whereby even the most harmless act of public worship or acknowledgment of religion is tantamount to establishment.
The 1st Amendment protects free speech
“Free speech” encompasses several expressions, not just speech itself. Individuals certainly have the right to speak out in the face of government opposition. See R.A.V. v. St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 112 S. Ct. 2538, 120 L.Ed.2d. 305 (1992) (even “hate speech” cannot be banned, such as burning crosses or swastikas); Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 109 S. Ct. 2533, 105 L.Ed.2d 342 (1989) (burning a flag is a legitimate expression). Even corporations, as a collection of shareholders, have the freedom of speech. See, e.g., Citizens United v. Federal Election Com’n, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010) (striking down bans on corporate commercials supporting political candidates as violations of the 1st Amendment freedom of speech and association). The state can’t abridge the freedom of speech by imposing overly oppressive permit requirements or flat-out bans on certain types of speech or protest. See R.A.V. v. St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377. But this doesn’t mean you are free to scream out at the top of your lungs wherever you want to. For example, you can’t protest a grocery store’s hiring policies in its own parking lot since it’s a private entity and not governmental—the police can be called to make you disburse, and arrest you for trespassing if you don’t. However, if you’re carrying a placard on the public sidewalk on front of the grocery store, you’re good to go since you are now on public property.
The 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of the press
There’s also “freedom of the press.” Government can’t prohibit newspapers, television stations, or internet news services from disseminating and publishing news and commentary. See, e.g., New York Times Company v. United States, 403 U.S. 713, 91 S. Ct. 2140, 29 L.Ed.2d. 822 (1971) (government can’t ban newspaper from publishing “classified” documents). While there has been discussion on government not recognizing Internet bloggers as legitimate exercisers of the “freedom of the press,” there is still an individual right attached thereto so I doubt this will get very far. See von Bulow v. von Bulow, 811 F.2d 136, 144 (2d Cir.) (quoting Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, 452 (1938)), cert. denied, 481 U.S. 1015 (1987)) (holding that “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion” is protected speech).
The 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of assembly/association
There is a physical component to “free speech.” It’s called freedom of assembly or association and can manifest in many forms. You have the right to have friends at your house for Bible studies and political discussion groups. You can protest in the public square or courthouse steps with a blow horn, placard, whatever, as long as you’re peaceful. See Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1962) (students had right to protest racism on public streets/sidewalks). For some situations, the government can require you to buy a permit, but it cannot be so expensive as to constitute prior restraint. See Marcavage v. City of Chicago, Nos. 09–3335, 09–4079 (7th Cir. Ct. App. October 04, 2011) (permit fees okay as long as not overly oppressive).
The 1st Amendment protects your right to petition the government for redress of grievances
Finally, you have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. More on this later. Suffice it to say that if the government doesn’t provide you the means to force it to answer to something it has done or is about to do to violate your rights (slavery, women’s suffrage, etc.), this right is violated. See generally, NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963) (Petitioner petitioned for redress of grievances inflicted on minorities due to civil rights violations).
 In most states, the tort of wrongful termination doesn’t exist in most situations due to the doctrine of “at-will employment.” This doctrine means that either side of the employment relationship can terminate the relationship for any reason or for no reason, unless the motive is otherwise illegal, such as racial discrimination, a qualified disability, or familial status.
 There are many “federal laws” passed by Congress pursuant to enumerated powers or the tax and spend authority of the federal government that can prohibit or proscribe certain conduct between private parties (e.g., Commerce), but as far as unalienable rights are concerned, the offending party must be a government actor.
 See Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. The letter is referenced by many opponents of prayer in schools and other historic religious practices as proof that even Thomas Jefferson believed in the “wall of separation of church and state.” However, this statement is taken out of context. The letter addressed the Baptists’ concerns that the government would force itself into their church affairs, not the other way around.
 Congress has considered legislation that will require radio stations and other entities to offer equal time to opposing sides, called the Fairness Doctrine, but so far it hasn’t dared to pursue it.