The Bill of Rights serves as an integral part of democracy that the United States (US) has long espoused and developed. Although the Bill of Rights did not draw immediate support from most of the Framers of the Constitution, it eventually gained ground in the form of the first 10 amendments submitted to Congress during its first session. Whereas states have duly ratified the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment loosened its applicability through selective incorporation. Such provides for flexibility in applying the Bill of Rights to state jurisdiction, although it does not mean to say that non-applying states should make violations against it permissible, may it be in the form of state laws or certain aspects of enforcement. Such provides due recognition of the right of states to practice their inherent autonomy without violating their commitment to the federation (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus 90-122).
The 10 amendments that make up the Bill of Rights each resemble definitions and limitations of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the US. The First Amendment, corresponding to freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly, provides a detailed nature on how citizens should express themselves legally. There must be no state sponsorship of religion, for there is due recognition of the fact that people have their convictions over their varying religious beliefs. Artistic manifestations, political dissent and other modes of expressions also find protection under the First Amendment, subject to the condition that such would not cause any harm to the public. The Second Amendment corresponds to the right to bear arms, which has found evolutionary characteristics in Supreme Court decisions, hence its controversial nature pertaining to civilian deaths. Criminal defendants, while being handicapped of civilian rights due to their status, also enjoy benefits under the Bill of Rights under the Fourth (searches and seizures), Fifth (fair trial, self-incrimination and double jeopardy), Sixth (provision of legal counsel) and Eighth (unfair punishment) Amendments. Verily, the foregoing amendments provide that criminal defendants should not suffer from extreme disadvantages brought forth by their position. The right to privacy, derived from a judicial synthesis of the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, provides the understanding that the state may not entrench into aspects of the private life of persons not necessarily deemed as criminal acts or threats to the state. Overall, the Bill of Rights seeks to secure citizens of the US on their fundamental rights without any form of abuse coming from the state (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus 90-122).
A formidable challenge to the Bill of Rights, however, is the concern over national security threatened by terrorism. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, New York have raised national and international concerns on security against terrorist factions. Subsequent reforms from Congress have conflicted with provisions of the Bill of Rights, hence the rise of controversies involving conflicts presented by the need to ensure national safety. It is reckonable to think that the Bill of Rights should stand to protect citizens of the US consistently against state intervention on their fundamental rights. However, challenges against the Bill of Rights have found greater relevance from the growing concern over national security. Therefore, it is noteworthy to ponder on such point in order to analyze possible limitations on the Bill of Rights. After all, any compromise to national security may equally hinder the practice of fundamental rights based on the Bill of Rights (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus 90-122).
O’Connor, Karen, Sabato, Larry, & Alixandra Yanus. American Government: Roots and Reform (2012 Election Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012. Print.