Are we being conditioned to limit our Bill of Rights?

Are we being conditioned to limit our Bill of Rights?
© Stefani Reynolds

Are we being conditioned to willingly restrict — in the name of security — the rights guaranteed to us under the Bill of Rights?

Have we compromised our rights against unreasonable searches, abridging freedom of speech and prohibiting the free exercise of religion or the right of the people peaceably to assemble?

I recall walking up to an airline counter at JFK Airport many years ago, buying a ticket for a flight, then taking the ticket to the counter at the gate where a ticket agent exchanged it for a boarding pass with a label for my seat assignment. Entering the door to the jetway, you could hug your family or friends goodbye while the ticket agent tore off your boarding pass receipt as you then proceeded down the jetway to the plane — no magnetometer to walk through, no x-ray of your carry-on items, no x-ray of your luggage. No search at all was conducted. Not only could you leave your shoes on, people dressed up for the trip!

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With a series of hijackings in the 1960s and early 1970s, airlines began to hand-search carry-on items at the gates. Slowly, the gate area was segregated; centralized searches were instituted and the magnetometer and x-ray were deployed. After 9/11 these took on a much more serious aspect as the perceived threat increased exponentially. People now have to remove shoes and other articles of clothing to pass the security checkpoint. Gregory Israelsen, writing for the Journal of Air Law and Commerce, tells us we are faced with “a Hobson's choice. There is no other option; if a person wishes to fly commercially, she must submit to TSA” searches.

According to the National Research Council’s 1996 “Airline Passenger Security Screening” report “…under the U.S. Constitution and federal and state laws, courts have upheld the right of the FAA to institute airline passenger screening procedures.” It is further reported that “According to the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, ‘the more security measures are imposed, the more fundamental [constitutional] freedoms are restricted.’”

Twenty years later, George Leef warned how the American Bar Association’s approval of a new rule on professional conduct makes it professional misconduct to show discrimination on a broad range of social and economic matters. Leef asks if this rule provides “grounds for action against opponents who deviate from politically correct thought and action.” Anne Reynolds writes that “Political correctness seeks to put boundaries on offensive speech and behavior; but there is the risk that such boundaries are likely to be determined by the personal beliefs and values of those in power.”

Does George Orwell’s “Newspeak” predict our future? As the character Syme explains it to Winston: “Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” Is political correctness moving us into a world of Newspeak where — again in the words of Syme — “The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think.”

Has political correctness become grounds for action against those who do not conform to Newspeak’s political orthodoxy?

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The U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement saying “The Commonwealth of Virginia has offered no good reason for refusing to trust congregants who promise to use care in worship…” in supporting a church suing Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam after he threatened the pastor for holding religious services for 16 parishioners maintaining social distancing in a church for Palm Sunday. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer eased pandemic restrictions in the face of opposition from within the state. Some of the more draconian measures included banning “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household” and a ban on traveling between any two Michigan residences.  

We also have the New York City government telling people to report their fellow citizens who do not conform to the restriction of their rights.

How far down this slippery slope toward a totalitarian state compromising and chipping away our individual rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights do we go for our government to provide security and — with that — control us? 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemSouth Dakota governor asks Trump to intervene in checkpoint dispute with Native American tribes Native American tribe leader says tribal sovereignty protects coronavirus checkpoints Are we being conditioned to limit our Bill of Rights? MORE — while defending avoiding a state stay at home order — said: “What I’ve seen across the country is so many people give up their liberties for just a little bit of security, and they don’t have to do that — If a leader will take too much power in a time of crisis, that is how we lose our country.”

John M. DeMaggio is a retired Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General. He is also a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy, where he served in Naval Intelligence. The above is the opinion of the author and is not meant to reflect the opinion of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Government.