Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Due Process

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...” So says the 14th amendment to the U.S Constitution, expanding rights of the fifth amendment to all inhabitants of the country. That is an important protection for citizens, a protection sadly being eroded today. That amendment should protect against such things as being punished with no opportunity to defend oneself. Today, there are certain accusations regarded as proof in themselves, with the accused either allowed no opportunity to defend himself or allowed only a difficult and expensive defense, and that after the punishment is already in place.

Perhaps the most widespread such abuse is the no-fly list. Almost anybody can accuse someone of terrorist leanings, whereupon the accused is put on that list – usually without his knowledge. The accused learns of his de facto conviction and punishment only when he shows up at the airport. Even members of Congress have found themselves on that list, just because they have names similar to someone else put on the list. And it is easy to get on that list. Previous comments, suspicion (with no solid evidence) of terrorist leanings, your neighbor's revenge by reporting you, any of those and more could land you on that list. Then it is difficult to get off, even once you learn of your punishment. That deprives the accused of liberty without due process.

If the statists have their way, they will also use that list to deprive people of property, specifically any arms those people may have or want to purchase. They want to make anyone on that list automatically ineligible to own firearms, regardless of the reason they are on the list.

Nor is this abuse of power likely to stop there. Some in the Oregon legislature are proposing a law that would allow any family member, medical provider, or college professor to put a person's name on a secret list of people prohibited from buying guns. It would be very difficult to get off that list. The family nut case would have power to deny the whole family their constitutional rights. The professor who does not like comments in class could do the same to students – no due process allowed. The accused would only learn of their punishment when they try to buy a gun. Imagine, a wife tries to leave her abusive husband and he keeps stalking and maybe abusing her, but at the same time puts her name on that list. Fearing for her life, she gets a concealed weapon permit and goes to buy a pistol. Only then does she learn that she is on the list. He can assault, even kill her with no fear that she will be armed.

Nor is the no-fly list or attempts to circumvent second amendment rights the only problem. College campuses are becoming notorious for punishing accused sex abusers with no due process – and that at the behest of the federal government. While they cannot jail the accused, they can keep him off campus, deny him an education, on the word of an accuser – and he is not allowed the normal defense. A coed angry at a young man can effectively get him banned with nothing more than her accusation.

And what about discrimination? Racial discrimination is of course wrong, but that is another area where the accusation is considered a conviction. Want to do business with the government? Better be able to prove that you do not discriminate, the flimsiest of evidence will disqualify you.

Unless we fight this, we can expect the problem to expand. This is the perfect tool for the power-hungry. They will find more and more “special” cases for which they will allow no due process. Speak out against the powerful? They will do all they can to deprive you of your rights. If they can, they will put the burden on you to prove your innocence, rather than on the accuser to provide evidence of guilt.

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