Protected rights

David Epps's picture

It is the July 4th weekend and, all across America, people are celebrating the nation’s birthday.

They do so at a time when many are deeply concerned that a number of the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights (which admittedly has nothing to do with the Declaration of Independence but everything to do with the freedoms we enjoy) are under attack.

At a time when privacy is treasured and the citizens are guaranteed protection against unlawful search and seizure, the federal government is apparently snooping, or has developed the ability to snoop, into the phone calls and emails of hundreds of millions of Americans.

For some time, there has been the threat that government could interfere with citizens’ right to free speech. Don’t believe it?

Ask the many conservative groups who were apparently targeted by the Internal Revenue Service and placed under special scrutiny.

And, as all gun owners know, there is a massive effort by people inside and outside the government to restrict the constitutionally protected right — note that this is a “right” and not a “privilege” — to “keep and bear arms.”

Last week, in Coweta County, three men, apparently from Fulton County, attempted to break into a home. Around 11 p.m. a homeowner heard a loud bang coming from the back door. Then, he heard a second bang.

When I was growing up, I always had an 11 p.m. curfew, except on prom night. My father reasoned that nothing good ever happened after 11 p.m. and that all decent people should be home by that hour.

Anyway, that’s when the homeowner retrieved his handgun and called 911. The good thing about law enforcement is that they always come when called. The bad thing is that they don’t always arrive in the nick of time to save the day.

The homeowner went downstairs to investigate and that is when he discovered a man with a flashlight trying to break in. The police had not yet arrived. The homeowner took his handgun and fired. The man cursed and the footsteps of someone fleeing could be heard.

The responding Coweta County sheriff’s deputy passed a silver vehicle and his patrol car’s automatic tag reader picked up and recorded the tag of the other vehicle. A short time later, in Fulton County, the Chattahoochee Hills police spotted the suspect vehicle and pulled it over.

Inside the car were two men in the front seat and, in the back seat, was a man with a gunshot wound near his belly button. The men were on the way to the hospital but had gotten lost.

The two men in the front seat, both age 18, were arrested and jailed. The 19-year-old man in the back seat was transported to the hospital and, after he recovers, will join his companions in the Coweta County jail.

One can only imagine what would have happened if the homeowner was unable to counter the threat and the three young thugs had gained entry to his home. Robbery for certain. Physical harm probably. Murder, very possibly.

This man, and his family if he has one, are safe because the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America promised and assured him the right to be able to meet three criminals (OK, “alleged” criminals) on a dark night, whose intentions were evil, and protect himself.

Score one for the good guy.

Yet, there are those who would limit or outright eliminate that right. There are those who would limit other protected rights, as well.

The other day, someone said to me, “Happy Independence Day. Enjoy it while you can.” I understood what he meant. We seem a little less free than we used to be and it’s an uneasy feeling.

Will we enjoy less liberty as time goes on? Eventually, will we see the protected rights fall one by one?

That is yet to be determined. But, for now, “Happy Independence weekend!” May we have many, many more.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the associate endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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