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Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

Comparing Two Controversial Executive Orders

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution requires that before U.S. presidents can assume their duties they are required to take the oath of office, affirming in part that they “will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. This post will review and compare two controversial presidential executive orders that were issued in the interest of national security, and that many believe violate various provisions and protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Among these are the First Amendment rule barring the establishment of religion, the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process of law, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order #9066

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A total of 2,403 were killed, including 2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians. The United States entered World War II by declaring war on Japan the following day. A wave of anti-Japanese sentiment across the country was accompanied by widespread fear of a Japanese attack, especially on the vulnerable West Coast. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to declare certain areas of the United States military zones in order to prevent espionage and sabotage.

Residents of Japanese Ancestry Awaiting the Bus at the
Wartime Civil Control Station, San Francisco, Apr. 1942
By Dorothea Lange, U.S. War Relocation Authority via Library of Congress [public domain]

Within weeks, all persons of Japanese ancestry–whether citizens or enemy aliens, young or old, rich or poor–were ordered to assembly centers near their homes. Soon they were sent to permanent relocation centers outside the restricted military zones defined by the order. Around 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were native-born citizens of the United States, were forced into remote and desolate internment camps with armed guards and barbed wire for the duration of the war. There were 10 different sites across the country, including Tule Lake, California; Minidoka, Idaho; Manzanar, California; Topaz, Utah; Jerome, Arkansas; Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Poston, Arizona; Granada, Colorado; and Rohwer, Arkansas. Many lost their homes and businesses and were separated from loved ones for the duration of the war.

In 1942, 23-year-old Fred Korematsu, who was born in Oakland, California, to Japanese immigrants, refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that Congress, the President, and the military authorities did not have the power to issue the relocation orders and that he was being discriminated against based on his race. The government argued that the evacuation was necessary to protect the country. In Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the need to protect the country in time of war was a greater priority than the individual rights of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans. One of the three dissenting opinions, written by the lone Republican-appointed Justice Owen Roberts, stated that “I think the indisputable facts exhibit a clear violation of Constitutional rights.”

Protest Against Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban
By Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


2017: President Donald J. Trump ‘s Executive Order #13769

Skip to 75 years later. One week after taking office, on January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order #13769, ordering a halt on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries–Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Two days later, the president released a statement which read, “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion–this is about terror and keeping our country safe.” The order sparked immediate protests both across the country as well as internationally.

The next day, a federal judge in New York blocked part of the order. On March 6, Trump released a revised travel ban that excluded Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. A federal judge in Hawaii then issued a nationwide restraining order on the revised travel ban March 15, ruling that it still discriminated on the basis of nationality. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling on May 25. The Trump administration then appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on the travel ban order in October 2017. Stay tuned.

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The Constitution in the Classroom: Petitioning for Change

Happy Constitution Day!

The day definitely deserves some celebration. The Constitution of the United States is the bedrock of the nation’s government, the defense of our rights as citizens, and the guide to our growth and evolution as a nation. It is at the core of many historical and contemporary debates, and its words are cited countless times a day.

When I consider the significance of this document to the United States, the First Amendment always comes to mind:

“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.”

How cool is that? Brilliant in its simplicity.

But this year, I realized that I had never given much thought on how to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” So, in honor of Constitution Day, I checked it out. It turns out that if I observe constitutional wrongdoing by the government, I have recourse. I can formally protest by petitioning the government. I must identify the issue, consider the appropriate person or group to petition, draft a letter, collect signatures of peers who are in agreement, and submit the letter and signatures. Under the First Amendment, the government is obligated to respond to this collective expression of a “grievance.”

I learned something on Constitution Day, and I’m pretty pleased about it.

Petition from the MI State Federation of Women's Clubs recommending a study of child labor, March 1906.

An example of petitioning: Petition from the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs
Recommending a Study of Child Labor, March 1906. [Public Domain] via National Archives

Petition Activity

This type of exercise would be a great way to introduce the First Amendment to students. It would also be a fantastic way to demonstrate the power that they have as citizens of their school and community. See a problem? Then they can follow these steps to draft a petition and start a change!

Step 1: Identify an Issue

First, ask students to identify an issue, problem, injustice, or complaint. Too much homework? Too few computers in the classroom? Not enough healthy options in the school cafeteria? Too early of a curfew? Not enough swings at the neighborhood playground? Stop sign necessary at the corner of First and Main?

Step 2: Select the Audience

Next, they should consider who or what group or organization would be the best audience for their petition. Teacher? Principal? School board? Parents? Parks and Recreation Department? Mayor?

Step 3: Write the Letter

The body of the letter will describe their issue, address why it is important, and explain how changing it will be beneficial. Support statements with facts: Homework issue: “We have very little time to spend with our families.” Computer issue: “There are twenty students in the class but only three computers.” Cafeteria issue: “Fruit is very healthy for the body and mind, but there are not fruit choices every day.” Curfew issue: “I’m not tired at 9 p.m.” Playground issue: “There are usually sad kids at the playground who never get to swing on the swings.” Stop sign issue: “There were two fender benders at the corner of First and Main in August.”

End the letter with a call to action!

Step 4: Collect Signatures

At the bottom of the letter, collect signatures of people who support the petition. Add extra pages to the letter, if necessary.

Dear Principal Ronatta,
We are Ms. Jones 4th grade class, room 372.
We want three extra computers in our classroom.
We feel this would help us by allowing more of our class to use the computers at one time. There are only three computers in the classroom right now, and lots of students want to use them during class time. This makes it difficult to work on research projects and Fast Math.
We ask you, Principal Ronatta, to make a difference in our classroom by putting three more computers in our classroom.
Signed by,
(Signatures of each student in the class who supports the petition. And maybe even the teacher’s signature!)

Step 5: Submit Petition

Then have the students mail, e-mail or submit in-person their petition and await a response.

Petitioning for change is an act of contemplation, courage, and power. Even if the results are not what the student petitioner wanted, she/he now knows that she/he has a voice and, when expressed the right way, it will be heard.

Join ProQuest in celebrating the U.S. Constitution. Check out the September Spotlights of the Month on SIRS Discoverer and SIRS Knowledge Source for articles, Web sites, photos, quizzes, quotes, and more on this landmark document and its impact on our nation and rights as citizens.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise,
we don’t believe in it at all.”Noam Chomsky

The idea of books being banned seems like it would be a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1982 case of Board of Education v. Pico that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” Yet more than 30 years later, hundreds of books are challenged in schools and libraries in the United States each year.

ALA Banned Books Week

Image by American Library Association

The first Banned Books Week was celebrated later that same year, and it is now an annual national celebration of the freedom to read. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, it seeks to draw national attention to the harms of censorship. This year it will be celebrated from September 21−27, with an emphasis on comic books and graphic novels.

According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts. Ironically, a science fiction novel in which firemen burn books and the state suppresses learning, is among those that have been challenged and banned in the U.S. (Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury in 1953).

In 2012, the American Library Association (ALA) created an interactive timeline celebrating 30 years of liberating literature. The ALA has also produced a map displaying banned and challenged books throughout the United States from 2007-2010. You can learn where books were challenged or banned, the rationales, and the outcomes. 

Educators can find resources to engage students and explore the topics of book censorship, intellectual freedom and the rights protected by the First Amendment with SIRS Issues Researcher’s Leading Issue Banned Books. All Leading Issues include a topic overview, essential questions and answers, a timeline, resources for critical thinking and analysis, as well as articles that cover pro/con viewpoints, global impact and statistics. Invite your students to enlist in the battle against censorship today!

Banned Books Leading Issue

Banned Books Leading Issue on ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher