The Future of the Bill of Rights
Can this top-ten list be saved?


Frank Miniter says the Left is out to destroy the Bill of Rights and America. Exaggerate much? Or is his Saving the Bill of Rights: Exposing the Left’s Campaign to Destroy American Exceptionalism a timely wake-up call? He makes his case — and talks about his rescue plan — with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Surely, after the Casey Anthony trial, you can understand why a defense of the reason we have trial by juries may not be an automatic bestseller? But it may make for a Nancy Grace segment.

FRANK MINITER: Certainly, but ask yourself this: Which is worse, what seems to be an unjust verdict from a jury of our peers or an unjust decision from a judge who prefers his or her politics to the law? A brief look at the history of freedom shows that a runaway judge is far worse than a runaway jury. After all, when the trial is over, the jury is disbanded and a new jury is chosen for the next case. A judge, however, can day after day usurp the law with his or her personal views. But yes, this truth about our freedom requires an understanding of the essence of our liberty and how it was won, which is why I wrote Saving the Bill of Rights — judges stubbornly asserting their will over the state is actually what historically led to the Bill of Rights.

LOPEZ: Do we really need a book on the Bill of Rights? How about just reading them, for a start?

MINITER: Reading them is where we must begin, but we must also know what they were meant to protect and how they have been undermined. Now, I’m not saying we have to take our medicine to be good citizens; the story of our individual freedom is actually so overloaded with dramatic struggles and swashbuckling characters that I’m sure people will find from page one this book doesn’t read like a textbook. But I am saying we do have to understand our rights in order to parry attacks on our liberty.

LOPEZ: Who is your audience here? Can this book cause a constitutional conversion?

MINITER: Saving the Bill of Rights is for freedom-loving Americans. The Constitution and its amendments are not the quaint, antiquated documents the Left claims they are. The First Amendment says, “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.” What is difficult to understand about these words and phrases? Indeed, for a definition of “American exceptionalism” we need look no further than the Bill of Rights, as the individual rights protected in the Bill of Rights restrict the government from obstructing Americans’ pursuit of happiness. So yes, once people clearly see what has made this nation great, I think they’ll cherish their Constitution all the more. Consider, for example, that the U.S. Constitution begins with “WE THE PEOPLE” in huge letters; whereas the European Union’s inaugural charter, the Treaty of Rome, begins, “His Majesty the King of the Belgians,” and you’ll see how unique, important, and fragile our freedom is.

LOPEZ: You hear a good deal about constitutional conservatism these days. Is that what your book is a primer on?

MINITER: Constitutional conservatism is an accurate description, however, as a label it has the taint of political bias. The Constitution was written by a group of men over a hot summer in Philadelphia in 1787, but before it could take effect it had to be ratified by no fewer than nine states (of 13). I point this out because it is important to keep in mind that adopting the Constitution and its amendments (including the first ten, which are the Bill of Rights) was accomplished via the will of the people, through their elected representatives. This is why the Constitution shouldn’t only be defended by conservatives; though, it is fitting that conservatives are leading the way, as the word “conservative” is derived from the Latin word “conservare,” which means “to guard, defend, preserve.”