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It's Bill of Rights Day: Do You Know Your Rights?



December 15, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Today is a special holiday, although most people may not realize it. December 15 is "Bill of Rights Day." On this date 220 years ago, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified.

University of Toledo College of Law professor Lee Jay Strang says the Bill of Rights is essentially a list of limits on government power - and is just as important today as the day it was ratified.

"The Bill of Rights is an important statement of what it means to be an American - in 1791 and today. For example, Americans have a relatively broad free-speech right, especially compared to people in other parts of the world."

Strang says the protections included in the Bill of Rights include freedom of the press, religion and unreasonable search and seizure, all of which set the United States apart from other countries.

Veronica Burchard, senior director of instructional design with the Bill of Rights Institute, says people who do not know their rights cannot recognize when they are being limited - and can't stand up, if necessary, to fight for them.

"As Martin Luther King said, as Ghandi said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It's really important that all citizens be vigilant in protecting these freedoms that have defined our way of life for centuries."

Burchard's group encourages all citizens to read the Bill of Rights today and to celebrate the freedoms and opportunities offered in the U.S. Constitution. She hopes Bill of Rights Day will encourage Americans to learn more about the freedoms that allow most U.S. citizens to live in liberty.

"We do things every day, like say the Pledge of Allegiance, and that's very good and important. But something that we might not do as often but is arguably as or more important, is look at these important protections in the Bill of Rights."

The Ohio state constitution dates back to 1851. Strang says the state Bill of Rights is Article One, whereas the federal Bill of Rights was the last part added to the U.S. Constitution.

"It's actually put up front by the citizens of Ohio, which is an interesting difference between the Ohio and the federal constitutions. One of the reasons why Ohioans did that is they wanted to make sure these important protections were stated right up front."

More information is available at www.billofrightsinstitute.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH