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Celebrating "Bill of Rights Day" in Pennsylvania

December 15, 2008

It may not prompt any special activities or major sales, but today, Dec. 15, is a special holiday. It's "Bill of Rights Day," the 217th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Vic Walczak is the legal director of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Pennsylvania. He says Americans should be thankful for the Bill of Rights because it protects individual freedoms.

"The Bill of Rights is important precisely because it's there for everybody--regardless of what you look like, whether you have any money, who you support politically, whether you're religious or not. It applies to everyone."

Among other things, the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, press and religion, as well as protection from cruel and unusual punishment and from unlawful search and seizure. Walczak says the Bill of Rights distinguishes the United States from the rest of the world. That is why he hopes that the United States soon will revisit laws and rules passed in recent years that he claims violate the Bill of Rights--laws that allow the use of torture, secret prisons and warrantless wiretaps.

"These are all things that are not necessary to fighting the war on terror, yet they are all things that significantly diminish America's claim to being the moral leader of the world."

Some claim that these laws are vital to national security and are necessary in times of war, but Walczak says the rights of the individual always should be considered more important than the needs of the majority.

Kelly Glorioso Fodel, Public News Service - PA