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I know I’ve put this in a comment or two somewhere, but it seemed like the perfect topic to bring up in a longer form for this month’s Constitutional theme: What is the most important right in the Bill of Rights? To remind us, the Bill of Rights comprises (short form courtesy of Cornell Law School):
|1||Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.|
|2||Right to keep and bear arms in order to maintain a well regulated militia.|
|3||No quartering of soldiers.|
|4||Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.|
|5||Right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, double jeopardy.|
|6||Rights of accused persons, e.g., right to a speedy and public trial.|
|7||Right of trial by jury in civil cases.|
|8||Freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments.|
|9||Other rights of the people.|
|10||Powers reserved to the states.|
It’s a purely theoretical exercise because, of course, they are all important. But the First and Second Amendments get a lot of attention, and their position might suggest that the Founders themselves considered them of top importance. I would be willing to bet if you asked a sampling of Americans to name the most important right in the Bill of Rights, many would likely answer “Freedom of Speech” or one of the other Article One rights. Assuming, that is, that they have heard of the Bill of Rights, which is no longer a given.