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This week marks the 222nd birthday of one of the documents that makes America what it is: The Bill of Rights. These first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are our most basic freedoms, but it seems as though especially this year, some of those rights are being trampled on, and by our own government no less! Here’s a look at the amendments that have been in the news this year:

Amendment 1: The freedom of speech and the separation of church and state.

Not much needs to be said here. America may have been founded as “One Nation Under God,” but there are a heck of a lot more religions represented by our populace – and not all of them are represented so well in Congress. And as far as free speech goes? See this trial, in which the government used cell phone metadata to nail down an anonymous source for an Associated Press article about a top secret FBI mission.

Amendment 2: The right to bear arms.

I don’t need to remind you about the tragic shootings that have happened thus far in 2013. A result of all of this tragedy? The second amendment has been in contention. Whether you agree with gun control laws or not, everyone agrees that a change to this amendment would have a vast impact on American culture.

Amendment 4: No search and seizure without a warrant.

HELLO, NSA, ARE YOU READING THIS? Edward Snowden blew this whistle big time on the National Security Agency for PRISM, a program that collected metadata on your texts and emails. While the program is said to be used to root out foreign terrorists, the NSA’s actions are still a little sketchy when it comes to the privacy of American citizens. Same goes for the Patriot Act, in which the government is allowed to wire tap phones. There are definitely pros and cons to being spied on to prevent terrorism, but privacy is a fundamental American right.

Now, just because these amendments are often a hot topic of debate doesn’t mean the United States isn’t the best country there is, and we have the Bill of Rights to thank for that. So cheers to you, Bill of Rights – have a kick ass birthday.

What do you think of the debates surrounding our most basic rights?

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