Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Right to Hunt and Fish

The Tennessee Constitution is a noble document that sets forth the organization of the governance of our state and defines and guarantees our basic rights.

One of the rights the Constitution enshrines is freedom of religion:

That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.

The very language of the Constitution is solemn and serious. When one reads the Constitution one knows it is important and not to be taken lightly.

Our constitution recognized the right to vote and the right to a trial by jury. It affirms the right of citizens, “be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and that general warrants, whereby an officer may be commanded to search suspected places, without evidence of the fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offences are not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and ought not be granted.”

It states we have the right to a speedy trail and protects us against double jeopardy, it says we have the right to peaceably assemble and “apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances.”

It says the military must be under civilian control.

Our state constitution gives us more rights than the Federal Constitution. It says “an equal participation in the free navigation of the Mississippi, is one of the inherent rights of the citizens of this state; it cannot, therefore, be conceded to any prince, potentate, power, person or persons whatever.”

Our state constitution has some defects however. It does not enshrine our God-given right to fish and hunt. Neither does it give us the right to bird-watch, hike, swim, watch or play football, or sleep in on a Saturday morning. Senator Doug Jackson is going to fix that oversight about hunting and fishing.

An amendment proposed by Democratic Senator Doug Jackson, Democrat 25th District, would amend the Constitution to include this provision: “The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law. The recognition of this right does not abrogate any private or public property rights, nor does it limit the state's power to regulate commercial activity. Traditional manners and means may be used to take non-threatened species.”

What nonsense! We don’t even have the right to drive a car enshrined in our constitution.

In a guest editorial by Doug Jackson in The Tennessean last week, he defended this proposed constitutional amendment. He says, “We have an opportunity to take a new step in protecting Tennessee's wildlife and environment.” If it is protecting Tennessee’s wildlife and environment he wants to do, why not a constitutional amendment that does that?

He argues that protecting hunting and fishing in Tennessee is critical to preserving all of our natural resources. He argues that sportsman and fishermen supply the funding that “keep our state beautiful and our wildlife protected.”

This may be true, but how does a constitutional right to hunt and fish change anything? I don’t know of anyone trying to ban hunting and fishing. Can one imagine what future laws may be challenged as contrary to this right? Why would we want to clutter the court with the responsibility to determine what this right to hunt and fish really means?

I am glad that this idiot is a Democrat. When I first heard of this I was hoping he was not a Republican. It doesn’t really matter however, because the Senate voted unanimously to pass this silly amendment. Not a single state Senator would stand up and cast a vote against this proposed constitutional amendment. It the House passes it, it will be on the ballot this November and will only require a majority vote of votes cast to become part of our constitutions.

Politician and especially Republican politicians pay a lot of lip service to respecting the constitution. Respecting the constitution is not only a matter of not passing laws that conflict with the constitution but, in my view, it is also not cluttering the constitution with meaningless provisions that more appropriately belong in memorializing resolutions. I am embarrassed by our State Legislature. Do all we have are pandering politicians in Tennessee? Are there no statesmen?

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