Don’t Make a Federal Case Out of It!

Did you know the location of tattoo parlors in Long Beach, California is a federal matter?

Yup. It sure is.
The city was forced to alter its zoning laws for tattoo shops after a guy named James Real sued the city asserting that restrictions on tattoo businesses violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Real capitalized on a 2010 ruling the held tattooing is a federally protected form of free speech.

The notion that local zoning is a matter for the federal courts to oversee is absolutely absurd. Even if you buy the idea that tattooing is protected speech, it is not a federal matter. The Bill of Rights was never intended to bind state and local governments. All you have to do is read the opening phrase of the First Amendment to see that. “Congress shall make no law…”

The preamble to the Bill of Rights makes it abundantly clear it was intended to “prevent misconstruction or abuse” of the powers delegated to the federal government.

James Madison actually wanted some of the provisions to apply to the states. That idea was rejected. It wasn’t until about 50 years after the ratification of the 14th Amendment that some Supreme Court judges suddenly discovered the dubious notion that the amendment “incorporated” the Bill of Rights onto the states.

But Americans have been so brainwashed to think of the United States as a unitary “nation” where Washington D.C. controls all, they simply can’t wrap their heads around the fact that federal judges don’t serve as almighty overlords. In today’s America, everything is a federal case – from where a city can restrict tattoo parlors, to who can pray at a high school football game, to local gun ordinances.

Whenever I bring up this truth, somebody will invariably say, “So you’re saying the states can do anything they want and violate our rights!”

No. I’m not saying that at all.

Every state constitution has a bill of rights that requires due process, limits searches and seizures, and protects freedom of speech and religion. All but a few states have a version of the Second Amendment in their state constitutions. For instance, I live in Kentucky. My state constitution’s bill of rights has 26 sections. In many cases, it is more restrictive than the federal Bill of Rights.

If a state government does something that violates your rights, you should pursue that in the proper sphere – in state court using the state constitution. Don’t make a federal case out of it!

By making everything a national issue we’re drastically centralizing power. That’s the real threat to liberty – not Long Beach’s zoning laws relating to tattoo parlors.

You don’t centralize power to get freedom, any more than you would give Walmart a monopoly to improve shopping.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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