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Innovation & Growth Initiative: Montgomery County Benchmark
Learn about Abington's Next Century. To access a white paper that compares Abington to the rest of Montgomery County, click here >
The Pennsylvania Constitution is the foundation of our state government-the well from which liberty and justice spring forth. Our first Constitution was adopted in 1776 and was a framework for the U.S. Constitution, which did not take effect until 1789. The articles and amendments of the Pennsylvania Constitution compose the fundamental law of the Commonwealth. It ensures basic rights to our citizens, outlines the structure of our government, and provides the rules by which our representatives are elected and how they conduct the business of the state. While this section of the book focuses on the Pennsylvania Constitution, the answers to many of the questions in other sections come directly from this important document. For additional information, it is suggested that the reader refer to the Constitution as a supplement to this guide to Pennsylvania government. A copy of the Pennsylvania Constitution may be obtained from your state legislator.
DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
The Declaration of Rights of the Pennsylvania Constitution predates and was a model for the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. It is primarily a list of "don'ts" for the General Assembly in that it prohibits the enactment of laws that would infringe on certain rights. Those rights and prohibitions are set forth in the 28 sections of the declaration, [1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 25, 26, 27 and 28 are highlighted below because they are relevant to life and decision-making in Abington]:
Section 1. Inherent Rights of Mankind. All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
Section 2. Political Powers. All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.
Section 3. Religious Freedom. All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.
Section 4. Religion. No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth. Section 5. Elections Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.
Section 7. Freedom of Press and Speech; Libels. The printing press shall be free to every person who may undertake to examine the proceeding of the Legislature or any branch of government, and no law shall ever be made to restrain the right thereof. The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the invaluable rights of man, and every citizen may freely speak, write and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty. No conviction shall be had in any prosecution for the publication of papers relating to the official conduct of officers or men in public capacity, or to any other matter proper for public investigation or information, where the fact that such publication was not maliciously or negligently made shall be established to the satisfaction of the jury; and in all indictments for libels the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.
Section 25. Reservation of Powers in People. To guard against transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate.
Section 26. No Discrimination by Commonwealth or Political Subdivisions. Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right.
Section 27. Natural Resources and the Public Estate. The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
Section 28. Sexual Discrimination. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual.
0 comments by Members are their personal opinions (see RMCA policies)