A momentous event occurred on this day, June 30, in London in 1688. The actions that created it are being repeated in the U.S., today. The event is the acquittal of seven bishops of the Church of England. The issues highlighted in the event are jury nullification and the right to petition for redress of grievances.
I focus in this article on the right to petition for redress of grievances. It took me a long time to understand what this right was all about and its importance to liberty. This is to talk about the right, its importance, its history, and how school boards around the country are violating it.
First, let’s define the right to petition for redress of grievances. The Texas Bill of Rights, which is the one that is most applicable in this situation, has this to say:
Article 1, Sec. 27. RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY; PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES. The citizens shall have the right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good; and apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.
The U.S. Constitution also includes a protection of the right from the federal government in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The essence of the right is that you should not be punished when you ask a government official for what you want. If you are punished merely for asking for what you want, or for asking for it in the wrong way, the punisher is violating the right to petition for redress of grievances. Even when a person who is not arrested for asking for what they want, public condemnation, mischaracterization, and demonization of a person doing so is a violation of the spirit of the right.
Antonin Scalia said that when you are trying to understand the meaning of the Constitution, you should look to the history known and understood by the framers that motivated them to add a provision to the Constitution.
When it comes to the petitioning the government for the redress of grievances, there is no more concrete example of its violation than the Trial of the Seven Bishops. This story was solidly in the framer’s minds when they set up the original states and federal government.
This trial that concluded on June 30, 1688 with a jury delivering an acquittal of seven bishops of the Church of England was the crystallizing event leading to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 against King James II.
The story started with King James decreeing that all churches read a statement of religious tolerance to their members. The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a letter to the king urging him to change his mind because they believed the king was not constitutionally permitted to interfere in religious matters. Six other bishops signed the letter and the seven bishops personally presented it to the king. For respectfully asking for what they wanted, the bishops were arrested, refused a grand jury review, and tried for seditious libel.
King James was really seeking to punish the bishops for asking for what they wanted. In doing so, he violated the bishops’ right to petition for redress of grievances.
The jury was stacked by the king, and three of the four judges that oversaw the trial told the jury that all the prosecution had to do was prove that the “seditious” letter had been written and therefore the jury had to convict. One judge told the jury that the ultimate decision was left “to God and your consciences.” The jury listened to the one judge and their consciences.
The trial and the resistance to the king by the seven bishops was the biggest news of the day, and throngs were gathered around the courthouse to hear the verdict. When the “not guilty” verdict came back, there was widespread rejoicing in the streets, and King James II soon left the throne.
When school boards shut down public comment and/or arrest citizens testifying to them, they are punishing the parents for asking for what they want. In other words, the school board members are abusing the power invested in them as elected officials to squelch redress of grievances by the people.
Tom Glass lives in Northwest Harris County. Click here to reach his email. He is also on Facebook as Tom G Glass. He leads a group called Texas Constitutional Enforcement which can be explored at its website or Facebook group. And given the recent Facebook censorship, there are now Texas Constitutional Enforcement groups on Texan owned and operated Freedom Lake and Blabbook, as well as MeWe, Gab, and Wimkin.