Graveyard of Civil Liberties

More Activism Ideas

As children, ghosts, goblins, and witches struck fear in us during Halloween.  There are, however, very scary realities out there in the real world that are affecting our civil liberties each and every day.

Congress is responsible for creating legislation that kills some of our most valued civil liberties.  For decades now, failed policies have restricted the freedoms and liberties that this country was founded upon.

Your right to work has been restricted by closed shop forced unionization policies.  Six year olds entrepreneurial spirits are stunted by zoning laws that prevent children from opening up a lemonade stand on their driveway. 

Congress is not the only Liberty Grim Reaper - the courts are also responsible for snuffing out individual and state’s right through eminent domain and nationalized education. 
Help fight to keep Liberty alive, and construct a graveyard to help visualize the mass mutilation of our rights.


The Display:


Your Graveyard of Civil Liberties should showcase a variety of constitutional rights that have been killed by government over the years.  Here are 10 great examples of civil liberties that died at the hands of activist courts, liberal legislators, and Presidents who were overreaching with their power.

·         Right to work without forced unionization – Workers lost the right to choose whether or not to join a union when the National Labor Relations Act passed in 1935.  Some states – known as “Right to Work” states – have since corrected that problem with their own legislation.

·         Choice in health care – The passage of “Obamacare” in 2009 mandates that all individuals – regardless of need – purchase medical insurance.  The new system also leads to more government control over patient health care choices.

·         Privacy for airline passengers – Since 2002, the Travel Security Administration (TSA) has been infringing on the privacy of travelers with invasive scans and search procedures.

·         Right to constitutional gun ownership – When President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill into law in 1993, gun owners were subjected to federal background checks and a burdensome permitting process.

·         Choice in K-12 education – The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided vouchers for inner-city students to attend private schools, was eliminated in 2011.  In most states, school choice is not yet a reality.

·         College admissions based on merit – Until the 1960s, admission to public universities was based on academic scholarship.  Following President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 Executive Order on Affirmative Action, college applications gave preferences to racial, ethnic and religious minorities.

·         Choice in prescription drugs and food – The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 was the first step in allowing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to limit consumer choice when buying food and medicine.  Since its passage, the FDA has regulated nearly every aspect of the sale and purchase of basic goods.

·         State’s Rights – Prior to the 20th century, it was typically understood that the U.S. Constitution only applied to federal laws – not state laws.  However, activists judges decided differently in 1925 during the Gitlow v. New York case when they determined that states could not take away one’s free speech rights.  Since then, the liberal courts have used this seemingly positive case to justify allowing the federal government to limit the rights of states in most aspects of the law.

·         Right to personal property – In the 2005 Supreme Court case, Kelo v. New London, the courts determined that government could enact eminent domain and take private property in order to fulfill commercial interests.  Forcefully taking private property to build malls and restaurants?  Far from constitutional.

·         Right to free speech – Do you have a right to speak out against a government initiative like the draft? Not anymore, according to the 1919 decision from Schenck v. United States.  This case was the court’s first step in limiting free speech rights for American citizens.


How to host this on your campus:

  1. Collect the materials.  You will need 5 – 10 pieces of cardboard or foam board to create headstones.  Other materials include gray paint, large markers, popsicle sticks, duct tape, and a box cutter.  Cut out gravestones from the cardboard/foam board.  Paint each headstone gray and use markers to neatly print each lost civil liberty on a separate “stone”.  Attach popsicle sticks (or another kind of stake) with duct tape to the back so that the headstones can be placed in the ground.  You will also need another piece of cardboard/foamboard in order to make a Halloween-themed sign explaining the graveyard display.

2.      Reserve space on campus.   Find a lawn on campus near major buildings (student center, cafeteria, etc.).  Make sure that the space is conducive to such a display.

3.      Invite allied organizations.  Ask other conservative and libertarian groups on campus to contribute to the purchase of supplies or help run the table.  Doing so will help your group gain favorability on campus.

4.      Prepare for opposition.  Have a video camera/flip camera available to record any aggression from left-wing students and professors.  Displays of this variety are torn down all the time on campus, so try to be on the watch when possible.

5.      Make a cemetery of “dead” civil liberties.  Write the lost civil liberties in bold above each headstone.  Set-up should be pretty simple and won’t require many volunteers.  Make sure you have people ready to tear down the display in a few days.

6.      Advertise again.  Submit a press release and high-quality picture to local media outlets detailing your event.