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The Bill of Rights comes to Arizona

If a silver lining exists to the explosive growth of national power over the past several years, it is that Americans are turning to their federal and state constitutions, reading them, understanding them, and invoking them to protect their rights.

So the time is especially appropriate to bring a part of the Constitution to the people.

A nonpartisan, nonprofit group called mybillofrights.org is doing just that, erecting Bill of Rights monuments in state capitols. Arizona’s Bill of Rights monument will be built in 2012, during our statehood centennial.

The monument will consist of 10 monoliths, each containing the text of one of the first 10 amendments to our Constitution. No editorializing — just the words of the Bill of Rights, speaking for themselves.

The location is Wesley Bolin Plaza on the Arizona Capitol Mall. There the monument will take its place alongside several veterans’ memorials, a monument to crime victims, and the Ten Commandments. Ten thousand students visit this part of the mall every year. Fittingly, Wesley Bolin Plaza is a frequent site for rallies and protests, comprised of people exercising their First Amendment rights of speech, assembly, and petitioning their government for redress of grievances.

In an era of partisan rancor, honoring and publicizing the Bill of Rights is a cause that transcends ideological lines. And best of all, from the standpoint of frugal fiscal conservatives, the monument will be privately funded.

Perhaps never in our history have our constitutional rights been under such grave assault. Thanks to groups like the Goldwater Institute, some parts of the Bill of Rights — such as freedom of speech under the First Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment, and state autonomy under the Tenth Amendment — stand taller than before. Soon, we will have a physical reminder of the precious rights whose endurance requires our eternal vigilance.

— Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

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