Our country's Constitution has been brought up numerous times during the often-heated discussions over the City of Cape Girardeau's upcoming vote to ban smoking in public places.
One person who commented on this website even said, "There is no right to smoke guaranteed in our U.S. Constitution."
The person who posted that comment was accurate. There is nothing specifically defined in the Bill of Rights pertaining to smoking. Considering when it was created, the legislators who ratified that document probably would have thought James Madison -- the author of the Bill of Rights -- was daft if he had suggested it.
Tobacco was the economic engine that drove the colonies and early America. That is how most people made a living. Tobacco was even used as currency. It would have seemed asinine back then to include an amendment saying that the people have the right to grow and smoke tobacco if they chose to do so. It would have been like telling everyone that they have the right to breath.
Hmmmm... Perhaps that was not the best analogy.
But I digress. I believe that if this ban passes -- and it probably will -- that smokers could still light up downtown at their favorite establishments, safely protected by the Constitution.
For instance, if at least two smokers met in Port Cape to discuss the awfulness of this ordinance, I think they could smoke on the basis of the First Amendment which "prohibits the making of any law...interfering with the right to peaceably assemble."
As long as the Coalition Opposing Un-American Girardeaun Hitler-types -- COUGH for short -- is meeting peacefully, they have the law on their side. Now if you think this is far-fetched consider the actual (It is real. Google it yourself.) U.S. Supreme Court case of De Jonge v. Oregon from 1937. Here is a summary of the court case I found online:
Dirk De Jonge, a Communist party member, had organized a meeting in Portland, Oregon, to protest police violence against striking workers. Though the meeting was peaceful, the state convicted him for selling Communist pamphlets in violation of a statute prohibiting "any unlawful acts or methods as a means of accomplishing or effecting industrial or political change or revolution."
In overturning the conviction, the Supreme Court declared that "peaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime."
Looks like a loophole to me.
But if the right to assemble seems like a questionable way to avoid the smoking ban, there's always the sure-fire Constitutional protection of religion. The proposed smoking ordinance has no restrictions for churches, I'm sure for that very reason.
It wouldn't take much to church-ify a few of the downtown bars which are the primary targets of this ban. All they would need to do is have a staff member ordained by one of the hundreds of websites that do that sort of thing and start conducting "services." This could be a prayer or Bible verse reading at the top of every hour followed of course by communion specials.
While not mandatory, they may also want to change their names to be a bit more church-like. For instance, Rude Dog just doesn't sound like a place of worship, but Our Father of the Burning Leaf does. Buckner's could become the First Assembly Of The Brewing Brotherhood.
Or our new houses of worship could mimic the trend of some contemporary Christian churches like Sanctuary in California or The Cool Church in Tuscon and use more vogueish sounding names.
Sinners would be a good moniker although considering that this is a smoking ban my favorite is Holy Smokes!