The Bill of Rights were originally restrictions on government power. Period. Many people do not want to read them this way today, because they have a strong interest one way or another in the increase in government power.
Take the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law..." In other words, there can be no justification of any kind for the government taking away free speech, press, association, religion, etc.
Unfortunately, forces have been at work for decades from both political parties to undermine this hard and fast protection. Our most recent assault comes from the Democrats in the guise of the hate crimes bill:
Republican Sam Brownback offered an amendment to the Senate version which said the bill could not "construed or applied in a manner that infringes on any rights under the First Amendment" and could not place any burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights "if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to plan or prepare for an act of physical violence or incite an imminent act of physical violence against another."
With that amendment, GOP Senators supported the final bill. However when the bill went to the conference committee, key changes were made to the Brownback amendment by the Democrat controlled committee:
Where Brownback had insisted, and the full Senate had agreed, that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights, the conference changed the wording to read that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights "unless the government demonstrates "¦ a compelling governmental interest" to do otherwise.
That means your First Amendment rights are protected "” unless they're not.
"A compelling governmental interest" leaves the door wide open for your free speech rights to be trampled on the government's whim. Where the First Amendment was designed as a limit on government power (as was the entire Constitution), this law is a blatant attack on those limits and an attempt to expand government power.
So, the government's power is checked unless there is a "compelling governmental interest" in not having its power checked. We're doomed.