Today, December 15, 2011, we the people of the United States should be celebrating the birth of our honored Bill of Rights, ratified exactly 220 years ago on December 15, 1791.

But instead of joyfully and proudly observing the birthday of that cherished document, which has distinguished this country as a model of democracy over time and across the world, we gather here on this Federal Plaza in sadness and shame to mourn its impending death.

Without fanfare but in an atmosphere of suspicion and fear, the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights is being assaulted on a bi-partisan basis by the United States Senate.

The Sixth Amendment reads:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Yet, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, legislation has passed in both the House and the Senate that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens by the U.S. military on American soil without the right of a trial.

The Bill of Rights is dying before our very eyes. If death is its fate now, after 220 years, let us at least bid it farewell with respect, not as irrelevant and with irreverence.

But if it deserves continued life, let us bind up its wounds, restore it to health, and allow it to become again the center of our American democracy and a model of and beacon for that democracy across the world.

We ask members of Congress to eliminate the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that allows the indefinite detention of American citizens in violation of the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights; we ask President Obama to veto the legislation if the provision for indefinite detention of American citizens is retained; we ask the American people to demand of their political leaders a renewed commitment to follow both the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights.