Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights:
Let’s start out by identifying the difference between civil liberties and civil rights. Click the link below and then define civil liberties and civil rights
=>Define civil liberties and civil rights
Next, let’s learn about the civil liberties that are protected by the Bill of Rights. Specifically, we’re going to study the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendments. Click the link below and then, in your own words, briefly describe each amendment.
=>Bill of Rights
So, now you should know what your rights are. But, what happens when a citizen believes his rights have been violated and another citizen or the government disagrees? If you just whispered “the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution and applies its interpretation to that case,” then SHOUT IT! You’re RIGHT! However, those rulings do not merely apply to the specific cases in question. Often, a case where one person believes his constitutional rights have been violated ends up having a broader effect on society.
Let’s look at some examples of Supreme Court decisions that have both limited and expanded our most basic freedoms. For each, click on the link and then briefly describe the impact of the case.
Acts of Congress:
In addition to Supreme Court rulings, Acts of Congress may alter the meaning of your rights as well. That is, Congress may pass any law it would like and it remains the law until someone challenges, sues, and successfully overturns its constitutionality. Such lawsuits are time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, critics argue that Congress may temporarily pass a law that is clearly unconstitutional if the goal is only to use it for a short period of time. Also, the Supreme Court requires that an individual clearly demonstrate that he has personally been harmed by an unconstitutional law in order to have standing in court. It’s not enough to recognize a violation of constitutional rights. You must clearly demonstrate that you were personally harmed. So, even if a law may violate some people’s constitutional rights, others who recognize the violation but are not personally harmed cannot bring a lawsuit. This requirement for standing has prevented the Court from hearing cases on “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, among others.
One Act of Congress that has generated controversy regarding civil liberties is the Patriot Act. Click on the link below, read the article, and then briefly describe the Patriot Act and why it is controversial.
So, now you’ve learned about the limits of your civil rights. But, what about civil rights? You’ve already defined them, so let’s look at how they actually work in practice. Whereas most civil liberties controversies are related to the Bill of Rights, most civil rights laws are rooted in the 14th Amendment. Click on the link below and then briefly describe, in your own words, what Section 1 of the 14th Amendment means where indicated on your graphic organizer. Also, there are two parts of Section 1, both 5 words in length, that are considered the most important. Write down what you think these two parts are.
Some major civil rights cases and laws have come out of those two, five-word parts of the 14th Amendment. Let’s look at a major case and two major laws related to the 14th Amendment. Click on each link and then briefly describe the impact.