Lecture 8: Politics in America. Civil Liberties

I. Civil Liberties

A.   The Bill of Rights of the Constitution gives individuals a wide range of civil liberties designed to protect them against the power of the state—“the Bill of Rights is the fundamental charter of American liberties”

B.   Today we cover what civil liberties and rights are, examine the specific liberties guaranteed to all of us in the Constitution and conclude by watching 2 videos which closely examines the issue of school prayer

C.   Definition of Civil Liberties

1.     Burns et al: “Rights of all persons that cannot be denied by governmental power: freedom of conscience, religion, or expression; generally, the freedoms secured by the First Amendment”

2.     Cummings and Wise (p89): “Are the fundamental rights of a free society that are protected by the Bill of Rights”

D.   The interpretation of how these largely 1st amendment liberties should be protected has involved a clash b/n govt-imposed order and freedom


II. The Bill of Rights

1st Amendment:  the 1st amendment of our Constitution protects individuals from govt laws that interfere w/the freedom of religion and freedom of expression—as well as protection of written and symbolic speech, and freedom of the press, and freedom of association (the recent SCT-Boy Scouts decision based on this right)—other important basic liberties NOT embedded in the 1st Amendment

a)    1st Amendment (pA-8 of Appendix in C&W text): “Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the govt for a redress of grievances”

                i. “establishment clause” (according to SCt Justice Hugo Black, it means that neither a state nor the federal govt can set up a church. Neither can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another”. P101 our text)

                ii. free exercise clause(according to Cummings and Wise [p99-100], “protects the right of individuals to worship or believe as they wish, or to hold no religious beliefs”)


2nd Amendment:  the 2nd amendment of course protects the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" and of course is the subject of a long standing debate that really centers on the concepts of ORDER versus FREEDOM and SAFETY and HATRED of GUNS versus freedom


4th Amendment: covers freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is going to be one of the main topics of today's class


5th Amendment: covers right NOT to incriminate one’s self, and also: right to Due Process, Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy among others


6th Amendment: In criminal prosecutions, right to speedy & public trial and to have public defender if necessary


7th Amendment: In less than criminal matters, right of trial by jury “is preserved”


8th Amendment: No excessive bail or fines; and No cruel and unusual punishment shall be inflicted


Last updated June 15