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Rights and Liberties
Overview, Key Understandings & Questions

Theme Key Understandings

  • Civil liberties and civil rights are related but distinct and can be in conflict with each other
  • Government documents provide a framework for the protection of civil rights and liberties in a society
  • The judicial branch interprets and defines civil liberties and civil rights as they apply in practice
  • Civil liberties protect against government overreach
  • Civil rights assure equal protection under the law
  • The attainment of civil rights is an ongoing process, with different groups achieving parity at different times
  • The judicial branch is tasked with finding a balance between the protection of individual liberty and maintaining positive social order

Key Questions

Freedom of Religion

  • How have Supreme Court rulings specifically defined Americans' right to freely practice their religion?
  • How have Supreme Court rulings defined the relationship between the U.S. government and religious institutions?

Freedom of Speech

  • How have Supreme Court rulings defined the categories of speech that are protected for all Americans?
  • In what ways is freedom of speech protected that are not related specifically to spoken words? For example, think about symbolic speech and campaign finance.

Freedom of the Press

  • Explain why freedom of the press is important to maintaining a functioning democracy.
  • What two rules has the Supreme Court established regarding freedom of the press?

Freedom of Assembly

  • What kinds of issues are typically addressed in freedom of assembly cases?
  • How have the courts limited freedom of assembly? What are the primary reasons they will usually limit it?

The Jury System

  • Why was the institution of a jury system so important to the founders of the United States?
  • Identify examples from American history that demonstrate the pros and cons of a jury system.

Due Process of Law

  • What does it mean to be protected by due process of law?
  • Why do you think it is common for American citizens to underestimate the importance of this protection?

Civil Rights

  • How has American history created a complicated past record of protection for civil rights?
  • Do you believe continued progress is still needed in regards to civil rights protections? Why or why not?

Voting Rights

  • Why are voting rights essential to a functioning American democracy?
  • Identify three key ways voting rights have been limited over the course of American history.

Citizenship

  • Why is it critical for American citizens to not just enjoy the benefits of their citizenship but to also uphold their responsibilities?
  • Should there be penalties for citizens who do not fulfill such responsibilities of citizenship as participating in the democratic process? For example, in some nations citizens must pay a fine if they do not vote. If so, why, and what should those penalties be? If not, why not?
  • Birthright citizenship, the process of gaining citizenship to a country because one was born there, has sparked numerous debates about the effects of immigration on the country. Should the United States retain birthright citizenship?

MLA Citation

"Rights and Liberties." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2142496. Accessed 20 June 2019.

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Entry ID: 2142496

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