Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

by Leyna Pence

Entry # 1: First Amendment Freedoms

Vocabulary Protections in the Constitution

  • Writ of Habeas Corpus : A court order to a person or agency to deliver a person in custody to the court which ordered the order.
  • Ex Post Facto Law: "After the law"; a law that changes the legs consequences of acts committed before a law is put in place
  • Bill of Attainder: Legislation that declares a person/group guilty of a crime and establish punishment, typically without a trial occurring.

Timeline of Court Cases That Protect First Amendment Rights

  • 1919: Schenck v USA: states that the government can interfere if words uttered create a “clear and present danger”
  • 1925- Gitlow v New York: this was the first time that the Constitution protected the freedom of speech from state and local governments
  • 1947- Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing township: prohibits government action that would benefit any religion
  • 1964: NY Times v Sullivan: declared libel as unconstitutional
  • 1971: Lemon v. kurtzman : established a three part test for laws dealing with religion
  • 1973: Miller v California: deals with obscenity
  • 1980: Stone v. Graham: this case establishes that public displays of the 10 Commandments is unconstitutional
  • 1990: Employment Division v Smith: in this ruling the court altered the interpretation of the exercise clause
  • 1997: Reno v American Civil Liberties Union: deals with telecommunication and the internet
  • 2002: Zelman v SImmons-Harris: ruled that Ohio’s voucher program neutral and allowable
  • 2004: Elk Grove Unififed School District v Newdow: ruling dealing with the words “under god” in the pledge of allegiance
  • 2005: Van Orden v Perry: ruling was that it was constitutional because it had been there for 40 years without no complaint
  • 2005: McCreary v ACLU of Kentucky: established that it was to erect 10 commandments in a courthouse

Explanation of Clauses

  • Due Process: This clause is found in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. It guarantees that life, liberty, and/or will not be deprived without due process of law.
  • Establishment: This clause is found in the First Amendment. It states that the government cannot establish an official religion/support a faith over a different one.
  • Free Exercise: This clause is found in the First Amendment. It states that congress cannot make laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion.

How Far Does Free Speech Reach?

Free speech has a wide range, but with with several limits. These limits are unprotected types of speech that the government can punish you for.

  • Tests to free speech: One test to free speech is the Bad Tendency Test. This is from the English common law. The theory to it is that speech corrupts society and then leads to crime. The second test to free speech is the Clear and Present Danger theory. This was created by Schenck vUSA in 1919. In this case it was decided that the government can only interfere if words uttered create a "clear and present danger". Also, it states that this type of speech leads to riots, destruction of property, and the corruption of electrons. The third test to free speech is the Preferred Position Doctrine. This occurred the 19402. The Court applied that the First Amendment guarantees to the states that the use of words and pictures should rarely is ever be curtailed because free speech is considered essential to democracy. It also states that the only thing punishable should be actions.
  • Protected types of free speech: All speech other than libel, obscenities, fighting words, and commercial speech. The methods that are used to limit the governments regulation of speech is prior restraint, void for vagueness, least drastic means, and content and viewpoint neutrality.
  • Limits on obscenity: The court case Miller v California set a standard definition of obscenity and clarified tat only hard-core pornography is constitutionally unprotected. Child pornography is also not protected by the First Amendment.
  • Fighting words: This is a type of speech that is unprotected since their being said could inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breech of peace.
  • Hate Speech: This is speeches that is offending, threatening, or insulting to groups based on specific gratis such as race or religion.

Does the press have the right to know?

The Supreme Court has refused to acknowledge that the press has the right to know, yet it did state that the press and the public both has the right to be present at criminal trials. Others argue that the press should have the right to know in order to inform the public.

  • Free Press vs. Fair Trials and Due Process: Free press has the potential for the public to become so enraged or caught up with a case that it may be difficult to find a panel of unbiased jurors and conduct a fair trial. The Supreme Court sometimes protect people on trial from inflammatory publicity.
  • Protections of other media: For mail, government censorship is illegal. For handbills, sound trucks, and billboards, a state cannot constrain the distribution of leaflets, and the distribution of religious and political pamphlets, leaflets, and handbills are constitutionally protected. For motion pictures and plays, the prior censorship of films is not necessarily unconstitutional, but laws require films to be submitted to a government review board are constitutional only if there is a prompt judicial hearing. For broadcast and cable communications, the first amendment prevents the FCC from imposing censorship. The Supreme Court allows more governmental regulation of broadcasters than most other media.
  • The internet: The internet is a major channel for communication, and also a marketplace. A major ruling on internet protection was with the Supreme Court case Reno v American Civil Liberties Union, which is when the court struck down provisions of an act which had criminalized sending obscenities to minors. Congress has dealt highly with internet problems.

Freedom of Assembly

  • Public forums: These are public places where the free exercise of expressive actives take place. These can be streets, parks, etc. Governments cannot be biased when deciding about public forums. The government makes regulations of the time, place, and manner of public forums. There are also limited public forums, which has limited time, places, and manners. There are also nonpublic forums
  • Local rules on assembly: Local rules include having a reasonable time, place and manner. Assemblies are expected to be peaceful.

Entry # 2: Rights to Privacy

Do we have the right to privacy?

The Constitution's Fourth Amendment suggests the right to privacy. It is states that the people have “the right o the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause”. The First Amendment gives you the privacy to practice your own religion, etc. The right of privacy is also given to citizens through the rulings of several Supreme Court cases.

What does the Constitution say about privacy? How has the Supreme Court ruled in the past?

The Constitution does not specifically state that American citizens have the right to privacy. The Supreme court protects privacy in a way by reviewing government actions. Many cases have supported American's right to privacy, for most Supreme Court Justices believe the right to privacy is a basic human right. This can be concluded in part from the following court cases.

Supreme Court cases dealing with privacy

  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): This case dealt with a statue in Connecticut that prevented the obtaining of contraception. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut statue violated the right of marital privacy and that appellants have standing to maintain the constitutional rights of married couples.
  • Stanley v. Georgia (1969): This case dealt with state laws that prohibited the owning of obscene materials. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the First and Fourteenth amendments prevent states from making the act of owning obscene material a crime. They also ruled that the Constitution protects a person's right to obtain information without caring about its social worth. This case was ruled in this way due to the obscene material being located in the privacy of Stanley's home.
  • Roe v. Wade (1973): This case dealt with a Texas law that made abortion illegal. In this case, the court ruled that this Texas law was in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A women's right to decide what happens with her pregnancy is a right of privacy.
  • Bowers v. Hardwick (1986): This case dealt with a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy. In this case, the court ruled that the Georgia law was constitutional due to the fact that there was no constitutionally protected right to engage in homosexual intercourse.
  • Lawrence v. Texas (2003): This case dealt with a Texas law that prohibited men from engaging in sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex. In this case, the court ruled that the Texas law violates the fourteenth amendment and the privacy of homosexuals. This case overturned Bowers v. Hardwick.

"The Four States of Privacy"

The four states of privacy are as follow:

  • Solitude: a state of being alone and free from the scrutiny of others
  • Intimacy: able to chose who your friends and/ or partner is without concern about the judgment of others
  • Anonymity: ability to not be identified or supervised
  • Reserve: ability to hold back information we wish to reserve to ourselves; chose to not disclose information unless we chose to

Entry # 3: Property Rights and Equal Rights

Chapter 16

How do you acquire and lose citizenship in the USA?

To be a citizen of America you must be born in the US, born to an American citizen that is living abroad, or be a naturalized citizen. The naturalization process involves applying for citizenship, taking classes, passing a citizenship exam, and pledging an oath of allegiance. A citizen can lose citizenship ifs they willingly renounce their citizenship, or if they commit several actions listed in the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

How does the constitution protect private property? How does the government take it away?

The Constitution protects private property by severe clauses. One of these is the contract clause which prevents states from extending the period during which debtors could meet their payments. After the 19th century, the Supreme Court started using police powers, which are the powers of states to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Eminent domain is the power of the government to take away private property for public use. Though they can take it away, they must fairly compensate the original owner. The government must directly take the land ensuring that the person gives up the title.

What is the due process protection of the rights of the accused?

Due process is the established rules and regulations that restrain government officials. There are two types of due process: procedural due process and substantive due process. Procedural due process limits how government may exercise power. Substantive due process limits what a government may do. Due process protects the rights of the accused by ensuring that they are not unfairly treated.

Chapter 17

Timeline of Equality and changes throughout history

Racial Equality

  • 1861-1865: Civil War: leads to the creation of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments which was a huge step towards racial equality.
  • 1877: The recent equality amendments created were unfortunately limited; this continued for about 100 years in the South.
  • 1939-1945: WWII; during this time the Great Migration occurred and African Americans began to make social gains.
  • 1950: Urban African Americans became more active and politically powerful.
  • 1954: Brown v Board of Education; This case prohibited segregated schools; high step for racial equality.
  • 1955: Civil Rights Movement; Montgomery March, Rosa Parks, bus boycott, MLK Jr, Civil Rights Act of 1964,
  • 1957: Civil Rights Act; ensured that all Americans could use their right to vote
  • 1965: Watts
  • 1967: Detriot

Women's Rights

  • 1848: Seneca Falls Convention
  • 1861-1865: Civil War; women encouraged to focus on abolition, therefore bringing women's movements to a stop; this also occurred with the temperance movement
  • 20th century: heavy campaigning for woman's suffrage
  • 1919: 19th Amendment proposed by Congress
  • 1920: 19th amendment ratified

Hispanic Rights

  • 1994: California adopts Proposition 18; this denied medical, education, and social services to illegal immigrants; Congress amended this to non citizens
  • 2001: California become or the first big state; whites are the minority
  • 2004: Texas becomes the second one

Asian Americans:

  • 1847: (Chinese) Asians start coming to America for jobs such as mines, rail roads, and farms
  • 1860s: (Japanese) Asians begin migrating to Hawaii
  • 1880s: (Japanese) Asians begin migrating to California
  • 1905: White labor organized Japanese and Korean Exclusion League; children were excluded from neighborhood schools, laws against land ownership,, internment ineligible to become citizens; Koreans had a growing middle class

Native Americans:

  • 1887-1934: Assimilation Policy

Voting Rights and Suffrage

Voting qualifications and elections are regulated by states. African American men were granted suffrage with the 15th Amendment. Women were granted suffrage by the 19th Amendment. Poll teas were prohibited by the 24th Amendment which allowed for more people to be able to vote. Voting Rights Acts of 1965 prohibited the need for voting qualifications. Shaw v Reno prohibited states from gerrymandering because of racial districts.

The need of equality for the Chicano, Asian American, and Native American movements:

The need of equality for the Chicano, Asian American, and Native American movements is because those minorities are were still highly discriminated against. They viewed their lives as till getting worse, while most Americans thought the conditions were improving. This had to be addressed if conditions were to actually improve.

Is the a protection in place for equal education for all?

There is some protection in place for equal education for all. One of these is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act stated that federal money would be withdrawn from districts and higher education if discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, age, or disability occurred. Brown v Board of Education ended segregation for schools.

Why is Affirmative Action controversial?

Affirmative Action is controversial because the opposing side thinks of it as reverse discrimination. They did not approve of the majorities now being denied in able to help out the previously discriminated against minorities.


  • Government by the People textbook yo