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American Government and Politics Today . Chapter 4 Civil Liberties. The Bill of Rights. Origins - colonists’ fear of a tyrannical government Federalists agreed to amend the Constitution to include a Bill of Rights after ratification

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American Government and Politics Today

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American Government and Politics Today

Chapter 4

Civil Liberties


The Bill of Rights

  • Origins - colonists’ fear of a tyrannical government

  • Federalists agreed to amend the Constitution to include a Bill of Rights after ratification

  • This placed limitations on the government and thus protected citizens’ civil liberties


The Bill of Rights and State Governments

  • The original Bill of Rights did not apply to state governments

  • The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) imposed, step-by-step, most Constitutional protections of civil liberties upon state governments

  • Incorporation theory: the view that most protections of the Bill of Rights apply to state governments through the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause


Freedom of Religion: The Establishment Clause

  • Setting up “a wall of separation of Church and State”

    • Aid to church-related schools

    • School vouchers

    • School prayer—Engel v. Vitale

    • Prayer outside the classroom

    • The Ten Commandments

    • The teaching of evolution

    • Religious speech


Freedom of Religion: The Free Exercise Clause

  • Guarantees the free exercise of religion, and is restrained when religious practices interfere with public policy

    • Examples: the ability of school districts to select texts for students; the requirement of vaccinations for school enrollment

  • The Religious Freedom Restoration Act

  • Free exercise in public schools


Freedom of Expression

  • No prior restraint

  • Protection of symbolic speech

  • Protection of commercial speech

  • Permitted restrictions on expression

    • Clear and present danger

    • Modifications: the bad-tendency rule, the grave and probable rule


Freedom of Expression (continued)

  • Unprotected Speech

    • Obscenity

    • Slander

    • Pornography and Internet pornography

  • Campus speech

  • Hate speech on the Internet


Freedom of the Press

  • Libel: a written defamation of character

    • Public figures must meet higher standards than ordinary people to win a libel suit

  • A free press versus a fair trial

    • Gag order: the right of a defendant to a fair trial supersedes the right of the public to “attend” the trial

  • Film, radio, and television

    • This freedom is no longer limited to print media, though broadcast media do not receive the same protection as print media


The Right to Assemble and Petition the Government

  • The Supreme Court has held that state and local governments cannot bar individuals from assembling

  • However, they can require permits for assembly so that order can be maintained, though they cannot be selective as to who receives permits

    • Street gangs

    • Online assembly


Matters of Privacy

  • There is no explicit Constitutional right to privacy – it is an interpretation by the Supreme Court drawn from the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments

  • The right was established in 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut

  • Privacy rights in an information age


Privacy Rights and Abortion

  • In Roe v. Wade (1973) the court held that governments could not prohibit abortions, as this would violate a woman’s right to privacy

  • The Supreme Court has issued many decisions on the boundaries of state regulations concerning abortion

  • The controversy continues


Privacy Rights and the Right to Die

  • Cruzanv. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1997): a patient’s life support could be withdrawn at the request of a family member if there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the patient did not want the treatment

  • This has led to the popularity of advance health directives, commonly called living wills

    • What if there is no living will?


Privacy Rights and the Right to Die (continued)

  • Physician-assisted suicide - the Court has stated that the Constitution does not imply a right to commit suicide

  • This decision has given states much leeway to legislate on this issue

  • Only Oregon has legalized physician-assisted suicide


Privacy Rights versus Security Issues

  • Privacy rights have taken on particular importance since September 11, 2001

  • Rules such as the proposed “roving” wiretap legislation may violate the Fourth Amendment

    • The USA Patriot Act

    • Concerns about civil liberties


The Rights of the Accused versus the Rights of Society

  • Fourth Amendment

    • No unreasonable or unwarranted search or seizure

    • No arrest except on probable cause

  • Fifth Amendment

    • No coerced confession

    • No compulsory self-incrimination


The Rights of the Accused (continued)

  • Sixth Amendment

    • Legal counsel

    • Informed of charges

    • Speedy and public jury trial

    • Impartial jury of one’s peers

  • Eighth Amendment

    • Reasonable bail

    • No cruel or unusual punishment


Extending the Rights of the Accused

  • Miranda v. Arizona (1966):requires police to inform suspects of their rights

  • A “public safety” exception to Miranda says that illegal confessions need not bar a conviction if other evidence is strong, and that suspects must claim their rights unequivocally


Extending the Rights of the Accused (continued)

  • In the future, a procedure such as video recording of interrogations might satisfy Fifth Amendment requirements

  • The exclusionary rule: prohibits the admission of illegally seized evidence


The Death Penalty

  • Is the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment?

  • Or is it a useful method for dealing with the worst criminals?


The Death Penalty Today

  • The death penalty is allowed in 37 states

  • Time limits for death row appeals

    • The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 limits appeals from death row

  • DNA testing has freed about 100 death row inmates who were wrongly convicted, casting more doubt on the use of capital punishment


Questions for Critical Thinking

  • What do you think is the historical basis for civil liberties? Are Americans as concerned today about the protection of their civil liberties as were our founders?

  • Do you think the libel laws restrict a free press? Should the press be allowed to publish anything it wants about a person? Should the press have to prove that everything published is absolutely true?


Questions for Critical Thinking

  • Why are the rights of the accused so important? Is there any way to strike a balance between the rights of the victims and the rights of the accused?


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