Civil Liberties and Civil Rights Civil Liberties: purpose is to protect people (not just citizens) from abuse of government power and to foster democracy. Civil Rights: purpose is to ensure equal treatment, by government and by private organizations and businesses.
Civil Liberties Protect our ability to exercise political rights • Free speech & press • Right to organize & advocate change • Religious liberty/rights of conscience • Right of privacy • Right to a fair trial & due process
Civil Liberties • Essential to democracy. • Yet also a check on democracy. Majorities are not free to do whatever they want. They must respect the rights of minorities, those who do not have political power.
Free Speech & Free Press • Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. • First Amendment, U.S. Constitution • In addition, there is an implied right of association for political purposes.
Libel Law & Free Press • British laws of seditious libel to punish speech that criticized government • A colonial jury in 1735 ruled that it is not libel if the criticism is true. Truth is a defense in libel cases. • The publisher has to prove that a statement is true. This discouraged criticizing government officials.
Libel Law & Free Press • Criticism of public officials must be robust and open in a democracy. • Important Supreme Court decision in 1964 made a higher bar for public officials. • To win a libel case today, public officials must prove that statements are false, AND that the publisher knew they were false.
Press Censorship • Americans rejected press censorship by British colonial government. • Strong principle in U.S. against prior restraint or censorship. • Reaffirmed in 1971 legal case. One justice wrote that censorship can only stand if the threat to the nation is direct, immediate and irreparable. Not otherwise.
Speech Plus (Symbolic Speech) • Symbolic actions can convey a political message and may be protected by 1st amendment if the actions are not otherwise illegal. • Government cannot ban the content of the message, although it can regulate the method of the communication.
Speech Plus (Symbolic Speech) Types of symbolic speech includes: • wearing a jacket with a message on it; wearing a black armband or a political button; marching in a demonstration; burning the US flag.
Hate Speech • First Amendment protects speech that is hurtful and insulting, even revolutionary, as long as it does not cross the line and pose “an imminent threat of lawless action.” • Test used by the courts since 1969.
Hate speech • But this is increasingly controversial. Some internet speech has appeared to trigger violence. Recent example: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in January; six others died. The gunman may have responded to on-line hate speech about Giffords.
Freedom of Religion • It is related to the freedom of thought and expression, because it also protects unpopular ideas from government persecution. • It includes the freedom NOT to believe, as well as the right to talk with other people about one’s beliefs.
First Amendment & Religion • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. • First amendment, U.S. Constitution
Freedom of Religion • ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE: government should neither help nor hinder religion. • FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE: government should not interfere with religious activities unless they infringe on or substantially harm another person’s rights.
Freedom of Religion • Idea developed in colonial times. Many colonists fled religious persecution. • Initially, colonies were not tolerant. 1649 and 1701 mark the beginning of religious toleration. • Strong support for religious liberty by 1789 when the Bill of Rights was written.
Freedom of Religion • Court decisions are contradictory & unclear. Reasons: • 1. Religion clauses are inherently at odds. • 2. Government sends mixed signals. • 3. Most Americans are religious, even though the state is secular.
Freedom of Religion • Why not permit government support? Because separation: • protects minority faiths. Great religious diversity in the U.S. • decreases chance of religious strife and division in society. • limits government interference in religion.
Other Key Rights • CRIMINAL PROCEDURAL RIGHTS • Found in the 4th through 8th amendments in the Bill of Rights • RIGHT OF PRIVACY • Not explicit but implied in the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th amendments to the Bill of Rights
Civil Rights • Civil rights protect those who might face discrimination because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sex. • Increasingly, the US also protects those who face discrimination because of their age, physical disability or sexual orientation.
14th Amendment • No state shall make or enforce any law which shall …deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. • 14th amendment, U.S. Constitution
Discrimination & the Law • Many laws give benefits to different people (such as the poor or the elderly). So they discriminate. • But most of those laws are constitutional, because the law is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose.
Race Discrimination Presumed to be unconstitutional. Heavy government burden: Government must prove that the law is necessary to achieve a compelling government purpose. • Example: affirmative action at public universities (text, p. 177).
Sex Discrimination Less heavy government burden: Government must prove that the law is substantially related to an important government purpose. Example: registering for military draft
Civil Rights Legislation • Constitutional law only applies to government actions. • Statutory law needed to address discrimination by private employers, landlords, schools, etc.
Civil Rights Act of 1964 • Bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origins. • Outlaws discrimination in hiring, firing, compensation, privileges, and terms or conditions of employment. • Has been broadened to define sexual harassment as sex discrimination.
Abuse of Civil Rights & Liberties • U.S. government has not always respected rights & liberties, especially in wartime or when people are afraid. • Many examples from history.
Japanese-American Internment • 1942-1945 - Internment of 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent, based on the fear that they were spies for Japan. • Photo by Ansel Adams, Library of Congress archive
Post 9/11 Government Actions • People held without access to attorneys and often without charges. • Searches conducted without search warrants under the 4th amendment. • Immigration hearings closed. • Physical abuse of some detainees. (text, pp. 185-188)
Concluding Thoughts • Lesson is that citizens need to remain involved with their government to secure liberty. They cannot be complacent. • Film clip illustrates one individual’s stand against an abusive and powerful congressman in the 1950s.