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Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

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Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

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  1. Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. First Amendment & Religion • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. • First amendment, U.S. Constitution

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. 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).

  24. 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

  25. Civil Rights Legislation • Constitutional law only applies to government actions. • Statutory law needed to address discrimination by private employers, landlords, schools, etc.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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)

  30. 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.