Professor Mac Only

Chapter 4: Civil Liberties &

Chapter 5: Civil Rights

Chapter Learning Outcomes-
By the time you finish reading this chapter, you will understand the following better

The meaning of rights in the US democracy

The value of having a Bill of Rights

The civil liberties that restrict government action

When groups have the right to be treated equally by the law and when they do not

How different groups have battled for rights to equal treatment

Why Rights are Important

  • Rights = Power
  • The ability to deny rights gives citizens power over each other.
  • The ability to use government to fight back against those who would deny rights also = power
  • What are natural rights?

Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights

  • Terms are different in political science
  • Civil liberties—specific to individual rights, such as freedom of speech, that are Constitutionally protected against the infringement of government
  • Specific individual rights
  • Example: Freedom of Speech

Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights

  • Civil Rights—refers to the right of every person to equal protection under the laws and equal access to society’s opportunities and public facilities
  • Also called equal rights
  • Civil rights groups are often defined by certain characteristics

Are American’s Constitutional Rights Unlimited?

  • No
  • Limited in 2 ways

Rights become limited when they clash with other people’s rights (ex: religious rights and sale of birth control pill)

Rights are limited when they conflict with a collect good that the society values (ex: individual liberty and national security)

Who solves conflicts over rights?

  • The Courts
  • Congress
  • The President and bureaucracy
  • The people

Levels of court review for laws that treat Americans differently

  • Strict Scrutiny
  • Intermediate Scrutiny
  • Reasonable basis
  • Applies to Race, Ethnicity. Suspect category – assumed Unconstitutional in the absence of an overwhelming justification
  • Applies to Gender. Almost suspect category – assumed unconstitutional unless the law serves a clearly compelling and justified purpose
  • Applies to other categories (such as age & income) Not suspect category unless no sound rationale for law can be given

The Bill of Rights

  • Enacted in 1791
  • First 10 amendments to Constitution
  • Anti-federalists demanded as their price for ratification of the Constitution
  • Fear of overreach
  • Spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government.

Bill of Rights

  • Guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion.
  • Sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States.
  • Specifies that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Bill of Rights

  • Sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States.
  • Provides no limits on states
  • Some states have their own Bill of Rights while others do

First Amendment

  • Speech: You are free to say almost anything except that which is obscene, slanders someone, or has a high likelihood of inciting others to take imminent lawless action.
  • Assembly: you are free to assemble, although Government may regulate the time & place for reasons of convenience and safety, if the limits are applied equally to all groups
  • Religion: You are protected from having the religious beliefs of others imposed on you. You can believe what you like.

Fourth Amendment

  • Search & Seizure: You are protected from unreasonable search & seizures, but you can forfeit this right if you knowingly waive it.
  • Arrest: You are protected from arrest unless authorities have probable cause to believe you committed a crime.

Fifth Amendment

  • Self-incrimination: You are protected against self-incrimination, which means that you have the rights to remain silent and to be protected against coercion by law enforcement agents
  • Double Jeopardy: You cannot be tried twice for the same crime if the first trial results with a verdict of not guilty
  • Due Process: You cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without proper legal procedures.

The Fourteenth Amendment

  • Ratified 1868
  • AKA The Equal Protection Clause
  • “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection under the law”

The Fourteenth Amendment

  • Equal-Protection Clause does not require government to treat all groups equally in all cases
  • Reasonable-basis test: allows inequalities that are “reasonably” related to a legitimate government interest (ex: 21 year olds can drink but 20 year olds cannot)
  • Reasonable-basis Clause does not apply to race or ethnicity. Any law that treats people differently are subject to the strict-scrutiny test.
  • Changes in social attitudes are generally slow, and race and gender are prime examples.
  • Immigration has become a new civil rights issues. According to most polls, all generations, especially younger ones, say immigration strengthens the nation.
  • Millenial women really do fare better in the marketplace than their mothers yet bias persists

Civil Rights

Supplementary sources

  • n.a. (2011) History of the Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved from
  • name redacted (2012) Federal Civil Rights Statutes: A Primer. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from
  • PBS (2015) Civil Rights & Civil Liberties. PBS Crash Course Government. Retrieved from