Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties
Civil Liberties: Definition
• Personal freedoms (expressed and implied) that
are protected for all individuals and that
generally deal with individual freedom
– Civil liberties prevent the government from infringing
on the rights of its citizens
• Civil liberties are spelled out in the Bill of Rights
– However, they are intentionally vague
• We look the courts to interpret these rights
Freedom of Religion
• Establishment Clause
– A “wall of separation between Church and
• Aid to religious schools
– Lemon Test:
• Government must avoid excessive entanglement
with religion
• State aid cannot advance or inhibit religion
– School vouchers?
– School prayer?
Freedom of Expression
• Free speech and symbolic speech
• Restrictions:
– Libel and slander laws
– Clear and Present Danger rule
• Inciting a riot
• “Fire”
– Prior restraint
• Restraining an action before it even occurs
• Prior restraint is usually struck down by Sup. Court
• Supreme Court has ruled on this
– If material deals with sex and violates
community standards, then it can be
considered obscene
• Are all community standards the same?
• What about obscenity on the Internet?
Hate Speech
• Definition: Abusive speech attacking a
person on the basis of ethnicity, race,
gender, sexual orientation, etc.
• Does restricting hate speech restrict
– Some colleges say yes, and have created
speech and behavior codes for students,
faculty, and staff
– Supreme Court says that these codes are
Other “Rights”
• Right to Privacy
– Not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution
– Supreme Court argues that this right is
implied in the Constitution
• This implied right is the basis for Roe v. Wade
– Privacy is becoming an even bigger issue in
the Information Age
Due Process and Fair Treatment
• Defendant rights and limits on the state
– No illegal search and seizure
• Search warrants
– No coerced confessions
– Fair and public trial
– Adequate counsel
– Miranda rights
– “Exclusionary rule:
• Only evidence gathered legally is admissible
Civil Liberties in Wartime
• Should civil liberties be restricted in
– Where do we draw the line?
• Racial Profiling
• Internment of the Japanese during WWII
• Civil liberties in the wake of September
11th, 2001
• Providing Appropriate Tools Required to
Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act
– “Many parts of this sweeping legislation take away
checks on law enforcement and threaten the very
rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect.
For example, without a warrant and without probable
cause, the FBI now has the power to access your
most private medical records, your library records,
and your student records... and can prevent anyone
from telling you it was done.” - ACLU
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