“[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.”
— Thomas Jefferson
Civil liberties and civil rights are salient rights enshrined by the U.S. Constitution and subsequent congressional legislation, executive actions, and judicial
decisions. Whereas many times civil liberties and civil rights are used interchangeably, the two terms are distinct.
Civil Liberties: “The personal guarantees and freedoms that government usually cannot abridge, by law, constitution, or judicial interpretation. As guarantees
of “freedom to” action, they place limitations on the power of the government to restrain or dictate an individual’s actions.” (O’Connor & Sabato, 2019)
Civil Rights: “Provide freedom from arbitrary or discriminatory treatment (treating someone differently based on a variety of characteristics including race,
religion, gender, or — in many cases — gender orientation) by government or individuals.” (O’Connor & Sabato, 2019)
In short, civil rights are a person’s right to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, etc. Civil liberties are a person’s
basic freedoms. For example: a basic civil liberty is the right to marry. If you were not allowed to marry because the court clerk refused to sign your marriage
certificate, then that is a civil liberty concern. But, if the court clerk refused to sign your marriage certificate because you were LGBTQ, then that is a civil
The Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Resource Center explains the civil liberties, civic rights, and responsibilities of U.S. citizens. Following are the
rights, liberties, and responsibilities enjoyed by every citizen:
Freedom to express yourself.
Freedom to worship, or not, as you wish.
Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.
Right to vote in elections for public officials.
Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.
Right to run for elected office.
Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Support and defend the Constitution.
Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
Participate in the democratic process.
Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
Participate in your local community.
Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
Serve on a jury when called upon.
Defend the country if the need should arise.
Source: (USCIS, n.d.)
Did you notice that part of a U.S. citizen’s responsibility includes staying informed of the issues affecting your community, participating in the democratic
process, and participating in your local community?
In Mitch Daniels’s book, Keeping the Republic, Purdue’s president and former governor of Indiana argued that most Americans enjoy many of their
Constitutional rights. Yet, not all Americans uphold the responsibilities that come with U.S. citizenship. (Daniels, 2011)
So, shall we do a spot of “civic engagement” and shall we actively involve ourselves within local, state, and/or national concerns?
Considering the academic theme of this unit, let us focus on concerns related to civil liberties and civil rights.
Directions: Using the required academic readings and supplemental academic research, please address the following while adhering to the Discussion Board
Part 1: First, to prepare to answer the discussion questions, attend a local, state, or federal meeting that addresses either civil liberties or civil rights. Note
that you should have the Part 2 discussion questions in mind as you attend the event you choose. Use one of the following options for attendance:
Physically attend an event. For example, you could attend one of the following:
A speech by a politician, concerned citizen, activist, etc.A school board, town hall, city council, etc.
A rally, march, etc.
Virtually attend an event by viewing one Following are some examples:
Attend a U.S. House of Representatives event by going to house.gov or a US Senate event by going to senate.gov and following these directions:
Click the Committees tab
Select a committee of interest to you (for example, Judiciary)
Click Hearings (Note that each committee webpage is slightly different, so you may need to search around.)
Watch a video of the meeting.
Watch an event on C-Span T.V. Network by going to c-span.org and conducting a keyword search in the Video Library (note that civil rights, civil liberties,
amendment name, or congressional legislation are all good key words).
Try watching something on your official state legislature website (Google the name of your state + legislature) or official city/town/county website (Google
the name of your city/town/county + government)
Part 2: After attending a meeting on civil liberties or civil rights, address the following in the discussion:
Describe the event.
What is the purpose of the event?
Where is the event?
Who attended the event?
Who spoke at the event?
Analyze the civil liberties and/or civil rights component of the event.
How does the event directly relate to the Constitution, congressional legislation, executive actions, and/or judicial decisions?
Why was this event important to you? How does this relate to your life