• Unit 5

    What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect?

    Unit 5

    The Bill of Rights commonly refers to the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights contains twenty-seven provisions that protect a variety of rights and freedoms. Originally the Bill of Rights protected individuals only from the misuse or abuse of power by the national government. Through the process of selective incorporation (see Lesson 18) the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that most of the rights in the Bill of Rights also protect individuals from the misuse or abuse of power by state governments.

    A few provisions of the Bill of Rights no longer seem very important. The Third Amendment protection against the involuntary quartering of soldiers in civilian homes in time of peace is one example. Other provisions, such as First Amendment protection of freedom of expression and procedural protections of individuals in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, have become more important since 1791, when they took effect.

    A number of important rights also are included in the body of the Constitution and in constitutional amendments added after the Bill of Rights, as discussed in Lessons 15 and 17. Together, these rights sometimes have been called the "extended Bill of Rights."

      • Lesson 27

        What Are Bills of Rights and What Kinds of Rights Does the U.S. Bill of Rights Protect?

        This lesson provides a foundation for examining many of the rights contained in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments to the Constitution that are discussed in earlier lessons. It also examines four provisions of the Bill of Rights that usually do not receive as much attention as others: the Second, Third, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments.

        When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain what bills of rights are and how they have evolved.You should be able to examine the Constitution and its amendments and identify which of the rights they contain are (1) held by individuals, classes, or categories of individuals, or institutions; (2) personal, economic, or political rights; and (3) positive or negative rights. You also should be able to identify possible conflicts among these rights. You should be able to describe various interpretations of the Second, Third, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions about the kinds of rights protected by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
      • Lesson 28

        How Does the First Amendment Affect the Establishment and Free Exercise of Religion?

        The first two clauses in the First Amendment prohibit Congress from making laws regarding the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

        The exact meaning of the establishment and free exercise clauses has been a topic of fierce debate. Did the Founders intend to build "a wall of separation between Church and State" as Thomas Jefferson asserted? Or did they merely intend to prevent religious persecution and the establishment of one national religion?

        When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain the importance of religious freedom in the United States and to identify primary differences between the establishment and free exercise clauses. You should be able to describe how the Supreme Court has interpreted the religion clauses, ongoing issues involving those clauses, and how conflicts can arise between the establishment and free exercise clauses. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues arising from guarantees relating to the establishment and free exercise of religion clauses of the Constitution.
      • Lesson 29

        How Does the First Amendment Protect Free Expression?

        The First Amendment says that "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." Together these four rights may be considered as one?the right to freedom of expression.

        This lesson examines the benefits that freedom of speech and freedom of the press offer to the individual and society, why they were important to the Founders, and the circumstances under which the government should be able to limit them.

        When you finish this lesson, you should be able to explain the importance of freedom of expression to both the individual and society and its historical significance. You should be able to explain considerations useful in deciding when the government should be able to place limits on freedom of speech and the press and be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues involving the right to freedom of expression.
      • Lesson 30

        How Does the First Amendment Protect Freedom to Assemble, Petition, and Associate?

        The previous lesson examined the First Amendment protection of speech and press. This lesson focuses on "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." It examines the importance and historical background of these rights. It also discusses an important related right?the freedom to associate.

        When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain the importance of the rights to assemble, petition, and associate. You also should be able to describe the history of these rights and when they can be limited. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions relating to the exercise of these three rights.
      • Lesson 31

        How Do the Fourth and Fifth Amendments Protect against Unreasonable Law Enforcement Procedures?

        The Fourth Amendment limits the powers of government officials to search and seize individuals, their homes, their papers, and other property. The Fifth Amendment contains several other important protections for criminal defendants, including protection from self-incrimination. This lesson focuses on the Fourth Amendment and the protection from self-incrimination in the Fifth Amendment. It examines the history of these protections and why they were important to the Framers.

        When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain the purpose and history of the Fourth Amendment and issues raised by its interpretation. You also should be able to explain the importance of the Fifth Amendment provision against self-incrimination. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on contemporary issues involving the Fourth Amendment and self-incrimination.
      • Lesson 32

        How Do the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments Protect Rights within the Judicial System?

        Four of the first eight amendments in the Bill of Rights address the rights of criminal defendants. The previous lesson examined how the Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect accused persons from unreasonable law enforcement practices. This lesson explores how the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments protect the rights of accused criminals before and during trial and the rights of those who have been convicted of crimes.

        When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain the Fifth and Sixth Amendment guarantees regarding indictments, double jeopardy, and due process of law. You should be able to identify the rights protected by the Sixth Amendment, particularly the right to counsel. You should be able to describe the Eighth Amendment provisions about bail and punishment. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on the death penalty.