The Controversy Between Civil Rights And Civil Liberties

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From the time of America’s founding fathers, the citizens of the United States and its government have debated over the controversy surrounding civil rights and civil liberties, most importantly civil liberties. Civil liberties are “the restraints on the actions of government against individuals” (Bardes, Schmidt, and Shelley 106). The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, describes these liberties. Originally, the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal governments due to our forefathers’ fear of the possibility of a tyrant government. Since the ratification of the fourteenth amendment in 1868, the Supreme Court has gradually begun to rule by the incorporation theory, which is a view that suggests that through the …show more content…
It allows Americans to express their voices, either by speech or in writing, without the fear of prosecution. The government still has the power in certain circumstances to limit the freedom of speech and press. However, in the New York Times v. United States case, where the United States government argued that the release of the controversial Pentagon Papers threatened national security, the Supreme Court ruled that prior restraint (“restraining an activity before that activity has actually occurred”), intruded on the freedom of expression (Bardes, Schmidt, and Shelley 113). The Supreme Court has viewed other forms of speech such as symbolic speech, commercial speech, and advocacy speech, where it was ruled that as long as the type of speech does not harm or infringe on the safety of others, it is protected under the Bill of Rights. One of these protections is the imminent lawless action test, which determines the legality of an advocacy speech. To emphasize, any type of speech is legal as long as it does not harm or intend to harm another party. The only case in which a type of speech is hinder is with the freedom of the press. The government can issue gag orders, which “restrict the publication of news about a trial in progress or even a pretrial hearing to protect the accused’s right to fair trial” (Bardes, Schmidt, and Shelley 118). Schools and colleges also have certain restrictions on speech. Slander and libel are considered the only types of speech that are not protected by the Constitution. These statements can be prosecuted if it is either heard or observed by only a third party. However, in this day and age, slander and libel are difficult to prosecute in a courthouse. Overall, the government is allowed the power to restrict or limit any type of freedom of expression as long as it serves under the U.S.

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