Ch.12 Module - -1Ch.12 Civil Liberties The Bill of Rights...

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-1Ch.12 - Civil Liberties The Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution gives individuals a wide range of civil liberties designed to protect them against the power of the state. The interpretation of how these civil liberties should be enforced has involved a clash between government-imposed order and freedom. The courts, especially the Supreme Court, have the power to resolve societal controversies over values involving civil rights. However, government at all levels can, and does, create rights through laws written by legislatures and regulations issued by bureaucracies. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from government laws that interfere with freedom of religion and freedom of expression. With respect to religion, government has set out to establish a wall of separation between church and state. The Supreme Court has interpreted the establishment clause of the First Amendment in such a way that government is prevented from giving assistance to religious institutions. Over the years, however, indirect and incidental assistance for parochial schools has been tolerated. Since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), state funding of religious programs must pass a stringent test of noninterference with religion. The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious beliefs but not the actions based on those beliefs. Thus, government is allowed to regulate antisocial behavior that stems from a constitutionally protected right. Freedom of expression is one of the vital characteristics of a democratic system. The freedom of expression clause of the First Amendment confers the right to unrestricted public discourse that does not threaten public order. The Supreme Court has defined the kinds of behavior that constitute a threat to public order through the clear and present danger test . Over the years, the Court has expanded the latitude of political expression that does not present real danger to society. Symbolic expression , such as wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, has been protected by the Court. Freedom of speech has two notable exceptions. “Fighting words” are defined as utterances designed to “inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace” and are not subject to First Amendment protection. Obscenity is also excluded from constitutional protection. The First Amendment also guarantees that government will not interfere with the freedom of the press, with some limitations. Public officials or public figures can institute a lawsuit against the press for libel. The Sullivan case, however, established that “actual malice” must be proved before libel is upheld. Prior restraint , or censorship, may be permissible by the government under exceptional circumstances that are not specified by the Court. As demonstrated by the Ellsberg case, the Court takes a very narrow view on what constitutes permissible grounds. Another limitation on freedom of the press exists in the conflict
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This note was uploaded on 07/24/2010 for the course PS 001 taught by Professor Graham during the Summer '08 term at Los Angeles Southwest College.

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Ch.12 Module - -1Ch.12 Civil Liberties The Bill of Rights...

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