A final important background idea is that Constitutional rights generally do not apply when a person or private company mistreats someone. The Constitution's fundamental liberties are primarily designed to protect people from government tyranny and not from each other. Other kinds of laws, often statutes, serve that function. Therefore, if the police refuse to let you peacefully protest, you may have a good free speech case. If you work for a corporation, and your boss will not let you express your opinions at the office, you probably do not. Privileges and Immunities : This clause in Article IV of the Constitution is used to prevent states from discriminating against citizens who live out of state in various ways. Nonresidents must be allowed to travel freely and access the courts, for example. Free Speech : Perhaps the best known of all Constitutional liberties is the right to free speech. It is not an absolute right (you can't shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, for example). The founders wanted to ensure that Americans had a right to criticize their government and express their opinions without fear of arrest or sanction. Free speech covers actual speaking as well as symbolic expression, as in art, exhibitions, and protests. It applies to individuals and, to a large extent, businesses and organizations. One of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in recent years was Citizens United v. FEC. In that case, the Supreme Court used the First Amendment to greatly expand the ability of
corporations to make campaign donations. Additional issues arise when corporations wish to "speak" by advertising to customers. Equal Protection: The 14th Amendment requires that the government extend anyone living in its jurisdiction Equal Protection under the law. In a 14th Amendment case, the plaintiff's basic argument is as follows, "The government has created a law, or a policy, that treats people like me less favorably than people in other groups. It shouldn't do this. I am entitled to Equal Protection." The challenged law might make distinctions based upon age, street address, sexual preference, income level, or anything at all. Lots of laws make distinctions between different kinds of people and not all of them are bad. The government clearly shouldn't discriminate against women, for example, but few people would be upset at a tax law that "discriminated in favor of" parents and allowed them to save money in a tax free account to pay for a child's education or health care. If the government wants to keep a challenged law on the books, it must defend itself in one of three ways depending on what type of discrimination is involved. § For social and economic regulations, the government normally must only convince a court that there is a rational basis for the law. So long as a court agrees that there is some non- ridiculous reason for a rule, it will be allowed to stand.
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