Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Adam's Apple, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. Adam's Apple

    Adam's Apple Senior Member

    Apr 25, 2004
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    The Difference between Civil Rights, Liberties
    by Sheila Suess Kennedy, The Indianapolis Star
    August 23, 2005

    Quick -- what's the difference between civil liberties and civil rights?
    If you aren't quite certain, you have a lot of company. The distinction is lost on most of my students, and -- far more troubling -- on a good number of city and state legislators.

    Civil liberties are rights that individuals have against government. Citizens of the new United States refused to ratify the Constitution unless a Bill of Rights was added, specifically protecting them against official infringements of their "inalienable rights." Among our civil liberties are the right to free expression, the right to worship (or not) as we choose, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

    After the civil war, the 14th Amendment added the Equal Protection Clause, prohibiting government from treating equally situated citizens unequally. The 14th Amendment also applied the provisions of the Bill of Rights to all levels of government -- not just the federal government, as was originally the case, but also to state and local government agencies. Only the government can violate your civil liberties.

    Civil rights took a lot longer and were a lot more controversial. It was 1964 before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. Civil rights laws protect people against private acts of discrimination -- discrimination in employment, in housing or education. The original Civil Rights Act applied to businesses engaged in interstate commerce -- businesses that held themselves out to be "public accommodations" but were, shall we say, "selective" about which segments of the public they were willing to accommodate.

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