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Civil Liberties, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 631

Essay

Civil liberties are the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to a nation’s people to protect them from an over-powerful government. They limit the use of abusive power by a coercive government. These liberties are most commonly found in democratic states such as Britain, United States of America and not in dictatorial states such as Iraq or North Korea. Specific individual rights include the right to life, the right to privacy, the right to liberty and security, freedom from torture, freedom from slavery, the right to a fair trial, the right to defend one’s self, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to marry and have a family. Common civil rights are freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, the rights of people, the right to due process, to a trial, to own property, and to privacy.

Democratic states promote the rights of people to have an equal say in decisions that will likely affect their daily lives. It literally means, “Rule of the people”. Civil liberties were created to give a sense of equality to a nation’s people where interests of the minority and majority are catered for. These rights are relative in the sense that what may be right to one person may be an infringement of another person’s right. For instance, in France, the government has banned Muslim girls in schools from wearing their traditionally attire claiming that education in the country is secular. With wearing of their tradition garb, it goes against the uniformity intended in the education system. Similar religious groups that wear specific clothing to identify with their religion are also in the same boat. As evidenced, most times minority groups are most likely to suffer at the expense of the majority on the issue of civil rights and liberties.

The occurrence of 9/11, there are a lot of claims that the American government has infringed on the civil rights of its citizens in the name of warring against terrorism. The introduction of the famous “USA PATRIOT Act” in 2004, led to many legal changes occurring, that undermine the civil and constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. Government intelligence agents were granted the powers to spy on citizens, without any proof of having committed a crime: to withhold public information and legal proceedings secret, to profile individuals in terms of ethnic background, indefinite detention, conduct secret searches and wiretaps among others. Terrorism suspects/detainees locked up in Guantánamo are having most of their civil rights, if not all, being infringed on, for instance, the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture, the right to due process.

The Equal Protection Clause, a part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, clearly states that, “no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. This clause has been viewed as an attempt by the United States government to the proposition that, “all men are created equal” and the judiciary has been empowered to enforce this proposition. In essence, state laws must treat a person in the same way as others under similar conditions and circumstances. For example, it would be considered a violation to prohibit one form entering into an employment contract because of their race, gender or religion. The clause is not meant to provide “equality” among different people but only “equal application” of the law. The result of a law is not important so long as no discrimination of application has taken place thus protecting the civil rights of individuals.

Works Cited

Jackson, Thomas F. and Martin Luther King (Jr.). From civil rights to human rights: Martin

Luther King, Jr., and the struggle for economic justice. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Print.

Stephens, Tom. “Civil Liberties after September 11”. Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, July 12-13, 2003. Web. 22 Sept. 2011. <http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/07/11/civil-liberties-after-september-11/>

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