Civil Liberties – Know Your Rights

Once the government has the power to violate one person’s rights, it can use that power against everyone.” ACLU



Civil liberties are individual rights protected by law from unjust governmental or other interference, including freedom of speech or assembly, without unwarranted or arbitrary interference by the government. In the U.S., civil liberties are protected by the Bill of Rights.

To protect your rights, you needs to know what your rights are, and you need to speak up and take a stand (and/or support the American Civil Liberties Union). Keep reading. We’ve posted your Bill of Rights in this blog.

As we’ve seen all too frequently, when rational debate flies out the window and fear rules, civil liberties often pay the price. A group of civil libertarians took a stand when, following World War I, the U.S. feared the Communist Revolution would spread to the U.S. “In November 1919 and January 1920, in what notoriously became known as the ‘Palmer Raids,’ Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up and deporting so-called radicals. Thousands of people were arrested without warrants and without regard to constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure.” [All quotes in this blog are sourced from the ACLU Website]

And thus was born the ACLU. As late as the 1920s, “the individual freedoms enumerated in the Constitution had never been fully tested in the courts, making them largely meaningless for ordinary people.”

The ACLU vigorously defends our freedoms. They spoke out when 110,000 Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps. With the NAACP, they challenged racial segregation in public schools. And they were involved in Roe v. Wade protecting woman’s reproductive rights. Their work exposed the extent of the Bush torture program. To protect our freedom of speech and right to assembly, they defended a Nazi group that wanted to march through a Chicago suburb. It certainly wasn’t a popular stand to take, but by doing so they preserved the right for everyone.

“Since the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11, the ACLU has been working vigorously to oppose policies that sacrifice our fundamental freedoms in the name of national security. From opposing the Patriot Act to challenging warrantless spying to challenging the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charge or trial, the ACLU is committed to restoring fundamental freedoms lost as a result of policies that expand the government’s power to invade privacy, imprison people without due process and punish dissent.”

The ACLU makes it easy for us to know our rights. Click on this link and learn what your rights are in various situations. Here are a few examples:

Demonstrations and Protests

What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI

When Encountering Law Enforcement – Searches and Warrants

When Encountering Law Enforcement – Stops and Arrests

When Encountering Law Enforcement – Questioning

Additional Resources:

ACLU of Oregon:, (503) 227-3186,

Click to see key congressional votes via ACLU’s legislative scorecard.

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. And here they are:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.


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