Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Imagine living in a world where you are not allowed to speak freely, you are not allowed to believe in your own religion or worship freely, or you were sentenced to prison without due process of law. Imagine your home being searched without a warrant for no reason and your property taken and you could not do anything about it. These are just some of the issues since the many people faced and began to recognize they have rights to. Being able to uphold these rights without interference from the government was something that needed to be established and protected.

People needed individual freedom, political stability, social process, and economic growth. There needed to be structure set in place that would give people a strong and effective government without jeopardizing their rights. It was not until the United States Constitution was created. It was officially signed on September 17, 1787. Within the US Constitution is a Bill of Rights which consist of the first 10 Amendments.

These amendments guarantee liberties and civil rights to an individual such as freedom of religion, press, and speech. This paper will discuss the difference between the two, why they are still needed, how important and difficult they are to protect.

Civil Differences and Similarities

Civil liberties can be defined as the state of being subject only to laws established for the good of the community, especially with regard to freedom of action and speech as well as individual rights protected by law from unjust governmental or other interference.

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Civil rights can be defined as guarantees government officials will treat people equally and decisions will be based on merit rather than, gender, race, or any other personal characteristics. It is important to be able to distinguish the difference between civil liberties from civil rights. Civil liberties were created to give people the freedom to be able to practice and worship a religion of their choice without being punished for it. The right to speak freely or give an opinion on something without the fear of retaliation. Now days with social media, freedom of speech can come in many forms such as posting a status on the social media websites Facebook or sending a tweet on Twitter. Civil liberties also include due process of law if you or a loved one were accused of a crime. You would have the right to a fair hearing, to obtain counsel, provide witnesses/cross examine any witnesses, and the chance to appeal the decision. These are just some examples of how civil liberties work.

On the other hand, we have civil rights, which like civil liberties was created to be protect by law from unjust governmental or other interferences. However, civil rights differ from civil liberties as it’s based to protect physical and personal characteristics and guarantee equality no matter your gender, sex, race, age, ethnicity or national origin. With civil rights, a female who was denied a promotion based on her gender, could file a discrimination complaint against her employer. Persons with disabilities are afforded the same job opportunities as a person without a disability and are afforded accommodations based on their disability.

Defending Liberties and Rights

Even though civil liberties and civil rights were established for protection of the people, it was and still is flawed. Hundreds of years later, people were still fighting for their liberties and rights. In the early 1950’s, African Americans were not allowed to sit in the front of a public bus. It was designated for whites only and African Americans were to sit at the back. It was not until 1955 when an African American woman by the name of Rosa Parks changed that by taking a seat in the front of the bus. When the bus started to fill up with white passengers, the bus driver asked Parks to move. She refused. Her resistance set in motion one of the largest social movements in history known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, paving the way for civil rights of African Americans.

As history was being made with civil rights movements, there were also civil liberties happening involving religious beliefs and practices. In particular, cases regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1930’s and 1940’s believed their practices and beliefs were being suppressed. Jehovah’s Witness children were being punished in public schools for failing to salute the flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (cite) Jehovah’s Witnesses would go door to door to evangelize and be arrested for violating door-to-door solicitation laws. It was not until Jehovah Witnesses challenged the court system and were finally able to get their rights upheld.

Difficulty to Protect

Both civil liberties and civil rights play an important role to a person’s freedom; however, civil rights are the most difficult to protect. There are many aspects to a person’s civil rights that are beyond their control and often discriminated against. A person cannot control their color of their skin, their national origin, race, sex, or disability and are often judged based on it. A disabled person may be over-looked for a job because the employer may think due to the disability that person’s work will not be have the same quality as a person without a disability. The disabled person must fight harder to be accepted and given the same equal opportunities.

Protest and Activism

As our civil liberties and rights become harder to protect, protest and activism are necessary and more efficient than government action. With protest and activism comes together of unity in communities. This dynamic provides the connections we need to remind ourselves we are not alone in this and to strengthen the ability to understand one another. In doing so, petitions can be signed, votes can be generated, and public policies and can swayed in one way or another. The voice of many is more likely to be heard than of just one.


Current issues have people of color defending their civil rights against police brutality. Police also appear, consciously or subconsciously, to engage in racial profiling: singling out blacks (and Latinos) for greater attention than members of other racial and ethnic groups, as former FBI director James B. Comey has admitted (cite). Other current issues also have people defending civil liberties such as freedom of speech. People now more than ever are speaking up to have their voices heard; however, deal with the fact of social media sites blocking their post, blocking videos of them speaking out, or being attacked by others because they don’t agree with their view or opinion. Even though it is said to believe that we all should be treated equally, civil liberties and civil rights are still needed currently. As said by writer and philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


  • Chicago- Norwood, Arlisha. ‘Rosa Parks.’ National Women’s History Museum. 2017.
  • MLA – Norwood, Arlisha. ‘Rosa Parks.’ National Women’s History Museum. National Women’s History Museum, 2017. Date accessed.
  • James B. Comey. February 12, 2015. “Hard Truths: Law Enforcement and Race” (speech).m

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Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. (2021, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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