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ISSUES-Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties are freedoms that, by definition, protect individuals against excessive government encroachments on, and control over, their private lives. Thus civil liberties are the logical correlates of limited government. The first formal civil-liberties protections in the United States were written into the Bill of Rights, whose express purpose was to stipulate that the government would not be permitted to deny people such liberties as  freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to worship (or not) as one chooses, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom to bear arms, and freedom from double jeopardy and self-incrimination in a court of law.

Civil liberties are different from civil rights, which protect people not against government overreach but rather against acts of discrimination in the private sphere -- in such areas as employment, housing, or education. Civil-rights laws generally specify a set of characteristics that cannot be used to favor some people over others: race, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and nationality. Whereas civil liberties are designed to free people from the intrusion of government into the private sphere, civil-rights laws actually call for government intervention to prohibit discrimination there.


                                SEE ALSO

* Civil Liberties Advocates

Civil Liberties Groups

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