FLVS Civics Foundations – Bill of Rights
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FLVS Civics Foundations – Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the first ten
amendments to the Constitution. It’s more than just an important sounding
list though. The Bill of Rights exists to protect Americans
way of life. Let’s take a look. The First Amendment
protects political and religious freedom with the rights to speech, press, assembly, petition,
and religion. These freedoms preserve democracy. Citizens can share honest or even negative
opinions about government without fear of punishment. The press can
publish ideas and opinions so the government isn’t the only source of information. The right of assembly allows people to meet
in groups to protest laws they think are unfair. Protest is an important way people can demand
change from the government. The right to petition allows people to contact
government about concerns and request changes. This amendment is the foundation for all rights. When people can speak up without fear, they
can demand and use their rights. The Second Amendment protects the right to
bear arms. It allows people to own guns and other weapons. They do this for three reasons: One is hunting, whether for food or for
sport. Another is to get police officers and soldiers
a way to protect. Finally, citizens are allowed to own guns
to protect themselves as well. When the Constitution was written, it was
common to own guns. They used their own weapons in the fight for
independence. Many people believe this right is a way to
protect people from government abuse of power. The Third Amendment also reflects colonial
events, preventing the quartering of troops. Great Britain sent soldiers to the colonies,
forcing families to provide for them. The colonists felt angry and threatened and
decided that Americans should not be expected to do this. The Fourth Amendment protects people from
unlawful searches and seizures, or being stopped by the police without reason. Officials are not allowed to take people’s
things without a warrant. Judges will only issue warrants if
there’s reason to believe evidence of a crime will be found. If police witness a crime in progress, however,
they don’t need a warrant to search and take evidence. The Fifth Amendment has several parts, just
like the first. It says people who are accused of crimes do
not have to testify in court or take the stand because they cannot be
expected to give evidence against themselves. Their accusers must prove guilt, so when you
hear people in court say “I plead the fifth,” it means that answering the question would
violate their right against self-incrimination. The amendment also prevents double jeopardy,
or holding a trial for the same crime twice. It protects people from made-up evidence. It also prevents evidence from turning up
years later and leading to a new trial. This amendment also prevents taking away someone’s
natural rights without the full legal process. It also protects property, noting that government
can not take people’s property for public use without paying them for it. The Sixth Amendment protects a person’s right to speedy and public jury trial. It also gives them the right to legal counsel
or help from a lawyer. It says people can’t be held in jail without
a trial. Without these rights, a person arrested and
taken to jail might never see a judge, talk to family, or a lawyer – even if they have
not broken a law. The Seventh Amendment protects people’s rights
to have a jury decide a civil or criminal case instead of a judge. A civil case is when two citizens or groups
are having a dispute. One side usually wants compensation from
the other for a wrong. The Eighth Amendment prevents cruel or unusual
punishment for crimes. People do not have to worry about, for example,
going to jail for twenty years for stealing a candy bar. Keep in mind though that this amendment
protects people from government – you cannot use it as defense against your parents when
grounded for not doing your chores. The Ninth Amendment protects unenumerated
rights. Those are rights that are not directly listed
in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. This is a fancy way of saying that just because
the right is not listed, it does not mean people don’t have it. For example, if there’s not a law banning
shaving your eyebrows, then you’re safe to assume you have that right. This amendment exists because the writers
knew they could not possibly list every right people could have. The courts interpret what rights are and are
not protected. For example, Americans have economic freedom. This means they have the right to form businesses,
choose how to make a living, and spend their earnings. The Tenth Amendment helps balance power between
the state and federal governments. It says that the federal government only has
the powers listed in the Constitution. Unlisted powers are left to the states. For example, the constitution doesn’t specify
an education system, so each state creates schools
by their own laws. The Bill of Rights’ Ten Amendments have been
protecting America’s freedom since 1791.

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