You have the right to marry. You have the right to travel freely. You have the right to freedom of speech. Every American knows these are only some of the rights he or she enjoys. However, are these really called “civil rights”? Or are they called “civil liberties”? In this article, you will learn the difference between the two commonly interchanged terms in American society.
|Civil Liberties||Civil Rights|
|The basic freedoms and constitutional rights of a person from an autocratic government or the government’s transgression against said rights||The positive actions that the government should take to protect the basic rights of all individuals from discrimination based on age, sex, religion, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and other similar factors|
|The roots of civil liberties can be traced back to the Magna Carta, which had a strong influence on the U. S. Constitution||Symbolizes the sufferings of the African-American slaves who were freed after the Civil War|
|Civil liberties were instituted based on the Bill of Rights, the 14th Amendment (specifically the “Due Process Clause” and “Privileges or Immunities Clause”), and the decisions made by the Supreme Court and lower federal courts||Civil rights were taken from the 14th Amendment (specifically from the “Equal Protection Clause”) and from laws passed by Congress|
|Examples include right to privacy, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of the press, right to freedom of speech, right to legal counsel||Examples include The Equal Pay Act of 1963, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act|
Civil liberties are the basic freedoms and constitutional rights of a person. Their purpose is to protect each person from an autocratic government or its transgression against his or her rights. Civil liberties are enjoyed by all.
On the other hand, civil rights are the basic rights of each person to be free from discrimination or unfair treatment based on age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. Its backbone is the principle of a democratic government; it aims to represent each and every person without discrimination. These rights have the intention to protect everyone, especially the “minorities,” or groups who are likely to face discrimination.
Civil Liberties vs Civil Rights
The difference between civil liberties and civil rights lies in their nature, origin, and the intentions which they were founded upon. Let us discuss these in detail and see a few examples below.
Civil liberties are the basic constitutional rights of all individuals from an overbearing government. On the other hand, civil rights are the positive actions that the government should take to protect the basic rights of all individuals from discrimination based on age, sex, religion, race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. Civil rights ensure that the peoples’ life, safety, and physical and mental welfare are protected.
The beginning of civil liberties originated somewhat from the Magna Carta, which is a historical code of liberty and political rights acquired from King John of England in 1215. When the United States of America finally gained independence, every state petitioned for individual freedoms to be permitted by the new Federal Government. During this time, the Bill of Rights was added to the constitution.
Civil rights were established many years after, around when the U.S Civil war ended. The concept of civil rights symbolizes the sufferings and struggles of the African-American slaves who gained their freedom when the war ended.
Civil liberties were instituted based on the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution (Bill of Rights) and partly on the 14th Amendment, specifically the “Due Process Clause” and “Privileges or Immunities Clause.” Some liberties have also been interpreted by the law from the decisions made by the Supreme Court and lower federal courts.
Similar to civil liberties, civil rights were taken from the 14th Amendment, but specifically from the “Equal Protection” clause. Civil rights may also be instituted by the laws created by Congress.
The following are examples of civil liberties:
- Right to vote
- Right to freedom of religion
- Right to travel freely
- Right to marry
- Right to freedom of speech
- Right to privacy
- Right to bear arms
- Right to have freedom of the press
- Right to be free from self-incrimination
- Right to a jury trial
- Right to legal counsel
- Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of your property
- Right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments
- Right to assemble peacefully
- Right to have freedom of expression
- Right to be free from torture
- Right to life
A few examples of civil rights can be taken from the implementation of the following laws:
- The Fourteenth Amendment – grants citizenship equality to all individuals, regardless of a person’s race
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (or ADA) – protects the individuals with disabilities from unjust and discriminatory treatment
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – protects all individuals from unjust treatment based on factors such as age, race, sex, religion, gender, etc.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act – protects employees who are 40 years old or older from discrimination by employers
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 – abolishes wage differences based on gender
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 – protects African-Americans and their right to vote
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 and 2004 (IDEA) – ensures that all students with disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)