The Bill of Rights looms large in any discussion of American civil liberties, but the document that today seems so inseparable from American citizenship had a rocky birth.
Controversy raged over whether a bill of rights was necessary in the first place.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution caused a lot of controversy.
The Supreme Court agreed over a century ago that some of the Bill of Rights should be applied to the states.
We came very close to not having a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
The Federalists argued that the Constitution was a bill of rights, that individual rights were already protected by many of the state constitutions, and that listing the powers that the national government did not have was dangerous because it implied that the government had every other power.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth."
Even though the national government was limited in principle by popular sovereignty, it could not hurt to limit it in practice as well.
A specific list of the people's rights would give the judiciary more power.
Hamilton was correct in calling the Constitution a bill of rights.
Protection of some very specific rights is contained in the text of the before judge and they are told why they are being held and what evidence exists against them.
The provision protects people from being imprisoned for political reasons.
The national and state governments are not allowed to have laws that single out a person or that were legal when carried out.
The founding fathers had in mind the flaws of the Articles of Confederation when they allowed states to not impair or diminish the obligation of contracts.
The citizens of each state are entitled to the privileges and immunities of the several states, which prevents any state from discriminating against citizens of other states.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the right to travel freely, conduct business, and have access to state courts is protected by this provision.
There are more categories of restrictions on government in the first ten amendments.
One of the two amendments that were not approved was about the apportionment of members of Congress.
On December 15, 1791, Amendments One through Ten were approved.
Government action is limited by Congress.
The text of the first ten amendments doesn't prevent the legislatures of Oregon or Georgia or Texas from passing laws that restrict the freedom of newspaper editors to criticize the government.
The Fourteenth Amendment made it possible for the Supreme Court to require that the Bill of Rights apply only to the national government.
The wording of the post-Civil War amendment left it open to interpretation, but it was designed to force southern states to extend the rights of citizenship to African Americans.
No state will make or enforce any law which will abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, nor will any state deny any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
The process of guaranteeing citizens due process of law was begun by the Supreme Court in 1897.
At first, it didn't mean that all rights could be incorporated.
Each right had to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the court.
Most of the rights in the first ten amendments have been incorporated over the years.
The Bill of Rights is a judicial creation since it is a matter of interpretation rather than an absolute constitutional principle.
If the justices change their minds or if the Court's composition changes, the process of incorporating is subject to reversal, and it is possible that this may be the case currently as the Court narrows its understanding of the rights.
citizens clearly have a stake in seeing that they are guaranteed these rights at every level of government because rights are so central to a democracy.
Unless the state constitution also provides guarantees, they are not guaranteed at the state level unless they are incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment.
If the Supreme Court changes its mind, the Bill of Rights can be reversed.
There is a stake in this by the Supreme Court.
Its interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the creation of the process of incorporation have greatly expanded its power over the states and the federal government.
The "democratic freedoms" were crammed into the very first of the amendments because they were so necessary to ensure the free and unfettered people required by a representative democracy.
None of these liberties has escaped controversy, and none has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be absolute or unlimited.
We will look at each clause of the First Amendment, the controversy and power struggles surrounding it, and the way the courts have interpreted and applied it.
When politics and religion are allowed to mix, the briefest look around the world tells us.
The stakes are enormous when it comes to conflicts over religion, fundamental beliefs about the world and the way life should be lived.
It is difficult to compromise.
The United States has been spared from the kind of violent conflict that arises when one group declares its religion to be the one true faith for the whole polity.
Although this amendment has generated a lot of controversy, it has at the same time established general guidelines with which most people can agree and a venue where conflicts can be aired and addressed.
The idea of a universal freedom of conscience, the right of all individuals to believe as they please, was championed by Jefferson and Madison.
The wall of separation between church and state was built by the First Amendment.
Their view of religious freedom was based on two main arguments.
From the Holy Roman Empire to the Church of England, history has shown that linking church and state can have a negative impact on secular life.
It reduces the population to subjecthood and puts individual freedoms in jeopardy.
Madison believed that the primary threat to republican government was from religion.