Civil liberties are those fundamental freedoms that together guarantee the rights of free people and protect the people from improper government actions against them. The specific rights that together make up the civil liberties of the people of the United States are written in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Examples of civil liberties include freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the guarantee of a fair, unbiased trial.
How do civil liberties differ from civil rights?
Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, scholars generally agree that civil liberties are those liberties that protect people from the government—those that guarantee the safety of people, their opinions, and their property from the government as listed in the Constitution. The term “civil rights,” on the other hand, is generally used to refer to acts of government that make constitutional guarantees real for all people, ensuring that they receive equal treatment under the law, as outlined by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Landmark civil rights legislation is found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race or sex.