The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. It spells out Americans' rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion 

The Constitution's framers, influenced by their British rule experiences, aimed to safeguard US citizens from an excessively dominant government. They implemented a structured system of checks and balances to restrict the authority of each government branch. If citizens believed their rights were violated, they could pursue justice through the legal system. Article III of the Constitution designated the Supreme Court as the ultimate court of appeal. The framers believed in people's inherent rights and thus devised a constitution with a detailed amendment process. This process hindered the easy removal of established rights by future governments or legislatures. Initially, the Constitution secured rights for specific groups like gun owners but omitted protections for women and African-Americans. Criticism has arisen regarding the challenging nature of updating the original Constitution.

The debate over the Constitution's protection of civil liberties and US citizens' rights is a widely discussed topic. Consider the following factors when forming an opinion: The majority of individual rights are outlined in the 1791 Bill of Rights, not the original document. Not all rights have the same level of protection and may not be considered inalienable. The interpretation of rights by the Supreme Court plays a crucial role in their protection. 

Key rights explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution include:

 the First Amendment rights to free speech, press freedom, and religious freedom;

 the Second Amendment right to bear arms; 

the Fourth Amendment right against 'unreasonable searches';

 the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; 

and the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy, fair, and public trial.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil lawsuits. 

Various amendments have safeguarded Americans from slavery, racial, and gender discrimination in voting.

 However, certain groups such as individuals with disabilities, children, and LGBTQ+ Americans do not have explicit constitutional protection. Social rights like education, healthcare, and housing are absent in recent human rights declarations. The concept of constitutional rights in the US is inconsistent, selective, and reflective of the era it was created. Many groups rely on congressional or state laws for protection. To evaluate these rights, the First Amendment can be examined. It is peculiar to see signs labeling certain areas in the USA's National Parks as 'First Amendment areas'.

Despite this, the signs encapsulate the paradox surrounding the USA and free speech, a combination of safeguarding and control. Free speech does not mean unrestricted expression in any place or at any time. Nearly all opinions, no matter how peculiar or morally questionable, should be safeguarded. However, opinions promoting illegal activities or endangering public safety can be controlled and penalized. Various test cases aim to determine the boundaries, as illustrated in the subsequent case studies.

First Amendment rights: Morse v Frederick (2007)

The legal case involved a high school student from Alaska who displayed a banner with the message 'BONG HiTS 4 JESUS' near the school during a school-sanctioned event as part of the 2002 Winter Olympics torch relay. The student was suspended by the principal for promoting illegal drug use. He contested the suspension, arguing that his right to freedom of expression had been violated. The court ruled against the student, stating that schools have the authority to regulate speech, specifically 'school speech', if it goes against the school's educational objectives or jeopardizes student safety. If the banner had not been exhibited at a school event or conflicted with the school's anti-drug stance, the outcome might have been different.