Students > Civil Liberties & Equity > Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights

Civil Liberties vs. 
Civil Rights

Understanding Legal Concepts

Learn the difference between civil liberties and civil rights.

In the United States, “civil liberties” and “civil rights” are often used as interchangeable terms, but they actually refer to different legal concepts.

 

Civil liberties refer to several different rights and freedoms that are guaranteed, like the freedom of religion and the right to marry.

 

In contrast, civil rights refer essentially to the right to not be discriminated against (based on certain protected characteristics like race, gender, and disability). This is a subtle but fundamental difference. 

Find and read a short article online that explains the difference between civil liberties and civil rights.

Once you understand the difference, write some example scenarios that illustrate the difference between civil liberties and civil rights.


(Note: One resource that may be helpful is FindLaw's “
Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties.")

Reconsider the case of the Japanese American incarceration from the reading The Japanese American Incarceration and determine whether the mass incarceration was an example of a civil liberties violation, a civil rights violation, or both.

Persons of Japanese ancestry arrive at the Santa Anita Assembly Center from San Pedro, CA, April 5, 1942.

Next Up:

DEFINING CIVIL LIBERTIES

ACTIVITY

Define civil liberties and write down examples.

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND CIVIL LIBERTIES

ACTIVITY

Read and discuss key amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

CIVIL LIBERTIES VIOLATION OR NOT?

ACTIVITY

Read example scenarios and answer questions related to whether civil liberties have been violated.

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