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Preserving the Bill of Rights

20 Lessons


10 Units

20 Lessons

Lesson

The Establishment Clause — How Separate Are Church and State?

3 Activities60 Min

The original thirteen states that formed the United States included individuals from a variety of religious traditions. To ensure that the national government respected freedom of belief, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religious practice, the First Amendment prohibited the federal government from either establishing a national church or interfering with existing state religions. Since then the Supreme Court has created various "tests" to determine if government practices violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This lesson explores the history and principles behind this clause.

Lesson

What Is the Significance of the Free Exercise Clause?

4 Activities55 Min

One of America's most cherished freedoms is the free exercise of religion. In a nation where people of many faiths live side-by-side, the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause protects individuals from government interference in the practice of their faith. The government cannot target laws at specific religious practices or place undue burdens on its citizens' worship. This lesson explores the free exercise clause and the many questions that arise from its enforcement.

Lesson

How Has Speech Been Both Limited and Expanded, and How Does it Apply to You and Your School?

4 Activities50 Min

The Founders meant for the First Amendment to protect a wide array of expressive activities. The Supreme Court, recognizing changes in society and technology, has applied the First Amendment's protections in some ways that are broader than ever. Student speech in public schools, however, poses unique questions. This lesson will help students to understand the operation of the First Amendment in both their school and in the wider context of society, and it will help foster students' appreciation of their rights, preparing them for responsible and effective participation in their school, community, and nation.

Lesson

Why Are the Rights to Assembly and Petition Important to Liberty?

3 Activities20 Min

The Founders knew that an individual's voice is at its most powerful when he can freely come together with citizens of like mind and speak as one. People in the United States have organized, demonstrated, petitioned, and protested in a variety of ways and on a variety of topics, many controversial, since our very beginnings. These rights, however, are not unlimited and must find balance with the rights and safety of others. This lesson explores this balance.

Lesson

What Are the Origins and Interpretations of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms?

5 Activities115 Min

The Founders wanted to be sure they preserved the right to keep and bear arms as they established their new sovereign government. Americans asserted a natural right to defend themselves and their property against all threats, including tyranny of any kind, foreign or domestic. The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights was included to reflect the concerns of many citizens in a number of states. This lesson explores the origins of this amendment.

Lesson

How Do Due Process Protections for the Accused Protect Us All?

4 Activities65 Min

The Founders paid close attention to the rights of the accused because they realized that the government had the power both to prosecute and convict. Protections were needed to guard against the government's abuse of these powers. Understanding how the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments operate to guarantee such protection and how they work to ensure both individual liberty and limit government is vital to maintaining free citizenship. This lesson explores these amendments and the protections they provide.

Lesson

What is a Federal Republic?

4 Activities80 Min

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention embraced the difficult duty of crafting a government that appropriately distributed the power between the national government and the states. For the Founders, the principle of federalism was a means of protecting liberty by limiting and dividing government power. This lesson explores the principle of federalism, how it is constructed in the Constitution, and  the relationship between national and state powers.

Lesson

What is the Commerce Clause?

3 Activities35 Min

Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce, granted in the Commerce Clause, is often invoked as justification for laws regulating a wide variety of economic activities. How much power does the Commerce Clause allow the federal government to have over the states? This lesson examines this question by looking at the principle behind this clause, the Founders intentions, and how the Supreme Court has interpreted the clause throughout American History.

Lesson

What is Incorporation?

3 Activities60 Min

The Fourteenth Amendment was originally written to ensure that freed slaves would be treated as citizens, but, in the twentieth century, the Supreme Court used the amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses to expand the protections provided in the Bill of Rights to the states. This concept of extending, called incorporation, means that the federal government uses the Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights to address limitations on liberty by states against their citizens. This lesson explores the significance of this amendment and incorporation and its effects on our constitutional structure.

Lesson

Who Should Protect Our Fundamental Freedoms?

4 Activities55 Min

The effects of incorporation have been far-reaching and the role of the federal government has been significantly transformed. The basic responsibility of the Federal government to protect fundamental rights has not changed. However, citizens and the courts are still working to determine exactly what those rights are and who should protect them. This lesson examines that question and the debate concerning "Who should protect our fundamental freedoms?".