The Bill of Rights and The Founders
Provides an introduction and overview of the Bill of Rights, including the Founders’ understanding of the “rights of Englishmen,” British law, and natural rights philosophy. This unit also examines the Federalist and Anti-Federalist debate about a bill of rights.
The Bill of Rights and Religion
Explores the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, including studies of the Founders’ understanding of both. The unit explores the constitutionality of government action relating to religion as well as the relationship between the government and religious institutions. The unit also investigates instances where “free exercise” and “establishment” might conflict.
The Bill of Rights and Free Speech
Focuses on First Amendment protection of free speech, free assembly, and petition of government. The unit also examines the evolution of the definitions of protected expression in speech, petition, assembly, art, and demonstration.
The Bill of Rights and Freedoms of the Press – Assembly – and Petition
First Amendment freedoms like press, assembly, and petition are essential to self-government. The Founders saw these freedoms as a bulwark of free, republican government and a means of assuring justice.
The Bill of Rights and Property
Spotlights safeguards to property in the Bill of Rights, explores various types of property, and examines the concepts of takings, just compensation, and eminent domain.
The Bill of Rights and Due Process
Covers search and seizure, rights of the accused, due process of law, jury trials, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments.
The Bill of Rights and Liberty
Explores the unenumerated rights reserved to the people with reference to the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, with a focus on rights including travel, political affiliation, and privacy. Probes the ways the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments have been used to claim rights to personal liberty.
The Bill of Rights and Federalism
Explores the powers reserved to the states as provided by the Tenth Amendment. Explains the Founders’ understanding of a federalist system and the expansion and contraction of the federal government’s power.
The Bill of Rights and Guns
Explores the origins of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Also explores relevant Supreme Court decisions and engages students in the current debate over gun regulation.
The Bill of Rights and Incorporation
Explores incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the states as provided for in the Fourteenth Amendment. Highlights the controversies about incorporation as well as significant incorporation cases.
Why A Bill of Rights? What Impact Does It Have?
The debate over the Bill of Rights at the Founding was not an argument over whether rights exist, but about how best to protect those rights. The Founders disagreed about whether a bill of rights was necessary, and whether it would be effective. Later generations continue to face the challenge of finding the best way to safeguard individual rights. This lesson explores these debates and discussions.
What Are the Origins of the Bill of Rights?
In this lesson, students will explore the events and philosophies from British and colonial history that shaped the Founders' ideas about natural rights as well as the rights of Englishmen. They will also see how these rights affect all of our daily lives in a free society.
The Establishment Clause — How Separate Are Church and State?
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.
What Is the Significance of the Free Exercise Clause?
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.
Why is Free Speech Essential to Self-Government?
America's Founders recognized the necessity of vigorous public debate and enshrined the right to speak freely in the Bill of Rights. This component of the Constitution protects a wide range of speech, including speech we might find disagreeable. While the First Amendment's primary purpose was to protect political speech, its protections do have limits. This lesson explores this essential principle of free speech.
How Has Speech Been Both Limited and Expanded, and How Does it Apply to You and Your School?
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.
Why Does a Free Press Matter?
In this lesson, students will examine the history and importance of press freedom and, by seeking out information on constitutional issues from multiple sources, begin to understand ways a free press makes self-government possible.
Why Are the Rights to Assembly and Petition Important to Liberty?
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.
What Are the Origins and Interpretations of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms?
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.
How Has the Second Amendment Been Interpreted?
For much of American history, the Supreme Court had very little to say about the Second Amendment until 2008 when the Court heard arguments in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. Richard Heller challenged the city's total ban on handguns on Second Amendment grounds. The Court agreed with Heller finding the ban unconstitutional.
What is Property? Why Protect It?
The Founders were extremely concerned with protecting private property as a cornerstone of a free society. Property is not only physical possessions but also ideas, works, and even what someone has been promised in wages. This lesson explores the idea of property, its origins and the reasons it is protected.
How Does the Fifth Amendment Protect Property?
The Founders believed that property is among the natural rights governments exist to protect. One of the ways the Founders protected property rights was in the Fifth Amendment. This amendment restricts the government's ability to take property and ensures that when it does take property, it must pay for it. This lesson explores the Fifth Amendment and its applications.
How Do Due Process Protections for the Accused Protect Us All?
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.
What Is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?
The Constitutional principle of due process, which holds that government must interact with citizens according to duly-enacted laws, balances the rights of suspects with public safety. This lesson explores the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment and how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over time.
How Does the Constitution Protect Liberty?
The Founders listed several rights guaranteed to the people in the first eight amendments of the Bill of Rights. They did not believe that this list was all encompassing, so they included the Ninth Amendment as a way to protect the rights of the people that were not listed in the first Eight. This lesson explores the nature of these unnamed rights and examines the arguments around who should interpret them, judges or the people.
What is the Scope of the Bill of Rights?
The Supreme Court has protected many rights not listed explicitly in the Bill of Rights, although it has not used the Ninth Amendment, which protects, "other rights not listed", very often. This lesson examines rights people have claimed under the Ninth Amendment. Students will analyze different perspectives of personal liberty issues, and examine the way the Supreme Court has applied the Ninth Amendment to various cases.
What is a Federal Republic?
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.
What is the Commerce Clause?
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.
What is Incorporation?
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.
Who Should Protect Our Fundamental Freedoms?
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?".