How does the Bill of Rights protect freedom?
- Identify fundamental liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.
- Analyze the connections and interdependence among the protections in the Bill of Rights.
- Evaluate situations in which rights may be violated.
- Appreciate the Bill of Rights and its protection of liberty.
- The Bill of Rights [Appendix C]
- Handout A: The Value of Rights
- Handout B: Bill of Rights Scenario Cards
- Handout C: The Bill of Rights Today [optional]
- Handout D: Life Without Rights for the Accused [optional]
- Ask students to share and explain some of their responses to Handout A. Then engage the class in a large group discussion to answer the questions:
- What similarities do you find among the rights people generally ranked as most important?
- Do you think responses might change based on the following factors: Age—would the rights have a similar ranking if the students were adults? Place in history—would the rights have a similar ranking if the students lived during the Founding era? The Civil War? The Progressive Era? Family—would the rights have a similar ranking if the students’ parents were lawyers? Ministers? Convicted felons? Members of the military?
- Why is it wrong for governments to infringe on these individual rights?
- Conclude the discussion by reminding students that many of the rights in the Bill of Rights are natural human rights all people are born with, and that nobody should have to live without. The Bill of Rights was written to protect individuals from government infringing on those rights.
- Divide the class into twelve groups. Give each group one Card from Handout B: Bill of Rights Scenario Cards. Referencing their copies of the Bill of Rights, groups should write their answers to the following questions: 1) Which right (if any) is being violated? and 2) Which amendment (if any) offers protection against such a violation?
- After two or three minutes, have groups pass their Scenario Card another group. Continue until each group has responded to every Scenario Card.
- Ask one member of each group to line up in the front of the room in order of amendments to create a “living Bill of Rights.” (Some amendments will have more than one representative in line.)
- Have each representative read their group’s Scenario Card and share their group’s response. See the Answer Key for correct answers.
- When going over Scenario Cards which focus on Supreme Court cases, ask students to evaluate the Court’s ruling. Did the Court decide the constitutional question correctly?
Ask students if the protections for individual rights that were added to the Constitution in 1791 are out of date, or if they are still important today. What current issues highlight the importance of Bill of Rights protections?
- Distribute Handout C: The Bill of Rights Today. Have students research current events that illustrate the rights and protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Students can begin their research by reading “Bill of Rights in the News” stories updated daily at: www.BillofRightsInstitute.org.
- Have students read the narrative on Handout D: “Life Without Rights for the Accused,” which tells a fictional story of an accused person living in a society where government does not honor the criminal procedure protections in the Bill of Rights. Have them identify the violations of rights. Then ask them to write their own “Life Without…” story. For example: “Life Without Freedom of Expression,” (which would include speech, press, assembly and petition); “Life Without Freedom of Religion,” or “Life Without Protection for Private Property.” Student may then:
- Trade papers and challenge a friend to find the violations in their story
- Give the class buzzers or flags; have one student read his or her story aloud while the rest of the class buzzes or raises a flag when a violation has occurred.
- Combine stories into one long series of narratives which they can share with other classes.
Assign students to work in pairs to research one of the topics (e.g. criminal procedure, religion, expression, etc.) from the Bill of Rights in the News Activities section of the Bill of Rights Institute Web site. Have them present a five-minute summary of major positions on the issue, and conclude with their opinions. Activities can be found at: www.BillofRightsInstitute.org
Bill of Rights (1791)
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. James Madison wrote the amendments, which list specific prohibitions on governmental power, in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties.
James Madison and the Bill of Rights
Why is Madison called the "Father of the Constitution"?
The Bill of Rights
The Anti-Federalists had many objections to the Constitution, and one of them was that it did not have a bill of rights. Madison and Hamilton were worried that listing some rights would leave those rights that weren’t listed more vulnerable to infringement. But Jefferson put aside the concerns about the risks of a partial listing of rights, arguing, “Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can.” Amid the drama of the ratification debate, Madison promised to introduce amendments in the first session of the new Congress. The Bill of Rights, a list that would serve to clarify and emphasize the limited nature of the national government, was ratified and added to the Constitution in 1791.
The Bill of Rights – Docs of Freedom
The Anti-Federalists had many objections to the Constitution, and one of them was that it did not have a bill of rights. Madison was worried that listing some rights would leave those rights that weren’t listed more vulnerable to infringement. But Jefferson put aside Madison’s concerns about the risks of a partial listing of rights, arguing, “Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can.” Amid the drama of the ratification debate, Madison promised to introduce amendments in Congress. The Bill of Rights, a list that would serve to clarify and emphasize the limited nature of the national government, was ratified and added to the Constitution in 1791.
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.
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 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.