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The United States Constitution guarantees certain rights for all US citizens. Some of these rights were written in to the original body of the Constitution, and others within the first ten amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The first right, enshrined in the main body of the Constitution, is the notion of habeas corpus, that courts cannot hold or imprison someone without evidence. Additional rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights include:
- First Amendement: Congress will not establish an religion, but will allow citizens free exercise of religion. This amendment also guarantees freedom of speech, the right of peacable assembly, and the right to petition Congress for redress to right wrongs.
- Security against unreasonable search and seizures: The government must show probable cause before searching a citizen's property or seizing a citizen's goods.
- The fifth through eighth amendments guarantee right to timely trial by jury and many other rights for defendants in trials. Cruel and unusual punishments are prohibited.
The fourteenth amendment, passed after the Civil War, guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law, and thus prohibits racial discrimination. It is the basis for many of the legal protections for the disabled and also for gender equality.
It is a mistake to think that citizens rights come from the Constitution. The Constitution is a document of limited government. Initially the guarantee was that the federal government was limited and contained within the 4 corners of that document. It could not interfere with my liberty except for certain enumerated instances. The Bill of Rights as well as many other Amendments were written as a positive guarantee of certain rights. The problem today is that the federal government has far exceeded its original charter to the point where such rights as we do have need to be recognized by the federal government to be valid.
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