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Why is the Fourteenth Amendment and Selective Incorporation important to our understanding of our rights and liberties?

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The Fourteenth Amendment and "selective incorporation" are important to our understanding of American rights and liberties because they determine which Bill of Rights protections are applied to the states and which are not.

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The Bill of Rights placed limits on Congress's ability to restrict certain liberties through legislation. "Incorporation" is the Supreme Court's doctrineestablished after the Fourteenth Amendment was ratifiedthat the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment mandates that these liberties are protected from the states, as well.

The Supreme Court has established, however, a doctrine of "selective incorporation," meaning that it has been reluctant to make a blanket ruling for all of the liberties mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Rather, the Court has chosen to treat issues of incorporation one amendmentor sometimes even one clauseat a time. The result is that some amendments are fully incorporated at the state level. Though the First Amendment begins with "Congress shall make no law," each of the protections included therein apply to states as well. The same is true of the Second, Fourth, and Eighth Amendments. In some other cases, the Supreme Court has not chosen to apply all of the protections in an amendment to the states. The Fifth Amendment, for example, has not been fully incorporatedthe grand jury protection has not been applied to all of the states. Some amendments have not been incorporated at all. The Third Amendment, which has been the subject of a Supreme Court case, has not been incorporated. So the doctrine of selective incorporation has profoundly affected which rights and liberties are protected from state infringement under the Constitution.

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