How the Bill of Rights Protect Individual Freedoms | Social Studies
Do you know what rights you’re guaranteed as a U.S. citizen? To name a few, you have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom from imprisonment without a fair trial, and the right to bear arms. Understanding how these rights and freedoms are protected is an important part of the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Social Studies subtest.
The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It’s important to note that these freedoms were not originally included in the Constitution when it was signed in Philadelphia in 1787. The Bill of Rights were signed into effect on December 15, 1791 after great debate from the Founders of the Constitution:
- James Madison saw no need for the Constitution to include a Bill of Rights. He argued that the design of limited government (with a system of checks and balances) would ensure that personal freedoms were protected.
- Thomas Jefferson disputed this claim and felt a Bill of Rights was needed to clearly state what civil liberties were guaranteed.
- As Americans began to see that an official Bill of Rights was a necessity for an established nation, five states agreed to ratify the Constitution on the condition that Congress immediately seek to create a Bill of Rights.
- America’s first Congress passed 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789. Ten of those amendments were ratified and implemented in 1791.
How the Bill of Rights are Enforced
The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect individual liberties. It is up to all elected and appointed officials – at any level of government – to use their power of judicial review to strike down any law that is in violation of promised liberties.
Ongoing debates regarding gun control and freedom of speech can be seen across news outlets to this day. But no majority, member of congress, or president can override the Bill of Rights. These debates remind us just how fragile and essential these rights are.
Find a full text version of the Bill of Rights at BillofRightsInstitue.org.
Test your understanding of the Bill of Rights and how individual freedoms are protected for the TASC test.