"Liberty and justice for all," the heart of America's Pledge of Allegiance, operates under the belief that equality is achieved by granting the same legal rights to every human being. The U.S. Constitution, the nation's supreme law, outlines the minimum rights society must provide to protect citizens from social injustices, such as discrimination based on skin color, persecution for beliefs and unequal access to liberties.
The American View of Human Rights and Social Justice
America was founded on the moral beliefs that every person deserves the dignity of having their basic needs fulfilled, living a free existence and receiving equitable treatment. These universal guarantees, such as the inalienable right to housing or the freedom to practice any religion, are undeniable if a society aims to live in a just world. These principles are never to be compromised because of a person's gender, culture, religion, sexuality, age, social class, political affiliation or abilities.
The Bill of Rights
This social concern for humanity is guarded by the U.S. Constitution, specifically in the first 10 Amendments, which are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. Fiercely protective of every person's inherent privilege to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," as noted in the Declaration of Independence, the nation's founders immediately moved to expand the original Constitution to include this Charter of Freedom. The Bill of Rights was designed to equally protect everyone from being deprived of their freedoms, independence or property without due process of the law.
Inalienable Human Rights
The Constitution does not grant, but rather upholds, these personal freedoms and rights, which cannot be revoked unless a law is broken. The expansive list includes the right to not be enslaved, to vote in government affairs and to have access to an adequate standard of living as well as the freedom to express opinions, peacefully assemble and choose spouses. The Constitution also clearly addresses the rights citizens have when they encounter the justice system, including fair legal proceedings, equality when being judged by an impartial group of peers and freedom from arbitrary arrest and inhumane punishment.
Specific Amendments that Protect American Citizens
The First Amendment acknowledges the human rights to practice any religion and to express opinions through free speech and assembly. The right to feel a sense of security is covered by the Second Amendment, which grants citizens permission to own guns. The Fourth through Eighth Amendments address the administration of justice and the various rights citizens have during court proceedings. Unreasonable searches, seizures and imprisonment are illegal under the Fourth Amendment, while the Fifth Amendment grants protection from self-incrimination and being tried twice for the same crime. The Sixth Amendment calls for speedy, systematic court proceedings to ensure equal justice. The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive fines and cruel punishments.
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