02.05 The Bill of Rights: Assessment
You learned in the lesson that the Constitution protects individual rights that affect most citizens’ daily lives. You also learned that the government must balance the rights and needs of individuals with the needs of the public. Limitations to individual rights are most obvious during a time of crisis. Imagine your area is in a state of emergency and you are concerned about the balance of liberty and security as people try to return to their normal lives, recover what was lost, and rebuild what was destroyed. Compose an email you could send to elected officials to voice your concerns. Your email should include positions on two of the potential issues related to civil liberties found below.
- Use this Template for your email. Write an introductory paragraph for your email that explains why rights are not absolute. Include how the Constitution safeguards and limits individual rights.
- Imagine that the following situations have occurred in your community following the disaster. Select two of the following situations to address and evaluate in your email:
- ????© 2012 BananaStock/ThinkstockThe government suspended the right of habeas corpus (the right to see a judge after arrest to determine if imprisonment is lawful).
- The government forced people to evacuate from their homes.
- The press accessed the disaster area and published a story in a national newspaper about the event.
- The government allowed federal and state troops to be quartered in private residences to assist residents and protect order.
- Citizens were denied the right to bring legally owned firearms to storm shelters.
- The government made certain dangerous areas off-limits, which prevented residents from accessing their homes and personal property.
- Prisoners were kept in prisons that lacked power, supplies, and plumbing during the emergency.
- The federal and state courts postponed scheduled criminal and civil trials due to the emergency.
- The government prevented the press from publishing graphic photos of victims of the natural disaster to protect the privacy of the victim’s family.
- The federal government stated that local and state governments are solely responsible for the disaster recovery efforts and that it will not be providing assistance.
- Once you have chosen the concerns you wish to address, compose a well-written response to each situation with the following information:
- the Constitutional amendment that relates to the situation
- arguments that could be made for or against the action that took place
- your position on the situation and the reasons you think officials should agree with you
- Save your email and check it for spelling and grammar.
Subject: Balancing Liberty and Security in Times of Crisis
Dear [Elected Official’s Name],
I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to express my concerns about the delicate balance between individual rights and the needs of the public, particularly during times of emergency. As we are all aware, the Constitution safeguards our individual rights while also recognizing that these rights are not absolute and may be subject to limitations under certain circumstances.
In light of the recent disaster that has struck our community, I believe it is crucial to address two specific situations that have arisen and evaluate their implications on civil liberties:
1. The suspension of the right of habeas corpus (the right to see a judge after arrest to determine if imprisonment is lawful) – This situation raises concerns about due process and the protection of individuals’ rights. While I understand the need for quick action in times of crisis, it is essential that the government ensures transparent processes and provides a reasonable justification for suspending such a fundamental right. I urge officials to carefully consider the Constitutional amendment that relates to this situation – the Suspension Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 2) – and assess the necessity and proportionality of any limitations placed on habeas corpus.
2. The denial of citizens’ right to bring legally owned firearms to storm shelters – While ensuring public safety during evacuations is paramount, it is essential to respect individuals’ Second Amendment rights. Instead of outright denial, I believe there should be a balanced approach, such as providing secure storage facilities for firearms near storm shelters. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, and officials should acknowledge this right while also prioritizing public safety and order.
In both cases, there are arguments that could be made for and against the actions that took place. Some may argue that these measures are necessary for maintaining order and safeguarding public well-being. However, my position is that officials must take a measured approach, carefully considering the Constitution and respecting individual liberties even during emergencies.
In the case of habeas corpus, I believe it is crucial to adhere to due process and maintain the integrity of our legal system. Suspending this right should only be considered in extreme circumstances, and a clear timeline and justification must be provided. As for firearms in storm shelters, I propose finding alternative solutions that respect the Second Amendment while ensuring the safety of all shelter occupants.
It is important for officials to remember that even during emergencies, the Constitution remains the foundation of our democracy. By upholding the principles enshrined within it, we can strike a balance between liberty and security, thus ensuring that the rights of our citizens are protected even in the face of adversity.
Thank you for your attention to these matters, and I sincerely hope that my concerns will be taken into account when making decisions related to disaster recovery efforts.
[City, State, Zip Code]