Securing Basic Freedoms

We can broadly divide the provisions of the Bill of Rights into three categories. The First, Second, Third, and Fourth Amendments protect basic individual freedoms; the Fourth (partly), Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth protect people suspected or accused of criminal activity; and the Ninth and Tenth, are consistent with the framers’ view that the Bill of Rights is not necessarily an exhaustive list of all the rights people have and guarantees a role for state as well as federal government (Figure).

A Venn Diagram labeled “Categories of Rights and Protections”. The top circle of the diagram is labeled “Criminal”, the circle on the left is labeled “Procedural”, and the circle on the right is labeled “Individual Freedoms”. The values “Fifth Amendment” and “Sixth Amendment” are shown in the center of the diagram where all three circles overlap. The values “Fourth Amendment” and “Tenth Amendment” are shown in the circle on the left labeled “Procedural”. The values “First Amendment”, “Seventh Amendment”, and “Eighth Amendment” are shown at the bottom of the diagram where the circles labeled “Procedural” and “Individual Freedoms” overlap. The values “Second Amendment”, “Third Amendment”, and “Ninth Amendment” are shown in the circle on the right labeled “Individual Freedoms”.

The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of religious conscience and practice and the right to free expression, particularly of political and social beliefs. The Second Amendment—perhaps the most controversial today—protects the right to defend yourself in your home or other property, as well as the collective right to protect the community as part of the militia. The Third Amendment prohibits the government from commandeering people’s homes to house soldiers, particularly in peacetime. Finally, the Fourth Amendment prevents the government from searching our persons or property or taking evidence without a warrant issued by a judge, with certain exceptions.

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