In the American Justice System, a person has many freedoms; however, many see these freedoms as controversial. Americans try to extend those freedoms in any way they can. The First Amendment is one of the more controversial topics of government. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment gives Americans a lot of freedom. In this country, people are given so much freedom, yet they still try to bend their rights to fit their problems. No matter what the First Amendment says, Americans will still try to make sure they are the good guy. This leads to several recent legal cases that challenge American civil liberties.
The first legal case that challenged Americans’ civil liberties is the case of a fourteen-year-old girl reading her Bible at lunch. To start off, this case is seen in two parts. The first way is just her reading the Bible. She would be protected by the First Amendment if this were the case brought to Congress. The government cannot deny a person to practice their religion, no matter what the religion is. This is called having the right to religious freedom. As long as no human sacrifices are being made, people can practice any faith they wish. However, there is a second part to this case. The girl was not just reading the book to herself — she was reading it aloud for the whole lunchroom to hear. This action goes against American civil liberties. Congress cannot allow a law that forces religion onto another person. By reading the Bible aloud, she is forcing Christianity on others around her. Her action can make students feel uncomfortable. Muslims, Jews, and atheists might not feel safe in the school with someone else’s beliefs pushed onto them. According to the First Amendment, a person can practice whatever religion they wish; however, they cannot force their faith onto others. If the girl were to silently read her Bible, that would be okay. She was reading it aloud, so this action deemed her case unconstitutional.
Another recent legal case that has challenged Americans’ civil liberties is a high school allowing Muslim students to go to a mosque during the school day. According to the Muslim tradition, a good Muslim should pray five times a day. One of those times is midday. On weekdays, this would be during school. The students have the right to leave school grounds to pray with their families because of this option. If the rule were not set in place, the school would be denying the students the right to practice their religion. The school and its workers are considered government buildings and workers. If a government building denied its students First Amendment protection, it would reflect badly on the United States government. Many people see this as part of the First Amendment, but some people see this as unconstitutional. They believe that this is forcing Islam onto their children. However, this does not do that. The school is simply giving their students the option of leaving to partake in their customs. No faculty member is forcing every student to go to a mosque. The school only needs to remember that if a Christian, Jew, or any other student wanted to participate in their religion during school hours, the school would have to allow them to. The school’s decision falls under the First Amendment of allowing people the right to religion. Letting people leave to go to a mosque is giving students the right to practice their religion.
The final recent legal case that challenged American civil liberties is a high school that wanted to observe a “moment of silence” at the beginning of the day. The school proposing this wanted it for the loss of a faculty member or similar situation. Many schools today do this and use the silence as a moment to reflect on what is going to happen that day. In the school’s concept of the moment of silence, there is no mention of religion. Since no religion is being forced onto students during this time, it is constitutional. Even though the silence is not about religion, some students might still use this silence to pray, which is perfectly allowed in schools. No religion is being forced, simply an option is provided to practice one’s religious beliefs in a short amount of time. It is the idea of forcing religion that makes people vexed and deems cases as against civil liberties. This case has been deemed constitutional by Congress, but there are still some people who believe this moment is unconstitutional, much like praying at the start of the day. On the contrary, this silence is constitutional because nobody is conducting a sermon or leading a prayer. It is only a short time in the day where students may pray if they wish, but it is not required. Unlike the first case of a student reading her Bible aloud, nobody feels uncomfortable doing this. Since no religion is being forced on them, students feel comfortable practicing, or not practicing, their religion during that time. The “moment of silence” make students feel comfortable and gives them the opportunity to practice their religion during the day.
American citizens have many rights. Their civil liberties are always put to the test when new cases are brought to Congress. Although Congress follows the rules accordingly, people still get agitated over their decisions. They believe that the verdict made is not justified, but they mainly are angry because their side was not chosen, which happens a lot in cases of religion. People get mad when there is religion, when there is not, and everything in between. Congresspeople have to take everything into account. It is their job to make their decision based on those liberties and whether or not that makes the verdict constitutional. Their verdict is important to Americans because it shows them that Congress cares about them and will make the best decision possible.