Court Cases That Changed History
The United States was founded on the principle that all people should be able to live in peace, no matter their religion, race, ethnicity, or background. To make this a reality, the founding fathers implemented the first amendment. The first amendment says: “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.” This amendment, along with many others, has been challenged in court many times. Everybody in this nation deserves to be protected by the Constitution. If one’s civil liberties are violated, they can go to court to get justice. Civil liberties are defined as an individual rights that are protected by law. Three legal cases that have challenged our American civil liberties are Plessy v. Ferguson, Engle v. Vitale, and New York Times v. United States.
The first legal case that challenged our American civil liberties is Plessy v. Ferguson. In the case, an African American man named Homer Plessy refused to sit in the back part of the bus. He was required by law to give up his seat for a white person if the bus was full. He refused, and was taken into custody. This law was unconstitutional; however, the man was still legally bound to abide by it. Segregation in Alabama was legal at the time. The phrase “separate, but equal” was coined by racist lawmakers to justify the blatant segregation. Blacks and whites had to use different public facilities and schools. They were forced to live in different parts of town. Public services for black people were in much worse condition than those for white people. An all-white jury ruled in favor of the prosecution and upheld the segregation law. African Americans protested and used their right to peaceably assemble. They organized peaceful protests and boycotted the public buses. Eventually, the law of segregation was changed. The outcome of Plessy v. Ferguson fueled a movement for racial equality that changed the United States forever.
The second legal case that challenged our American civil liberties was Engle v Vitale. In this case, a New York public school composed an official school prayer and encouraged its recitation at the beginning of the school day. This is unconstitutional because students cannot be forced to recite a religious prayer during school. Public schools are not allowed to have a religious affiliation. This might be constitutional if the school said a prayer for every single religion, which isn’t the case. Students were allowed to excuse themselves from the exercise if they desired. This is still not lawful because only one religion is represented in the classroom. The public school is biased towards one religion, which is unlawful . If any child feels the need to excuse themselves from a particular exercise because of their religious beliefs, that exercise is unconstitutional. A group of parents sued the school, claiming that their children shouldn’t be exposed to any sort of religion in a classroom. The prayer included the phrase “Almighty God”, which they said contradicted their religious beliefs. The prosecution won the case and banned all religious prayers from public schools. This case became the basis for many other cases that occurred in subsequent years. Engle V. Vitale changed the way school districts around the country approached religion and made them more tolerant of the many different children they serve.
The final legal case that challenged our American civil liberties was New York Times v. United States. In this case, the US government, namely President Nixon, attempted to prevent the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing a news story about their activity in Vietnam in 1971. This was a blatant suppression of the press. Nixon resigned from office three years later as a result of an article in the Washington Post that detailed his role in the Watergate scandal. If the press wasn’t allowed to print freely, the scandal would have never been brought to the attention of the public. In New York Times v. United States, Nixon claimed that the information shouldn’t be put out to the public because it was classified. He said it was a matter of National Security. The documents turned out to be highly revealing into the way Nixon’s administration handled the threat in Vietnam. Nixon didn’t want the public to see these documents because he knew there would be a major backlash. The court ruled in favor of the New York Times. Because Nixon’s administration couldn’t prove to the Supreme Court that these documents were a threat to National Security, they had no feasible way of arguing that the papers should not be published. The press cannot be suppressed by the US government. It is unconstitutional and violates the freedom of speech and press.This court case ruled against an unjust administration and showcased US democracy at its finest.
In conclusion, Plessy v. Ferguson, Engle v. Vitale, and New York Times v. United States are just three examples of court cases that challenged our American civil liberties. Whether the defendant was a black man, a New York public school, or the United States government, all of these cases have had an impact on our country today. Our founding fathers created the Constitution for a reason. Protecting the citizens of our country and making sure everyone had the freedom to speak their mind was the founding fathers intent. They believed that every person should have rights and protection against injustices. There have been many important and influential court cases that have put our civil liberties at risk. There will be many more unique and significant court cases in the future. The crucial concept is that our civil liberties are important and must be protected.