The Bill of Rights and Liberty
Explores the unenumerated rights reserved to the people with reference to the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, with a focus on rights including travel, political affiliation, and privacy. Probes the ways the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments have been used to claim rights to personal liberty.
What is the Scope of the Bill of Rights?
The Supreme Court has protected many rights not listed explicitly in the Bill of Rights, although it has not used the Ninth Amendment, which protects, “other rights not listed”, very often. This lesson examines rights people have claimed under the Ninth Amendment. Students will analyze different perspectives of personal liberty issues, and examine the way the Supreme Court has applied the Ninth Amendment to various cases.
Inalienable / Natural Rights
Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.
Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.
The Supreme Court has protected many rights not listed explicitly in the Bill of Rights, such as the freedom to travel without restriction, although it has not used the Ninth Amendment to do so very often. Other activities have not been protected, such as assisted suicide. How do the courts, and all citizens, know which rights are protected by the Constitution and which are not? Who should make the decision?
- Identify rights people have claimed under the Ninth Amendment.
- Understand the ways the Supreme Court has applied the Ninth Amendment to privacy cases.
- Analyze various perspectives of personal liberty issues.
- Evaluate whether the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments apply to personal liberty cases.
- Handout A: Background Essay—What Is the Scope of the Bill of Rights?
- Handout B: Supreme Court Personal Liberty Decisions
- NCHS (5-12): Era III, Standards 1B, 3A, 3B
- CCE (9-12): VB1, VB5
- NCSS: Strands 2, 4, 6, and 10
Background 10 minutes the day before
Have students read Handout A: Background Essay – What Is the Scope of the Bill of Rights?
Warm-up 10-15 min.
- Display the following quote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”
Discuss how the Declaration of Independence explained the Founders’ view that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Display the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:
“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Point out that this language echoes the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.
- Discuss: What are some examples of unlisted rights? Write the students’ answers on the board. Ask students to come to the board and circle any rights that were mentioned in Handout A. (For example, choosing your spouse, terminating pregnancy, driving, taking medicines, etc.)
Activities 20-30 min.
Divide students into pairs and have them complete Handout B: Supreme Court Personal Liberty Decisions.
- Students should refer to Handout A to complete the issue and court opinion sections.
- Explain to students that the majority opinion represents how most of the justices ruled, while the justices who did not vote with the majority write the dissenting opinions.
- Go over Handout B: Supreme Court Personal Liberty Decisions columns A and B as a group.For each case, ask the students to summarize the Court’s opinion and dissent in their own words and complete columns C and E.
- After clarifying any of the Supreme Court opinions or dissents, have students complete column F individually, filling in their own opinion regarding the case.