Rights and Freedoms
Unmanned Aircraft Used in the United States
How the increased use of unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance in the Unites States poses safety and security risks.
How the USDA Has Addressed Discrimination
How the USDA has addressed cases of discrimination against minority farmers and ranchers.
US Supreme Court May Strike Down Affirmative Action
In its decision in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the US Supreme Court may strike down the practice of affirmative action.
Firearms and Arrest Authority of Federal Agencies
At any time, as many as 120,000 civilian employees of the U.S. government could be making arrests and carrying guns, just like your local police officers. What government agencies do these employees work for and why do they need guns?
Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Health Care Reform Law
The U.S. Supreme Court heard an unprecedented three days of oral arguments on the constitutionality of four elements of "ObamaCare" -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. What are these four elements?
How to Petition the Government in Under 5 Minutes
Got a gripe? Learn how to petition the government online.
Are DUI Checkpoint Apps a Bad Idea?
Find out why DUI checkpoint apps are controversial. Learn why some members of Congress cracked down on smartphone makers. See which companies still offer those apps and which ones ban them.
About the Freedom of Information Act
Describes the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), what documents may and may not be requested, and how to request documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
About the United States Code
How the laws enacted by the US Congress are compiled into a single, searchable source of all united states federal laws, the United States Code.
Are Muslims Exempt from Obama Health Care Law?
Read about health care reform and religious exemption. Find out how health care reform impacts Muslims in America. Discover whether there is any truth to claims that those practicing Islam are exempt from the health care reform law. Learn what the health care reform law really saws about religious exemptions and who qualifies for exemption from the health care reform law.
Is Health Care Reform Constitutional?
The "individual mandate" provision of the health care reform bill – now a law – requires that by 2014 all but a very few Americans either have health insurance or pay an additional annual tax. Is this requirement constitutional? If the question goes to the Supreme Court, how will the government defend the individual mandate?
Military Looks to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
Doing away with the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military is no longer a question of "whether," but of "how," Defense Sec. Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2.
Taking Guns Into or Through Canada
Americans taking guns into Canada or transporting guns through Canada to Alaska need to know that the Canadian government has - -and enforces -- very strict gun control laws that must be followed by U.S. citizens taking firearms into Canada.
Do Illegal Aliens Have Constitutional Rights?
Do not let the fact that the term “illegal aliens” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution lead you to believe that its rights and freedoms do not apply to them. The courts have held otherwise.
US Government Quick Study Guides
Quick Study Guides to the principles and processes of the U.S. federal government
US Government Quick Study Guide
US Government Quick Study Guide to the background and basics of federalism, including separation of powers, checks and balances, and the constitutions division of powers between the federal and state governments.
The Legislative Branch
US Government Quick Study Guide to the legislative branch of government
The Executive Branch
US Government Quick Study Guide to the Executive Branch
The Judicial Branch
US Government Quick Study Guide to the judicial branch of government
The Legislative Process
US Government Quick Study Guide to the legislative process
Federalism – a description of federalism as practiced in the United States
How to Report Voting Rights Problems
Due to the protections of four federal voting rights laws, cases of qualified voters being improperly denied their right to vote or register to vote are now rare. However, in every major election, some voters are still improperly turned away from the polling place, or encounter conditions that voting difficult or confusing. Some of these...
Protecting Your Right to Vote
No American who is qualified to vote should ever be denied the right and opportunity to do so. That seems so simple. Unfortunately, it has not always worked that way. Today, four federal laws, all enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, work in concert to ensure that all Americans are allowed to register to vote and enjoy an equal...
TSA Expands Whole Body Scanner Searches
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has been expanding its fleet of whole body scanning devices capable of "seeing" right through passengers' clothing to detect prohibited dangerous items. TSA assures that the whole body scanners, soon to be in service at at least 24 airports nationwide, will be operated in manner that ensures the privacy of passengers selected to "bare it all."
Federal Court Confirms 1st Amendment Protects Speech on Internet
On June 10, 2008, a Philadelphia federal court of appeals confirmed that content on the Internet is protected by the First Amendment freedoms of speech and press, the foundations of democracy.
Supreme Court Rules All Not Need be Fair in Politics
Dismissing the fact that politics is not even mentioned in the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, ruled it unconstitutional for Congress to pass laws intended to ensure fairness in campaign financing. The case was Davis v. Federal Election Commission.
Indian Tribal Designation Not Easy to Get
Since 1978, tribal communities have been required by law to apply for official acknowledgement as Indian tribes. To attain federal acknowledgement as an Indian tribe, a tribal community must meet a strictly enforced list of seven anthropological, genealogical, and historical criteria establishing their historical identity as an American Indian tribe.
The Day Castro Dies
The United States has been nation-building off-and-on since 1898 and the Spanish-American War. When the United States nation-builds, it always does so with a single goal -- building a democracy. The day Fidel Castro dies, will be observed as the day "the inevitable opportunity for genuine change arises" by members of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.
How are the "Habeas-less" Military Tribunals Going?
Early in the war on terror, U.S. enemy detainees were held for indefinite periods of time without the right to challenge their detention in court. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that practice unconstitutional. In response, the Bush Administration's Military Commissions Act allowed all detainees to have their detention reviewed by a military Combat Status Review Tribunal (CSRT). How did those hearings go? Not so well, according to an attorney who actually represented detainees.
Bush and Lincoln both Suspended Habeas Corpus
On Oct. 17, 2006, President Bush suspended the constitutionally bestowed right of writs of habeas corpus. President Abraham Lincoln did the same thing 144 years ago. Both presidents based their action on the dangers of war, and both presidents faced sharp criticism for carrying out what many believed to be an attack on the Constitution. But there were some significant differences and similarities in both the circumstances and the details of the two presidents' actions.
About Secret Sessions of Government
On June 16, 2006, the California Reclamation Board met in a closed session. Nothing unusual there, except that the Board met to discuss allegations that it had violated California's open meetings act by approving a permit needed for a major housing development... during a closed session. When can government agencies, including the U.S. Congress, meet in secret?
Megachurches In the Valley of the Shadow of Zoning
City governments are having a tough time dealing with "megachurches" -- churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants and functioning more like businesses than the little church in the vale. The traffic, the noise, the big buildings blocking the views, what are we to do?
NSA Call Record Collection Probably Legal
Right or not, moral or not, effective or not, the NSA's massive collection of the records of almost every phone call made by almost every American since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, does have recent legal precedent under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1979 ruling in the case of Smith v. Maryland.
Zoning Out Megachurches Failing Constitutional Muster
Local governments attempting to use zoning laws to limit the growth of "megachurches" -- non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants -- are running up against one mega-problem: the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Americans Know Their Simpsons, but Not Their Rights
D’oh! A recent survey conducted by McCormick Tribune Foundation showed that while 52 percent of Americans can name at least two characters of the Simpsons TV cartoon family, only 28 percent are able to name more than one of the five fundamental freedoms granted to them by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
President Bush Issues Martin Luther King Day 2006 Proclamation
President Bush honored the civil rights movement and the memory of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King in his Martin Luther King Day 2006 proclamation. "Dr. King believed that all people are made in God's image and created equal," wrote the President. "He dedicated his life to empowering people, no matter their circumstances, and challenged them to lift up their neighbors and communities."
Executive Order 9066, Permitting the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, representatives of the western states pressed Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt to have Japanese Americas removed from the west coast. When the Department of Justice objected on constitutional and ethical grounds, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066 and directed the U.S. Army to conduct the transportation of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to interment camps.
Justice Department Touts New Civil Liberty Safeguards in Patriot Act
Fighting for the survival of its mainline terror-fighting law, the U.S. Department of Justice has informed the U.S. Senate of what it calls “significant civil liberties safeguards” added to the latest version of the USA Patriot Act
Bush Orders Improved Public Information Request Response
With his administration facing accusations of slow response to downright stonewalling, President Bush has issued an Executive Order (EO) directing federal agencies to improve their processing of requests for public information filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Bill Would Create Agency Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
A bill now before the Senate would create a new executive branch agency that would become the first-ever government agency granted total immunity from disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Who Oversees Ethics in Government?
With Karl Rove, his top political aid under intense investigation and Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, facing indictments in connection with the exposure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame, President Bush on Saturday issued a memo ordering his staff to attend "refresher" courses on government ethics. That's nice and we all hope it helps, but who really oversees ethics in government?
Boaters' Rights Trump Landowners' on California Coast
A San Luis Obispo, CA judge has ruled that the rights of boaters, kayakers, and surfers to view a California coastline free from homes carry more weight that the rights of private property owners.
The Plight of Whistleblowers
Teresa Chambers, a 28-year veteran of law enforcement, served as the head of the U.S. Parks Police, one of the nation's top uniformed Federal law enforcement agencies, until she became a whistleblower. Federal whistleblower Teresa Chambers tells her story in this op-ed piece.
Utah Okays Gay-positive License Plate
Calling the action a win for free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah applauded that state's tax commission's recent decision to, for the first time, approve personalized license plates with gay-positive messages.
Disabled Face Discrimination in Rental Attempts
Even as President Bush honored the 15th anniversary of signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, a disturbing new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that people with disabilities are often discriminated against when trying to rent apartments.
Supreme Court Expands the Power of Eminent Domain
In its 5-4 decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important, if very controversial, interpretation of the government's power of "eminent domain," or the power of the government to take land from property owners. Where does the government get the power to take private land and how does it work? What is this "eminent domain" thing, anyway?
What if the Senate Holds Up O'Connor's Replacement?
The U.S. Senate has until Sept. 26, 2005 -- the start of the Court's next term -- to consider and confirm a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Given the political sensitivity of O'Connor's replacement, that Senate confirmation may not happen on time. What then?
Flag Burning Ban Amendment Tries Senate Again
Shortly after the 4th of July recess, the U.S. Senate will once again consider a proposed constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to ban the burning or similar desecration of the American flag.
National Academies Launch Evolution Website
The National Academies, long time supporters of the position that the theory of evolution alone be taught as a "central element in any science education program," have launched a new Website to be used as public resource for information on evolution.
Bill Would Make English 'Official' U.S. Language
Should the United States, the world's ethnic melting pot, have a single "official" language? Should immigrants seeking U.S. citizen be required to read and understand that language? And, if so, should that language be English?
Supreme Court Backs Religious Rights of Prisoners
In a case brought by a witch and Satanist, the U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a federal law requiring prisons to accommodate the religious practices and beliefs of inmates.
Federalism: National vs. State Government
Our government is based on a system called "federalism," under which the national and state governments are granted specific powers. This power-sharing form of government is the opposite of "centralized" governments, such as those in England and France, under which national government maintains total power. What are the powers of federalism?
Government Loses Latest Battle Over the 'Mojave Cross'
On top of a 30-foot-high rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve in California, stands an old rugged eight-foot-tall Latin cross that has become the latest target for groups opposed to government sponsorship of religious objects on public lands.
NAACP Snubs IRS' Request for Documents
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is refusing to comply with an Internal Revenue Service request for documents as part of its investigation into alleged improper political bias by the nation’s largest civil rights organization.
US Judge Rules School's Evolution Stand Unconstitutional
In yet another battle between church and state, a federal judge in Atlanta has ordered the Cobb County, Georgia school board to remove stickers questioning the validity of evolution from its biology textbooks, on the grounds that the wording of the stickers violated the U.S. Constitution.
Parks Service Sticks With Biblical Explanation for Grand Canyon
The Bush Administration has decided that it will stand by its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces.
Pentagon Sued to Release Dover AFB Honor Guard Photos
A suit has been filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in federal district court demanding that the Pentagon turn over copies of photographs and video of the honor guard arrival and transfer ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base for servicemen and women killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Next President Could Reshape Supreme Court
The next president, be that John Kerry or George W. Bush, will probably get to name as many as four new Supreme Court Justices. Why is that important to you? Personal privacy, civil rights, the environment, reproductive rights, workers' rights, and separation of church and state, just to name a few.
White-power Group Plans to Hand Out CDs at Schools
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that a hate music company with links to dangerous neo-Nazi and skinhead groups plans to distribute 100,000 "sampler CDs" at schools across the United States in the coming weeks, in an effort to attract young people to the music and ideology of neo-Nazi bands.
ACLU Opposes Tennessee's Pro Life License Plates
Tennessee's legislature-backed "Choose Life" anti-abortion-rights license plate has drawn fire from pro-choice advocates and a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.
ACLU Claims Government Covers-up Patriot Act Abuse
The government is using gag orders and secret evidence to keep the public in the dark about its use of the Patriot Act to investigate Americans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
US Small Businesswomen Goes to Jail for Plastic-packed Lobster Tails
When an American small businesswoman received a shipment of Honduran lobster tails packed in clear plastic bags, she had no idea that this "heinous" violation of an obscure federal law would have her spending the next two years of her life... in a federal prison. Just another case of overly complex federal laws leading to the "over-criminalization" of America, says the National Federation of Independent Business.
CA Cities Scramble to Regulate or Ban Medical Marijuana
Since California enacted a law allowing patients to use marijuana for medical reasons cities across the state have been scrambling to restrict or even ban medical marijuana dispensaries, or "cannabis clubs" from locating inside their boundaries.
Bush Backs Gay Marriage Ban Amendment
Warning that legalizing gay marriages could undermine the American family, President Bush urged the Senate to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages in all states.
Bush-friendly Church Gets $1 Million 'Faith-based' Grant
A Philadelphia church appears to be reaping a windfall of government funds following its pastor's endorsement of presidential candidate George W. Bush, claims Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Wal-Mart Faces U.S.'s Largest Civil Rights Suit
A U.S. district judge has certified a massive class action, ruling that six current and former Wal-Mart employees from California may represent all female employees of Wal-Mart who worked at its U.S. stores anytime since December 26, 1998. This nationwide sex discrimination class action lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is the largest civil rights class action ever certified against a private employer.
Church & State: Bishops on 'Catholics in Political Life'
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has warned Catholics in government to oppose legal abortion "lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good."
High Court Dismisses 'Under God' Pledge Case
Dancing a legalistic jig to avoid addressing the constitutional issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has thrown out an atheist's attempt to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.
ACLU Warns Against New Patriot Act Measures
As the U.S. Senate held an oversight hearing on the Department of Justice’s anti-terrorism efforts, with Attorney General John Ashcroft testifying in a rare appearance, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of adopting new measures to the Patriot Act the group claims would further compromise personal freedom.
Federal Judge Allows Marijuana Reform Ads
A U.S. federal judge has struck down a law prohibiting the display of marijuana policy reform ads in public transit systems, saying that the government’s attempt to censor ads was "illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible." The judge also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement.
Miranda Rights Questions and Answers
"So, were my Miranda rights violated?" In many cases, that's a question only the courts can answer. No two crimes or crime investigations are identical. There are, however some procedures police are required to follow when dealing with the Miranda warnings and the rights of persons taken into custody.
Miranda: Rights of Silence
A cop points at you and says, "Read him his rights." From TV, you know this is not good. You know that you have been taken into police custody and are about to be informed of your "Miranda Rights" prior to being questioned. Fine, but what are these rights, and what did "Miranda" do to get them for you?
Supreme Court Hears Privacy Case
Can you be arrested and punished for refusing to tell the police your name? Larry "Dudley" Hiibel, 59, was and now his case is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. What about Dudley's Miranda rights?
Transcript of Obama's Conflicting Remarks On Mosque
Read what President Barack Obama said about the planned mosque near ground zero. Find out whether he supports a mosque near ground zero. See Obama's remarks about religious freedom in the United States.
Is It Illegal To Photograph Federal Buildings?
Find out why photographing federal buildings can get you into trouble. See what your rights are in photographing federal buildings. Learn about what federal regulations say about photographing federal buildings. Discover why the government clarified its guidelines on photographing federal buildings in 2010.