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Civil Rights and Civil Liberties political and social concepts referring to guarantees of freedom justice and equality that a state may make to its citizens Although the terms have no precise meaning in law and are sometimes used interchangeably distinctions may be made Civil rights is used to imply that the state has a positive role in ensuring all citizens equal protection under law and equal opportunity to exercise the privileges of citizenship and otherwise to participate fully in national life regardless of race religion sex or other characteristics unrelated to the worth of the individual Civil liberties is used to refer to guarantees of freedom and speech press or religion due process of law and other limitations on the power of the state to restrain or dictate the actions of individuals The two concepts of equality and liberty are overlapping and interacting equality implies the ordering of liberty within society so that the freedom of one person does not infringe on the rights of others History The concept that human beings have inalienable rights and liberties that cannot justly be violated by others or by the state is linked to the history of democracy It was first expressed by the philosophers of ancient Greece Socrates for example chose to die rather than renounce the right to speak his mind in the search for wisdom Somewhat later the Stoic philosophers formulated explicitly the doctrine of the rights of the individual see STOICISM Traces of libertarian doctrine appear in the Bible and in the writings of the Roman statesman Marcus Cicero and the Greek essayist Plutarch Such ideas however did not gain a permanent place in the political structure of the Roman Empire and all but disappeared during medieval times Early Development Individual freedom can survive only under a system of law by which both the sovereign and the governed are bound The idea of government limited by law received effective expression for the
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