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Civil rights are the freedoms and rights that a person may have as a member of a community state or nation Civil rights include freedom of speech of the press and of religion Among others are the right to own property and to receive fair and equal treatment from government other persons and private groups Law protects a persons civil rights and custom courts of law decide whether a persons civil rights have been violated The courts also determine the limits of civil rights so that people do not use their freedoms to violate the rights of others Courts of law decide whether a persons civil rights have been violated The courts also determine the limits of civil rights so that people do not use their freedoms to violate the rights of others The United States Constitution describes the basic civil rights of American citizens Each state constitution has a bill or declaration of rights When Americans raise questions about the extent and limits of civil rights they turn to the Supreme Courts decisions for the answers The court often defines the limits of a right by balancing the right of the individual against the rights of society in general The First Amendment is the basis of the democratic process in the United States The First Amendment forbids Congress to pass laws restricting freedom of speech of the press of peaceful assembly or of petition Many people consider freedom of speech the most important freedom and the foundation of all other freedoms The First Amendment also forbids Congress to pass laws establishing a state religion or restricting religious freedom The Supreme Court has ruled that the 14th Amendment makes the guarantees of the 1st Amendment apply to the state governments Many parts of the Constitution congressional and state laws and court decisions require the government to treat individuals fairly These requirements reflect a basic principle in the American legal system called due process The
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