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Chapter 13 of “American Government” by Jillson


The author touched upon various aspects of this theme, including the role of human rights, governmental activities, and the establishment of civil liberties and rights in politics. An understanding of the value of civil liberties in terms of imprisonment and the death penalty is also a crucial task for this week’s reading. Along with a number of educative issues of the chapter, the distinction between such concepts as rights and liberties remains a crucial task for any student or researcher. To understand the essence of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the justice system developed for Americans, one should clarify that there are civil liberties and civil rights with their history and the establishment in society.

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During the last several centuries, Americans have investigated the field of human rights and freedoms in order to distinguish the areas where the government should and should not rule. The war on drugs and terrorism made the American justice system one of the harshest in the world (Jillson, 2016). At this moment, it is hard to say if the decisions to arrest more people because of a wide range of crimes or to imprison criminals for long sentences were purely correct or wrong. However, when the question of human rights arises, it is expected to distinguish between civil liberties and rights. Human rights are explained as the fundamentals of freedom and security. To be free means to do what is wanted or required for a human being’s satisfaction. To be secure should not be correlated with freedoms because the role of the government and politics has to be identified. Therefore, Jillson (2016) recommended differentiating the concepts of civil rights and liberties from the point of view of the government. The chosen chapter gives clear definitions and examples of both.

Civil liberties are the areas that cannot be controlled or dictated by the government. The main principles include freedom of expression (speech and the press) and religion. However, the court cases, including the communist interests of Gitlow or Whitney, questioned the existence of free expressions in society. Freedom of religion and the necessity to separate church and the state also cause a number of concerns because of the presence of prayers and religious classes at schools. In other words, civil liberties should proclaim the possibility for people to make their free choices without governmental interruptions.

Civil rights is another critical concept of the discussion that defines the areas of social life where the role of the government cannot be ignored. The promotion of civil rights is the support of equal and fair treatment to every citizen. The government cannot ignore its responsibilities and must act to establish security. Although this chapter does not focus on the discussion of civil rights’ examples, prison and punishment are introduced as examples of these rights’ reinforcement.


In general, the chapter under analysis helps to understand that people are still confused about their access to rights, freedoms, and liberties. The history of American independence from the British Empire, social activities like public protests or Ku Klux Klan burnings, and the inability to remove religion from the state shed light on the topic. Sometimes, it is hard for people to realize where the control of the government cannot be ignored or should never be avoided. Therefore, reading such chapters as this one is a unique opportunity to strengthen an understanding of personal rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.


Jillson, C. (2016). American government: Political development and institutional change (9th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

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