Difference Between Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Every individual has certain rights and responsibilities. These rights provide freedom and opportunity to the individuals and maintain peace and harmony within the nation.


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Every government offers different kinds of guaranteed protection. The two main sets of freedoms, that are used interchangeably are Civil rights and Civil liberties.

Key Takeaways

  1. Civil rights protect individuals from discrimination and ensure equal treatment under the law.
  2. Civil liberties safeguard personal freedoms from government intrusions, such as free speech and the right to privacy.
  3. Both concepts are essential for maintaining a just and democratic society, but civil rights focus on equality, while civil liberties emphasize individual autonomy.

Civil Rights vs Civil Liberties

Civil rights are a set of right that focus on protecting the freedom of an individual, and is concerned about the treatment of people based on certain rights. Civil liberties are a class of rights that are guaranteed by the constitution and is focused on the actual basic freedom of people.

Civil Rights vs Civil Liberties

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Civil rights are claims that can be built upon the legislation. Any violation of civil rights can lead to legal action. Civil rights are most commonly associated with the protection of groups that are a minority in nature.

Such minority groups can be Hispanics, African Americans, and discrimination against women. All civil rights are protected by the 14th Amendment.

On the other hand, civil liberties are freedoms that are constitutionally, judicially, and legislatively protected. They cannot be taken away without any due process.

Only during a state of emergency, they can be suspended for a definite period. Civil liberties are expanded to cover actions by the process of selective incorporation.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCivil RightsCivil Liberties
Definition Civil rights are a class of rights that aim to protect the freedom of an individualCivil liberties are the set of rights that are guaranteed by the constitution
Concern Treatment of an individual regarding certain rights Actual basic freedom
Type of rights offered Broad-based rights Protective aspect of rights with certain characteristics
Authority Claims can be built upon legislation Constitutionally protected
ExamplesRight to vote, right time public education, right to government services, right to use public facilities, and right to a fair trial Right to own property, right to bodily integrity, right to marry, right to travel freely, right to bear arms, right to defend oneself, freedom of speech and expression

What is Civil Rights?

Civil rights are a pivotal constituent of democracy. They are a class of rights that aim to protect the freedom of an individual. No government or social organization can infringe the freedom provided to individuals.

Equal participation and social opportunities are provided through civil rights. Civil rights form an integral part of international human rights.

“Civil rights” is a phrase that has been translated from a Latin phrase called ‘jus civis’. Civil rights ensure equal protection and opportunities under the law irrespective of the race, sex, religion, region, or other characteristics of the individual.

Civil rights are secured through legislation.

The rights are guaranteed by the central or state level power and authority and do not have any international standard. Every individual who has been discriminated against based on any factor would receive full equal citizenship.

There have been numerous movements for civil rights. These include the American civil rights movement, the movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960s led by the Roman Catholic, and movements against apartheid and Dalits.

Examples of civil rights contain the right to vote, right time public education, right to government services, right to use public facilities, and right to a fair trial.

Any individual who is being denied of any social opportunity, he/she is being of their civil rights. This denial has been the cause of several movements.

civil rights

What is Civil Liberties?

Civil liberties are the set of rights that are guaranteed by the constitution. They refer to the natural rights that are inherited by an individual. These rights are fundamentally from First Amendment.

Civil liberties function as restraints that the government imposes on its citizens.

Civil liberties make every individual free. Civil liberties cannot be taken away by the government without due process.

But in case of an emergency in the country, like any medical emergency or war emergency, civil liberties can be restricted to fit the situation. Such tailoring of liberties does not last infinitely and is done only during emergencies.

Civil liberties refer to the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution, judicial decisions, legislation, and other authority. They include all the basic rights.

They can be explicitly defined by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution or by the legislatures and courts through years of interpretation.

Examples of civil liberties are the right to own property, right to bodily integrity, right to marry, right to travel freely, right to bear arms, right to be free from self-incrimination, right to defend oneself, right to be free from unreasonable searches of your home, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, and rights of the accused.

civil liberties

Main Differences Between Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

  1. Civil rights refers to the positive actions of the government to create equality for every citizen while civil liberties refer to protections against government actions.
  2. Civil rights are basic rights to be free from discrimination while civil liberties are basic freedom of every individual.
  3. Civil rights include rights of how an individual should be treated while civil liberties are guaranteed by the constitution.
  4. Civil rights cannot be taken away in any condition while civil liberties can only be taken away during a state of emergency.
  5. Civil rights cannot be changed or modified while civil liberties can be sometimes overturned by the Court.
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  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/chknt54&section=25
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=lang_en&id=xfITCgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP7&dq=civil+rights+and+civil+liberties&ots=pk4jopgW9O&sig=Rj-jY65HSAYBXBSZOdmQIWeOUSs
  3. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1073565
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