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Political Behavior

 [Module Learning Objectives Assessed: 4.1, 4.2 or 4.3]

Political Behavior

News Journal Written Assignment:

News Journals require you to relate current events to the topics covered within POS 2041, American National Government. For this Journal you will select your own article. The article you select will determine your success on this Journal. The article must be about Political Behavior (Elections, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Media, Interest Groups), and illustrate a concept discussed in your textbook. The news article you select must itself be at least 4 paragraphs in length and come from a major, national news source.

For a list of sources and search possibilities please go to the Media tab, on the POS 2041 Lib page.

As you review the articles, you will find that some are fairly direct while other reveal the complexity of federal issues. Chose the article that you are most comfortable with and then fully address each of the following requirements:

  1. Summary – Summarize in paragraph form the facts and issues presented in the article. Please document the source of your information with a parenthetical reference.
  2. Application – Apply three or more concepts from the assigned chapter(s) in your textbook to the information in the news article. Specifically explain how the material in your textbook is illustrated in the article you are examining. This can be accomplished by using examples from the article and terms or concepts found in the textbook. You must clearly define the concepts and provide in-text citations in the APA format, including the page number(s).
  3. Analysis – Conclude with an analysis and reflection of the issue that includes reasoning related to concepts within POS 2041 an analysis of the article perspective. Does the article present the issue in a way that influences as well as informs. Lastly, include your own observations of the issue, the actions of those involved or an anticipated outcome related to your understanding of the concepts covered within the course.

Please specifically identify each section by number and title.

Please read through Step-by-step instructions for Written Assignment success!for tips on how to effectively complete the Written Assignments for this class.

In order to receive credit, you are required to:

  • Divide your essay into sections/paragraphs by number and title. (i.e. 1. Summary; 2. Application; 3. Analysis)
    • Penalties for not following the length requirement will range from 5 to 10 points.
  • Provide comprehensive analysis by using the textbook and other course materials as the primary source of information.
    • Penalties for not following the length requirement will range from 5 to 40 points.
  • Submit your essay in at least 500 words.
    • Penalties for not following the length requirement will range from 5 to 40 points.
  • Submit the essay within the due date.
    • No late submission will be allowed or graded unless it involves a documented emergency or accommodation.
  • Avoid using any quotation. Use paraphrasing instead.
    • Quotations will not count toward the length requirement.
  • Provide in-text citations and references in the APA writing format.
    • Penalties for not providing in-text citations and/or references will range from 5 to 30 points.
  • Your essay Turnitin originality report must not be higher than 30%. Revise and resubmit your essay within the due date if it is necessary.
    • Penalties for not complying will range from 5 to 40 points.

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Roots of Civil Liberties: The Bill of Rights 4.1 Explain the roots of civil liberties in the Constitution and their development in the Bill of Rights. Listen to the Audio In 1787, most state constitutions explicitly protected a variety of personal liberties, such as freedoms of speech and religion, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and trial by jury. The new federal system established by the Constitution would redistribute power between the national government and the states. Without an explicit guarantee of specific civil liberties, could the national government be trusted to uphold the freedoms already granted to citizens by their states? Recognition of the increased power of the new national government led Anti-Federalists to stress the need for a bill of rights. Anti-Federalists and many others were confident they could control the actions of their own state legislators, but they did not trust the national government to protect civil liberties. The notion of including a bill of rights in the Constitution was not popular at the Constitutional Convention. When George Mason of Virginia suggested adding such a bill to the preface of the proposed Constitution, representatives unanimously defeated his resolution.1 In subsequent ratification debates, Federalists argued that a bill of rights was unnecessary, putting forward three main arguments in opposition. A bill of rights was unnecessary in a constitutional republic founded on the idea of popular sovereignty and inalienable, natural rights. Moreover, most state constitutions contained bills of rights, so federal guarantees were unnecessary. A bill of rights would be dangerous. According to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 84, since the national government was one of enumerated powers (that is, it had only the powers listed in the Constitution), “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” A national bill of rights would be impractical to enforce. Its validity would largely depend on public opinion and the spirit of the people and government. Some Framers, however, came to support the idea. After the Philadelphia convention, James Madison conducted a lively correspondence with Thomas Jefferson about the need for a national bill of rights. Jefferson supported such guarantees far more quickly than did Madison. But, the reluctant Madison soon found himself in a close race against James Monroe for a seat in the House of Representatives in the First Congress. The district was largely Anti-Federalist. In an act of political expediency, Madison issued a new series of public letters similar to The Federalist Papers, in which he vowed to support a bill of rights. Once elected to the House, Madison made good on his promise and became the prime author of the Bill of Rights. Still, he considered Congress to have far more important matters to handle and viewed his work on the Bill of Rights as “a nauseous project.”2 With fear of political instability running high, Congress worked quickly to approve Madison’s draft. The proposed Bill of Rights with twelve amendments was sent to the states for ratification in 1789, the same year the first Congress convened. By 1791, the states had approved the first ten of its amendments. The Bill of Rights contains numerous specific guarantees against encroachment by the national government, including those of free speech, press, and religion. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments, favored by the Federalists, note that the Bill of Rights is not exclusive. The Ninth Amendment makes clear that the Bill of Rights’ listing of rights does not mean that others do not exist. This amendment played a critical role when the Supreme Court began to address the constitutionality of state laws prohibiting contraceptives, surely nothing the Framers were thinking about as they neared completion of the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment reiterates that powers not delegated to the national government are reserved to the states or to the people. The Incorporation Doctrine: The Bill of Rights Made Applicable to the States Listen to the Audio The Framers intended the Bill of Rights to limit the national government’s power to infringe on the rights and liberties of the citizenry. Thus, in Barron v. Baltimore (1833), the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill of Rights limited only the actions of the U.S. government and not those of the states.3 In 1868, however, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution. Its language suggested that some or even all protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights might be interpreted to prevent state infringement of those rights. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads: “No State shall … . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Questions about the scope of “life” and “liberty” as well as the meaning of the phrase “due process of law” continue even today to engage legal scholars and jurists. Until nearly the turn of the twentieth century, the Supreme Court steadfastly rejected numerous arguments for interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause in such a way as to make various provisions in the Bill of Rights applicable to the states. In 1897, however, the Court began to increase its jurisdiction over the states by holding them to what was termed a substantive due process standard. This new standard required states to prove that their laws constituted a valid exercise of their power to regulate the health, welfare, or public morals of citizens.4 Interference with state power, however, was rare, and states passed sedition laws that made it illegal to speak or write any political criticism that threatened to diminish respect for the government, its laws, or public officials. States anticipated that the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of these laws. When Benjamin Gitlow, a member of the Socialist Party, printed a manifesto in which he urged workers to overthrow the U.S. government, he was convicted of violating a New York state law that prohibited such advocacy. Although his conviction was upheld, in Gitlow v. New York (1925), the justices noted that states were not completely free to limit forms of political expression, saying: For present purposes we may and do assume that freedom of speech and of the press—which are protected by the First Amendment from abridgment by Congress—are among the fundamental personal rights and “liberties” protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from impairment by the states [emphasis added].5 Gitlow, with its finding that states could not abridge free speech protections, was the first decision to clearly articulate the incorporation doctrine. It also enunciated the belief that some “personal rights” and “liberties” were so fundamental that they required special protection from the states. This was clarified in Near v. Minnesota (1931), when the U.S. Supreme Court further developed this doctrine by holding that a state law violated the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. Selective Incorporation and Fundamental Freedoms Listen to the Audio The Supreme Court has not made all specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights applicable to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as shown in Table 4.1. Instead, the Court has used the process of selective incorporation to limit the rights of states by protecting against abridgment of fundamental freedoms. These freedoms—defined by the Court as essential to order, liberty, and justice—are subject to the Court’s most rigorous standard of review. The liberal Warren Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren was responsible for ten of the decisions listed in Table 4.1. First Amendment Guarantees: Freedom of Religion 4.2 Distinguish between the establishment and the free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. Listen to the Audio The First Amendment to the Constitution begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This statement sets the boundaries of governmental action. The establishment clause directs the national government not to sanction an official religion. The free exercise clause (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) guarantees citizens that the national government will not interfere with practice of their religion. These guarantees, however, are not absolute and can come into conflict creating a difficult job for the courts. As the Supreme Court observed in 1940, the First Amendment “embraces two concepts—freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute. Thoughts cannot be regulated. In contrast, conduct remains subject to regulation by all levels of government.”9 The Establishment Clause Listen to the Audio The separation of church and state has always generated controversy in American politics. A majority of Americans clearly value the moral teachings of their respective religions. U.S. coins are embossed with “In God We Trust.” The U.S. Supreme Court asks for God’s blessing on the Court at the beginning of every session. Every session of the U.S. House and Senate begins with a prayer, and both the House and Senate have their own chaplains. Through the years, the Court has been divided over the interpretation of the establishment clause. Does this clause erect a total wall between church and state, as favored by Thomas Jefferson, or does it allow some governmental accommodation of religion? The Court’s basic rule for dealing with church-state questions is known as the Lemon test. This three-part test is named for the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman. According to the Lemon test, a practice or policy is constitutional under the establishment clause if it: has a legitimate secular purpose; neither advances nor inhibits religion; and, does not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.10 One practice that clearly violates the Lemon test is prayer in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale (1962), for example, the Court ruled that the recitation of a brief nondenominational prayer drafted by the local school board in public school classrooms was unconstitutional.11 One year later, in Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), the Court ruled that state-mandated Bible reading or recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools was also unconstitutional.12 More recently, the Court has also prohibited prayer at other public school events, such as graduations and sporting events, although many public schools ignore that mandate.13 SHOULD CHILDREN BE REQUIRED TO PRAY IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS? Black and white photo shows students seated and praying in a class room. The teacher can be seen standing and praying next to the pin board at the side of the class. School prayer is just one of the thorny questions the Supreme Court has addressed under the establishment clause. While prayer in public schools was once quite common, since the 1960s the Court has usually decided against this practice, even when it is student-led. Despite Court rulings, many educational institutions maintain this practice. The Court, however, has allowed a wide variety of other church-state entanglements. For example, the use of public buildings for religious worship14 and governments providing textbooks, computers, and other instructional materials to students at religious schools are allowed.15 The Court also permits governments to offer students vouchers to attend private or religious schools.16 And, student fees at public universities may be used to fund the activities of religious organizations, so long as those groups allow members of a variety of faiths.17 Establishment issues, however, do not always focus on education. The Court has used the Lemon test to rule that a privately donated courthouse display, which included the Ten Commandments and 300 other historical documents illustrating the evolution of American law, violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause.18 However, it has allowed the display of a white cross erected on a World War I memorial on federal lands. According to the Court, the cross “is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs” but a symbol “often used to honor and respect” heroism.19 The Free Exercise Clause Listen to the Audio The free exercise clause of the First Amendment proclaims that “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise [of religion].” Although the free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees individuals the right to be free from governmental interference in the exercise of their religion, this guarantee, like other First Amendment freedoms, is not absolute. In the area of free exercise, the Court often has had to confront questions of “What is a god?” and “What is a religious faith?”—questions that theologians have grappled with for centuries. In 1965, for example, in a case involving three men who were denied conscientious objector deferments during the Vietnam War because they did not subscribe to “traditional” organized religions, the Court ruled unanimously that belief in a supreme being was not essential for recognition as a conscientious objector.20 Thus, the men were entitled to the draft deferments because their views paralleled those who objected to war and who belonged to traditional faiths. In contrast, the Court has ruled that prisoners can be denied access to religious services provided the action was “reasonably related to penological interests.”21 Lawful free exercise curtailments by the government as a result of this 1987 ruling include denying Islamic prisoners access to religious services for security reasons. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to mean that governmental interests can outweigh free exercise rights in some situations. Congress has objected to many of the Court’s rulings curtailing religious freedom.22 While the Court has limited some aspects of 1993’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Act has been used to protect the use of hallucinogenic drugs in religious ceremonies.23 More recently, RFRA successfully was used to challenge the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions requiring employer-sponsored health plans to include coverage for contraceptives. Private employers may now opt out of coverage for their female employees if the employer has religious objections to the use of contraceptives. First Amendment Guarantees: Freedoms of Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition 4.3 Outline the First Amendment liberties and limitations on the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition. Listen to the Audio The Supreme Court has, to varying degrees, scrutinized the remaining guarantees protected by the First Amendment. During times of war, for example, the Court generally has allowed Congress and the chief executive extraordinary leeway in limiting First Amendment liberties including the aforementioned free exercise and establishment clauses. Below, we provide historical background and current judicial interpretations of the liberties of speech, press, assembly, and petition. Freedoms of Speech and the Press Listen to the Audio A democracy depends on a free exchange of ideas, and the First Amendment shows that the Framers were well aware of this fact. Historically, one of the most volatile issues of constitutional interpretation has centered on the First Amendment’s mandate that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” As with the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment, the Court has not interpreted speech and press clauses as absolute bans on government regulation. This leeway in interpretation has led to thousands of cases seeking both broader and narrower judicial interpretations of the scope of these clauses in the First Amendment. Over the years, the Court has employed a hierarchical approach in determining what governments can and cannot regulate, with some liberties getting greater protection than others. Generally, the Court has granted thoughts the greatest protection and actions or deeds the least. Words have fallen somewhere in the middle, depending on their content and purpose. The Alien and Sedition Acts When the states ratified the First Amendment in 1791, it was considered to protect against prior restraint of speech or expression—meaning to guard against the prohibition of speech or publication before the fact. Faced with increasing criticism of the Federalist government by Democratic-Republicans in 1798, the Federalist Congress, with President John Adams’s blessing, enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts. These acts banned any criticism of the Federalist government by the growing numbers of Democratic-Republicans informally headed by Thomas Jefferson. Although the law clearly flew in the face of the First Amendment’s ban on prior restraint, the Adams administration successfully prosecuted, and partisan Federalist judges imposed fines and jail terms on at least ten Democratic-Republican newspaper editors. The Alien and Sedition Acts became a major issue in the 1800 presidential election campaign, which led to the election of Jefferson, a vocal opponent of the acts. Upon taking office, Jefferson quickly pardoned all who had been convicted under their provisions. The newly-elected majority Democratic-Republican Congress allowed the acts to expire before the Federalist-controlled U.S. Supreme Court had an opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of these First Amendment infringements, although commentators then and now viewed them as unconstitutional. Slavery, the Civil War, and Rights Curtailments After the public outcry over the Alien and Sedition Acts, the national government largely refrained from regulating speech. But, in its place, the states, which were not yet bound by the Bill of Rights through selective incorporation, began to prosecute those who published articles critical of governmental policies. In the 1830s, at the urging of abolitionists, those who sought an end to slavery, the publication or dissemination of any positive information about slavery became a punishable offense in the North. By contrast, in the South, supporters of slavery enacted laws to prohibit publication of any anti-slavery sentiments. Southern postmasters, for example, refused to deliver northern abolitionist newspapers, a step that amounted to censorship of the U.S. mail. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln took several steps that violated the First Amendment. He made it unlawful to print any criticisms of the national government or of the Civil War, effectively suspending the First Amendment’s free press protections. Lincoln went so far as to order the arrest of several newspaper editors critical of his conduct of the war and ignored a decision written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, sitting as a circuit court judge, saying that jailing of editors indefinitely was unconstitutional.24 World War I and Anti-Governmental Speech The next major efforts to restrict freedom of speech and the press did not occur until Congress, at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, passed the Espionage Act in 1917. The government convicted nearly 2,000 Americans of violating its various provisions, especially prohibitions on urging resistance to the draft or distributing anti-war leaflets. In Schenck v. U.S. (1919), the Supreme Court upheld the Espionage Act, ruling that Congress had a right to restrict speech “of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”25 Under this clear and present danger test, the circumstances surrounding an incident are important. Anti-war leaflets, for example, may be permissible during peacetime, but during World War I they were considered too dangerous because they posed the possibility of encouraging more opposition to the war. Still, for decades, the Supreme Court wrestled with what constituted a danger. Finally, in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the Court fashioned a new test for deciding whether the government could regulate certain kinds of speech: the direct incitement test. Now, the government could punish the advocacy of illegal action only if “such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”26 The requirement of “imminent lawless action” makes it more difficult for the government to punish speech and publication and is consistent with the Framers’ notion of the special role played by these elements in a democratic society. Protected Speech and Press Listen to the Audio The expression of ideas through speech and the press is a cornerstone of a free society. In line with this thinking, the U.S. Supreme Court has accorded constitutional protection to a number of aspects of speech and the press, even though the content of such expression may be objectionable to some citizens or the government. Here, we discuss the implications of these protections with respect to prior restraint, symbolic speech, and hate speech. Limiting Prior Restraint As was the case with the Alien and Sedition Acts, although Congress attempted to limit speech before the fact as early as 1798, the U.S. Supreme Court did not take a firm position on this issue until the 1970s. In New York Times Co. v. U.S. (1971), also called the Pentagon Papers case, the Court ruled that the U.S. government could not block the publication of secret Department of Defense documents illegally furnished to the Times by anti-war activists.27 In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court went even further, noting in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, a case that involved a challenge to the actions of a state court judge who barred press reports of an ongoing trial, that any attempt by the government to prevent expression carried “‘a heavy presumption’ against its constitutionality.”28 Symbolic Speech In addition to the general protection accorded to pure speech, the Supreme Court has extended the reach of the First Amendment to symbolic speech, a means of expression that includes symbols or signs. In the words of Justice John Marshall Harlan, these kinds of speech are part of the “free trade in ideas.”29 Perhaps the most visible example of symbolic speech is the burning of the American flag as an expression of protest. The Supreme Court first acknowledged that symbolic speech was entitled to First Amendment protection in Stromberg v. California (1931).30 In that case, the Court overturned a communist youth camp director’s conviction under a state statute prohibiting the display of a red flag, a symbol of support for Communism and opposition to the U.S. government. In a similar vein, the right of high school students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War was upheld in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969).31 In recent years, however, the Court has appeared less willing to support the standards established in Tinker. In a case commonly referred to as “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” the Court ruled that a student’s free speech rights were not violated when a school suspended him for displaying what the Court characterized as a “sophomoric” banner at an Olympic torch relay parade.32 Hate Speech In the 1990s, a particularly thorny First Amendment issue emerged as cities and universities attempted to prohibit what they viewed as hate speech, or any communication that belittles a person or group on the basis of individual characteristics. In R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), a St. Paul, Minnesota, ordinance that made it a crime to engage in speech or action likely to arouse “anger,” “alarm,” or “resentment” on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender was challenged. The Court ruled 5–4 that a white teenager who burned a cross on a black family’s front lawn, thereby committing a hate crime under the ordinance, could not face charges under that law because the First Amendment prevents governments from “silencing speech on the basis of its content.”33 In 2003, after much criticism, the Court narrowed this definition, ruling that state governments could constitutionally restrict cross burning when it occurred with the intent of racial intimidation.34 While the actions of white supremacist groups have formed the basis of recent Court definitions of hate speech, charges by conservative commentators that young activists in the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements are participating in hate speech suggest a new chapter in arguments over what constitutes problematic speech. Three-quarters of colleges and universities, meanwhile, have banned speech or conduct that creates or fosters an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment on campus.35 During the spring semester of 2017, minority students at several colleges and universities experienced racist attacks, which are growing at an alarming rate nationwide. At American University in Washington, D.C., for example, several bananas were found hanging from nooses around campus, apparently targeting the installation of the first female African American student as president of the Student Government Association. To prevent disruption of university activities, some universities have even established “free speech zones,” on campus. Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, charge that free speech zones imply the limitation of speech on other parts of the campus, which they see as a violation of the First Amendment. And, problematic speech remains a fact of campus life with anonymous postings on Yik Yak and other forms of social media.


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