What Are the 5 Rights of a Citizen?
Posted by Frank Gogol
The United States is celebrated as the gold standard when it comes to freedom and citizenship rights. And that is true. American citizens are blessed with a progressive government system that offers equal rights to all of its citizens. In this article, we’ll discuss the five rights of a US citizen and the rights of a Legal Permanent Resident.
Table of Contents
5 Rights of a US Citizen
The United States government grants certain rights to all of its citizens. This is made possible by the US Constitution that is the highest law in America. It comprises ten amendments or articles and is collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution guarantees that your rights are preserved and protected. And every federal and court decision that’s made must comply and respect the Constitution. So based on the Constitution, here are the five basic rights granted to every US citizen.
Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression
The Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is covered in the First Amendment, also known as the First Article. Under this amendment, all US citizens can voice their opinion and express themselves freely.
This also prohibits Congress from establishing a religion or promoting one over the other, abridging freedom of speech or freedom of religious practices, or the right to assemble peaceably. It is one of the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment is also the reason why the media is not censored. The Free Press Clause prohibits anyone from suppressing free speech.
But certain speeches are not protected by the First Amendment. This includes obscenity, child pornography, fighting words, among others.
Right to a Fair Trial
Laws and policing in the US are relatively strict. It’s estimated that around 40 million lawsuits are filed in the US per year. But the constitution also ensures that you receive a fair trial at every court level.
Amendment 6, Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Case, provides adequate rights to the accused person for a speedy and fair public trial. This law also held everyone innocent until they’re proven guilty.
The accused also receive the right to be informed about the proceedings of the case, to have adequate facilities and time, to defend themselves through legal assistance (for free if not financially capable), and to have an interpreter wherever needed.
Right to Free and Unperturbed Media
As a US citizen, you have the right to access unperturbed media that is transparent and informative. Since democracy only functions when people are well informed, not necessarily misinformed, the government wants you to have the proper information for decision making. This information about the happenings is mostly delivered through the media.
Newspapers, news channels, and radio stations are some traditional forms of media. Now with the proliferation of the internet, we have an internet-based media, of which social media is a component.
The Free Speech Clause prohibits anyone from suppressing free speech in the media unless it can be categorized as “Not protected by the First Amendment.” The US Constitution permits you to have free access to all news and media outlets.
Right to Vote Freely in Public and Open Elections
The eligibility to vote in the United States is governed by both the Constitution and state law. As per the 26th Amendment, every US citizen aged 18 years or above can vote. Similarly, at the federal level, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited voter discrimination. Other Acts protect and support your voting right like:
- Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984
- The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act
- National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)
- Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
Article 1 of the Constitution makes it the state’s responsibility to oversee the elections. They’re also responsible for issuing voter ID cards. Delving into the details of each of these can be complex, but the bottom line is no American is barred from casting his or her vote, and they are encouraged to do so.
Right to Worship Religion in a Free Setting
In the United States, you’re not prohibited from practicing your own religious practices. The First Amendment that protects your freedom of speech also protects the religion of your choice. You are free to follow any religion or no religion at all.
But the freedom to worship goes beyond just religious freedom. The First Amendment also makes sure the citizens (and immigrants for that matter) are not required to pass through their core values and beliefs to conform to the government. So no one can impose or establish his or her beliefs on you forcibly.
Therefore, the Constitution prohibits the teaching of religion in public schools, universities, or public-run organizations. This contradicts the clause “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Additional Rights of Green Card Holders
Millions of immigrants come into the United States every single year. Initially, they’re provided a temporary visa status. After fulfilling the requirements, they can wish to get naturalized and become US citizens.
The American constitution also grants them the basic rights that are granted to a regular US citizen. Additional rights that are exclusive to green card holders are:
Right To Live Permanently In The US
You can live permanently in the United States and enjoy the same benefits offered to other US citizens. But if you commit any action that violates the Citizenship Clause, then you might become removable.
Right To Legally Work In The US
You can work in the United States, and the Constitution ensures you are not discriminated against based on your race, gender, or history. But you also need to understand that certain jobs will be reserved for US citizens only with no naturalization background, mainly for national security reasons.
You can move in and out of the country freely with no restrictions.
Right To Be Protected By US Laws
You’ll be protected by all the federal, state, and local-level laws in the United States.
But besides these rights, you’re also tied to certain responsibilities. You must obey and comply with these wherever possible. Some of the responsibilities are:
- Obey all the rules and regulations of the country and its localities.
- File your income tax returns and report your income to the IRS. This is important since all the citizens are required to pay taxes.
- You are expected to support the current democratic form of government. Support does not include voting at elections since they’re not eligible to vote except in certain States.
- If you are a male in the age group of 18 to 25 years, you’re required to register with the Selective Services and serve when needed.
The Constitution also mandates other things like getting health insurance as per the Affordable Care Act. As a permanent resident, you’re not allowed for Medicaid but allowed for other insurance.
The rights granted by the US government must be respected. Any abuse or violation can be treated as criminal activity and prosecuted accordingly. Since these change from time to time, we encourage you to keep a tab on the news and adjust your activities accordingly.