What Are the 5 Rights of a Citizen?

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • The US Constitution grants citizens five basic rights, including freedom of speech, a fair trial, free media, voting in open elections, and freedom of religion.
  • These rights are protected by the Constitution, allowing citizens to voice opinions, receive a fair trial, access unbiased media, participate in elections, and practice religion freely.
  • Green card holders, as immigrants in the US, have additional rights, such as the right to live and work in the country and be protected by US laws.

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.

The Five Fundamental Rights of U.S. Citizens

When diving into the foundational principles of the United States, one cannot overlook the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment guarantees five essential freedoms that form the bedrock of American democracy. Let’s explore these “Five Rights” that every U.S. citizen should be aware of:

  1. Freedom of Religion
  2. Freedom of Speech
  3. Freedom of the Press
  4. Freedom of Assembly
  5. Freedom of Petition

While these rights are pillars of American democracy, it’s essential to remember that they come with certain responsibilities. They aren’t absolute and have boundaries to ensure that the rights of one individual or group don’t infringe upon those of another.

In the sections that follow, we’ll explore these five rights in more detail.

1. Right to Freedom of Religion

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.”

2. Right to Freedom of Speech

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.

3. Right to Freedom of the Press

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.

4. Right to Freedom of Assembly

The right to assemble is more than just a constitutional guarantee; it’s a testament to the power of collective voices. Throughout American history, we’ve witnessed the impact of peaceful protests, rallies, and gatherings. From the Civil Rights Movement to recent demonstrations advocating for various causes, the freedom of assembly allows citizens to come together, share their concerns, and demand change.

The freedom of assembly ensures that Americans can gather, whether in support or opposition to a cause, without fear of undue government interference. This right is not limited to political protests. It encompasses any gathering, from community meetings to concerts.

While this right is fundamental, it’s not absolute. Assemblies must remain peaceful, and local governments can require permits for large gatherings to ensure public safety. It’s a delicate balance between upholding democratic values and ensuring the well-being of all citizens.

5. Right to Freedom of Petition

The freedom to petition is perhaps one of the most direct ways an individual can influence governmental decisions. It’s a tool that allows citizens to express their concerns, grievances, and suggestions to their elected representatives.

Petitions have played a pivotal role in American history. From local issues like advocating for a new traffic light at a dangerous intersection to national movements pushing for policy changes, every signature counts. It’s a tangible representation of democracy in action.

Anyone can start a petition. Once it garners enough support, it can be presented to local councils, state legislatures, or even Congress. While a petition doesn’t guarantee a change, it does ensure that the voices of the people are heard.

While the right to petition is protected, it’s essential to approach this tool with honesty and integrity. Misleading information or fraudulent signatures can undermine the very cause you’re advocating for.

Rights Granted by Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution, a foundational document of American democracy, has been amended 27 times since its ratification in 1788. These amendments address a range of issues, from individual rights to procedural matters. Below is a table summarizing the primary focus or right granted by each amendment:

Amendment NumberPrimary Focus or Right Granted
FirstFreedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
SecondRight to bear arms.
ThirdProhibition of quartering soldiers in private homes without consent.
FourthProtection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
FifthRights for persons accused of crimes, including protection against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, and due process.
SixthRights of criminal defendants, including public trial, lawyer, impartial jury, and knowledge of accusations.
SeventhRight to a jury trial in certain civil cases.
EighthProhibition of excessive fines, bail, and cruel and unusual punishment.
NinthAssertion that people have other rights not listed in the Constitution.
TenthPowers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for states or the people.
EleventhLimitation on individuals suing states in federal court.
TwelfthModified procedure for electing president and vice president.
ThirteenthAbolition of slavery.
FourteenthDefinition of citizenship and expansion of civil rights.
FifteenthProhibition of voting rights denial based on race or previous servitude.
SixteenthPower for Congress to levy income taxes.
SeventeenthDirect election of senators.
EighteenthProhibition of alcoholic beverages (later repealed).
NineteenthWomen’s right to vote.
TwentiethChanges to dates of congressional and presidential terms.
Twenty-firstRepeal of the Eighteenth Amendment (end of Prohibition).
Twenty-secondPresidential term limits.
Twenty-thirdVoting rights for the District of Columbia in presidential elections.
Twenty-fourthProhibition of poll taxes in federal elections.
Twenty-fifthPresidential succession and inability.
Twenty-sixthLowered voting age to 18.
Twenty-seventhDelayed congressional salary changes until after the next election.

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:

  1. Right To Live Permanently In The US
  2. Right To Legally Work In The US
  3. Right To Be Protected By US Laws

Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of these protections.

1. 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.

2. 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.

2. 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.

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Final Thoughts

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 changes from time to time, we encourage you to keep a tab on the news and adjust your activities accordingly.

5 Rights of a Citizen FAQ

Below, you will find some common questions regarding the five core rights of U.S. citizens and their answers.

What rights are protected by the First Amendment?

The First Amendment protects five fundamental rights: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government.

Does the First Amendment mean I can say anything I want?

While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, there are limits. For example, speech that incites violence, constitutes a true threat, or is considered libel or slander may not be protected.

How does the First Amendment protect religious freedom?

The First Amendment ensures that the government cannot establish a religion or prevent individuals from practicing their religion. This is often referred to as the “Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause.”

Can the government regulate the press under the First Amendment?

The First Amendment protects the press from censorship and undue government interference. However, there are situations, such as issues of national security, where the government might have a compelling interest to intervene.

What does the right to assemble mean?

The right to assemble allows citizens to gather for any purpose, as long as it’s peaceful. This includes protests, rallies, and public meetings.

Can I petition the government about anything?

Yes, the right to petition allows citizens to express their grievances and ask for changes in government. This can be done individually or collectively, through mechanisms like petitions or letters to elected officials.

Is hate speech protected under the First Amendment?

In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment unless it incites violence or poses a direct threat.

How does the First Amendment apply to schools?

While students do have First Amendment rights, schools can impose certain restrictions to maintain a safe and effective learning environment. For example, schools can limit speech that is disruptive or lewd.

Does the First Amendment apply to private companies?

The First Amendment restricts government action, not private entities. So, private companies, like social media platforms, can set their own content policies. However, the debate about how these companies handle speech is ongoing.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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