It is not a rare occurrence that these two terms are used interchangeably; however, they are very different in what they mean.
Civil liberties protect our freedom as citizens, as guaranteed by the Constitution (the right to security and liberty, the right to privacy, etc.), and civil rights protect people from various forms of discrimination (sexual, racial, employment, etc.) These rights constitute the core of the political value in the United States of America, and sometimes, even the difference between a right and liberty is not entirely clear for some individuals.
The Difference Between Civil Liberties And Civil Rights
It is not entirely easy to differentiate between these two terms, and that is why they are often used synonymously. Civil liberties are basic freedoms that are established by the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) or interpreted by the legislature. In the United States of America, civil liberties include free speech, privacy, right to remain silent, right to be free from unreasonable searches, right to a fair trial, right to marry, right to vote.
For example, freedom of speech and expression is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but there are various categories where speech is not protected or is given lesser protection (fraud, child pornography). Most of the court decisions that define civil liberties are based on the Bill of Rights, and those civil liberties are separated into different categories, namely the freedom and right that is guaranteed in the First Amendment, and the liberties related to crime and legal rights (due process).
Civil liberties provide and protect our freedom, but civil rights approach the individual in terms of how he/she is treated in the light of certain rights. Those are the rights that protect us from discrimination based on our race, gender, origin, disability, and others. They include protection on the grounds of protected characteristics.
For example, no right guarantees you a promotion at a workplace, since it is not civil liberty to be promoted. However, if someone is prevented from promotion because of their gender or ethnicity, for example, that person is considered to be a victim of discrimination, and the employer is in the domain of civil rights violation. The 14th Amendment protects civil rights, and that means that the government can conduct no violation of liberties or rights.
Why Are Civil Liberties And Civil Rights Important?
The process of protection of both civil rights and liberties can, at times, be hard and complicated. There is always the danger of protecting one person, and at the same time, violate the rights of someone else. That is why knowing the difference between civil rights and civil liberties will help you determine if you or someone you know had their right violated. These issues are vital for every citizen of The United States of America, and that is why you need to make an effort and understand your legal rights and liberties.