The U.S. system of government is founded on the idea of majority rule balanced by a guarantee of individual rights—especially the right to dissent from and criticize the government. Civil liberties are threatened when an administration or Congress believes in protecting the rights and privileges of the government instead of those of the people.
The framers of the Constitution understood the importance of this issue and enacted the Bill of Rights to protect the people against excesses by government. Civil liberties belong to everyone citizens, visitors, students—all persons.
Free speech issues were raised when Sands Bethworks donated land to the city with restrictions on free speech, members of the Steelworkers Union, members of the Lehigh University faculty, and community defenders of civil liberties organized a rally there in October 2012.
If Civil Liberties & the Bill of Rights are of interest to you, we invite you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justice implies fair treatment, concern for others, and ethical or moral rightness. There are many indications, however, of a systemic failure to deliver justice: to put a stop to misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement and to deliver equal outcomes for racial and religious minorities or for those of limited income or social status.
We need a justice system that serves and strengthens the community. We need to include the community in the processes of justice, and develop more collaborative approaches. We call this community justice. And we need to focus on restorative practices to help heal victim, community, and offender.
Here we focus on rethinking the ways we live and the ways society and its systems are structured. It includes approaches, perspectives, and philosophies that can empower our pursuit of sustainability, getting more specific about the frameworks for thinking and action given in the Finding Solutions part of the Think Globally section, namely, the models of change available to help us understand the various aspects of the problem we are facing and to help us move towards sustainability.
The change paradigms are a varied lot. Some focus on specific objectives, some are holistic. Some are weighted toward “taking action” strategies, some toward conceptualization, some are rather balanced in dealing with both theory and practice. They all can find expression in local, regional, national and/or world-wide actions. They all can inspire us and help us find the way.
Please contact us about models for change that you would like to see added to this listing.
Corporate personhood is the notion that corporations are persons and therefore have rights, a notion that was strengthened by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the matter of Citizens United.
Government & Rights
The Declaration of Independence tells us that ‘Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ For government to function as a democracy requires informed consent—informed citizens who participate in the decision-making processes of government, including elections.
For a society to function democratically requires more than majority rule, it requires that individual rights be protected—from the government or other members of society—and even extends to limits on the ‘tyranny of the majority’. The founders’ belief in individual rights led to the Bill of Rights. The movement towards fair human rights for all is culminated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Militarism in Schools
Militarism is a combination of relying too much on military force for security and glorifying military service and values. In schools, it often takes the form of fostering the belief that the primary role of the military is to defend freedom and democracy, that serving one’s country means joining the military, and that we should all support the military. These three ideas are at best highly controversial.
In addition, when schools practice military values and methods such as authoritarian decision-making, unquestioning obedience, and regimentation, and when they allow standardized tests to dominate the educational process—instead of encouraging creativity, engagement, and learning—they are practicing militarism.
by Gary Olson Last August, our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, President Barack Obama, admitted that “we tortured some folks,” but then added, this is “not who we are.” At best, his statement was a half-truth. First, it’s not “some” folks … more
Fortunately, most law enforcement officers and justice system officials are honest and try their best to do the right thing — but there are some who do not, some who use their power in ways that compromise people’s rights and harm … more
by Sarabeth Brockley But does arguing at least get us somewhere? To test this, a group of students at Lehigh University staged an information stake-out in the center of the campus on Friday night with an objective: invite their peers … more
From CELDF, 11/8/12: Three communities banned shale gas drilling and fracking on Election Day, Nov 6, 2012, adopting Community Bill of Rights charter amendments. Mansfield and Broadview Heights, OH, and Ferguson Township, PA, asserted their rights to clean air and … more
by Paul Buchheit With the breakdown of the private financial industry, and with the decision by corporations to stop meeting their tax responsibilities, and with the dramatic surge in tax haven abuse, less tax revenue is available to state and … more
by Karen Feridun When the residents of Lynn Township, Lehigh County discovered E.coli in their water wells, they approached their township supervisors, asking them to tell a local farmer to stop using fertilizer made from treated sewage sludge that goes … more
February 12, 2012 Allentown City Council Allentown Environmental Advisory Council Re: Delta Thermo Agreement Dear Allentown Official: As a representative of the Sierra Club (SC), I expressed grave concerns about the proposed waste incinerator project planned for Allentown when it … more
By Kathleen Moore in Yes! Magazine, November 1, 2011] Much of the Occupy movement’s power comes from a simple moral message: It’s wrong to wreck the world. It’s wrong to wreck the health and hopes of others. The Occupy Wall … more
The following statement by the Bethlehem Police Department is a positive response to the Occupy! movement. We’ve posted it here because it is also a good recap of the reasons why protest is not only important, but is also protected … more