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What is the Scope of the Bill of Rights?

55 min


  • Students identify rights people have claimed under the Ninth Amendment.
  • Students understand the ways the Supreme Court has applied the Ninth Amendment to privacy cases.
  • Students analyze various perspectives of personal liberty issues.
  • Students evaluate whether the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments apply to personal liberty cases.

  1. Display the following quote:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

    Discuss how the Declaration of Independence explained the Founders’ view that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  2. Display the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:

    “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    Point out that this language echoes the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.

  3. Discuss: What are some examples of unlisted rights? Write the students’ answers on the board. Ask students to come to the board and circle any rights that were mentioned in Handout A. (For example, choosing your spouse, terminating pregnancy, driving, taking medicines, etc.)

Divide students into pairs and have them complete Handout B: Supreme Court Personal Liberty Decisions.

  1. Students should refer to Handout A to complete the issue and court opinion sections.
  2. Explain to students that the majority opinion represents how most of the justices ruled, while the justices who did not vote with the majority write the dissenting opinions.
  3. Go over Handout B: Supreme Court Personal Liberty Decisions columns A and B as a group.For each case, ask the students to summarize the Court’s opinion and dissent in their own words and complete columns C and E.
  4. After clarifying any of the Supreme Court opinions or dissents, have students complete column F individually, filling in their own opinion regarding the case.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

What is a Federal Republic?