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There has always been a huge focus on the rights and liberties of citizens in the United States. These concepts are incredibly important to the identity of this country.

Our most important legal documents use the terms civil rights and liberties quite a bit. However, you may not understand the difference or if there is a difference between the two terms.

Is there a difference?

According to USHistory.org, many people use the terms “right” and “liberty” to mean the same thing. However, there is a difference between them concerning the kind of protection they offer.

What is the difference?

To understand the difference, you need to look at each of the terms separately first. Civil rights are the actions the government takes to positively impact society that every citizen is equal. You would hear civil rights used when one group feels as if it is not getting the same treatment as another group.

Most well-known are the civil rights movements of minorities. There have been a few of them as black Americans have long needed to push the government to change laws and create a society where they have equal rights to white Americans.

Civil liberties refer to your protection from government actions. The Bill of Rights addresses your civil liberties. For example, the law says the government cannot infringe on your freedom of religion. It says that the government cannot restrict your right to free speech. These protections are your civil liberties.

It can be a little confusing, but one way to make it clear is to consider that civil liberties protect you against the government while civil rights are when the government protects you.