Happy 228th Birthday, Bill of Rights

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December 15, 1791--Virginia became the last state needed to ratify the Bill of Rights, giving the bill the necessary 2/3 majority of votes needed to be made into law¹. Since its inception, the Bill of Rights has become the cornerstone of American civil liberties, but the interpretations of these amendments have always been in flux--changing to suit the needs and interpretations of both the legal system and the country's political opinions. For instance, the Bill of Rights included 12 Amendment, two of which were left out, one later then was ratified in 1992 becoming the 27th Amendment¹ .

The Supreme Court continues to have an impact on the Bill of Rights. Here are several landmark cases that have redefined the boundaries of the Bill of Rights:

1.Schenck v. United States (1919)

In a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court had ruled that freedom of speech can be limited during wartime and when it can cause harm. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/249us47

2. Olmstead v. United States (1927)

The Supreme Court had ruled that the government is allowed to wiretap people without a warrant and that it is admissible in court. It wasn't until 40 years later that this ruling was overturned in Katz v. United States. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-ca...

3. Furman v. Georgia (1972)

The Supreme Court had decided that the death penalty is a "cruel and unusual" punishment under the 8th Amendment and, therefore, was unconstitutional. Four years later, the Supreme Court reversed that ruling under Gregg v. Georgia. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-ca...

If you would like to incorporate information on landmark cases in your classroom, feel free to check out:


1. Bill of Rights is finally ratified - HISTORY