Posted in HS4CC

Law Shelf Course Spotlight: Civil Rights Law & First Amendment Law

Law Shelf courses are completely free! You only pay if you want to take the final proctored exam (worth college credit). Many parents use Law Shelf courses as high school curriculum. In this post, we’ll look inside two of their courses using their BOGO promotion. These courses are rolling admissions, so start today or next week or next month- you’re choice!

A typical Law Shelf course is worth 3 college credits ($60), so with their BOGO promotion, you’ll buy one course for $60 and get a second for free. That’s 6 college credits for $60.

For this post I’ve paired 2 interesting government courses that you can combine for 1 high school credit.

The type of college credit awarded for Law Shelf courses is called NCCRS credit. It doesn’t transfer well, but it does transfer into their partner colleges. If you use Law Shelf courses, it’s best to use them because you want your teen to study the subject. This is a case of college credit being “frosting on the cake” and not the primary reason for taking the courses. Alternatively, you don’t have to pay if you don’t want the college credit.

There is no age restriction, no application, and no transcript required. In addition, this type of class does not create a papertrail, so if your student does not finish or pass, it does NOT have to be disclosed to future colleges.

Simply sign up! Any age may participate. Use the coupon code HS4CC to “buy-one-course-get-one-free”

Civil Rights Law

3 college credits / 0.5 high school credit

This course focuses on the rights of all Americans under the federal and state Constitutions and laws. The course surveys the framework of these rights and goes into many specifics, including the rights to equal protection, due process and freedom of religion. Some other fundamental rights, including freedom of speech, are left for other LawShelf courses.

This is an intermediate-level course, focusing on some obscure Constitutional law concepts, but requires no previous experience or knowledge to participate.

The course starts with the structure of civil rights laws and the various sources of those protections. We’ll look at constitutional rights and federal and state civil rights laws.

The second module focuses on equal protection. We’ll look at the history of the equal protection clause and its passage in the wake of the civil war. We’ll look at landmark Supreme Court cases and the standards under which alleged equal protection violations are judged. We’ll also look at the interesting case of “benign” discrimination in the form of affirmative action programs.

Our third module looks at due process. We’ll focus both on procedural due process, which looks at whether the government gave a person a fair opportunity to defend before a deprivation of life, liberty or property, and substantive due process, which ensures that government cannot legislatively deprive people of rights without adequate justification.

Module 4 discusses religious discrimination, including a look at the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. We’ll also look at federal laws that try to protect religious freedom, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the long lines of cases those acts have spawned. Finally, we’ll look at accommodations and exceptions from the law that governments must make to accommodate religious freedom.

The last module turns to the practical side of things by discussing federal and state causes of action to vindicate civil rights. We’ll look at federal “Section 1983” actions and comparable state lawsuits. We’ll also focus on the roles of states in protecting civil rights.

First Amendment Law

3 college credits / 0.5 high school credit

This is an introductory level course and no prior knowledge of law is required.

The course starts with a discussion of freedom of speech and the ways in which government may regulate speech. We will discuss the protections afforded to political speech and how viewpoint discrimination by the government is almost universally prohibited.

We then move to types of speech and the different levels of protection they are afforded. These include religious speech (where freedoms of speech and religion intersect), student speech, anonymous speech and even some forms of “hate” speech. We will also discuss non-verbal forms of expression that are protected by the First Amendment.

In the third module, we will look at unprotected speech that the government may control or prohibit. This includes some forms of commercial speech (such as dishonest or misleading advertising), incitement, obscenity, criminal conspiracies and copyright infringement.

The next two modules cover other First Amendment rights: assembly, petition, association and the press. We will also cover when the government can place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech, assembly and protest. We will also look at how freedom of the press intersects with defamation and the interests of the government in conducting criminal investigations.

The second half of the course turns to freedom of religion and the first two clauses of the First Amendment: the clauses prohibiting the government from “establishing” a national religion and the clause preventing the government from “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This section opens with a discussion of the historical context of the two clauses and where they apply. We’ll also discuss the legal standards under which freedom of religion are analyzed and discuss the important differences between religious beliefs and religious practices.

The next two modules focus on the free exercise clause. We’ll look at cases that have analyzed laws that target religious groups and those that have disproportionate impacts on particular religious groups. We’ll also discuss the principle that practicing religion does not mandate that the government exempt adherents from laws of general applicability. Then we’ll focus on at the application of free exercise clause jurisprudence on a variety of rights informed by religious beliefs, including refusing medical treatment and conducting religious meetings and services.

The penultimate module segues to the establishment clause, first focusing on tests that are used to determine whether government laws or policies are considered to be enforcements of religion. We’ll also look at cases involving religious monuments, at government voucher programs that can be used at religious schools and at cases involving school prayer. Finally, we will look at a variety of recent cases involving freedom of religion. We’ll look at cases involving the usage of “in God we Trust” on currency and Ten Commandment monuments on government property.

This course should give you a firm understanding the freedoms associated with the First Amendment and their applications.        


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit