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Civil Liberties: Protecting Individual Rights

Government Online: Fighting Prejudice

Answering the Question

Fighting Prejudice

You don't have to be an expert in constitutional law to look out for the rights of others. Take the case of Tristan Coffin.

The soccer teams of Franklin and Dudley, two towns south of Boston, Massachusetts, were preparing to play for their league championship one summer Sunday. As Franklin took the field, however, Coffin, 12, was pulled aside by a referee and told to remove a bandanna covering his head. Coffin respectfully declined, explaining that he was a devout Sikh, a member of an Indian religion that requires foollowers to cover their heads in public. The referee, citing tournament rules, again ordered Coffin to remove the bandanna or leave the field.

When Coffin's teammates learned that he wouldn't be allowed to play, they walked off the field. Franklin's coaches pleaded with the referee and tournament oficials, as did Dudley's coach. When the ref didn't budge, the Franklin coaches refused to send their team back on the field, thereby forfeiting the game. Afterwards, Dudley's coaches and players had misgingings about accepting their first-place trophies. So they presented one to Coffin.

Then, use the information below to answer the following question: How does standing up for the rights of others enhance democracy?

To help you answer the question, try searching the Web using these key words:

         "human rights"

         "human rights awards"

         "fighting prejudice"

         "against prejudice"

         "civil rights"

         "protecting individual rights"

         "human rights" AND "efforts"

The following questions will help guide your thinking:

         What link can you identify between popular sovereignty and human rights?

         How might democracy be affected if no efforts were made to safeguard human rights?

         What are some of the areas in which individuals have worked to protect the rights of others or to correct abuses of human rights?


Conduct library or Internet research to identify and learn more about a person who has joined in the fight against prejudice. Then, create an exhibit for a fictional "Human Rights Museum" that gives visitors insight into the life and motivations of that person. Your exhibit should include some short, descriptive text about the person, photographs, and other props that help the story come to life. For example, if the person led a demonstration through city streets, you might include a model of a street in the exhibit, with a short write-up about the event centered within the model.