Scouting/BSA/Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge
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"Explain what citizenship in the nation means and what it takes to be a good citizen of this country. Discuss the rights, duties, and obligations of a responsible and active American citizen."
Citizenship by definition is granted by a nation-state to a person born in it or given the rights by its government after immigrating there. One can also apply for citizenship by that nation's laws, by legal marriage to one of its citizens or any other combination of requirements of that state, for example after living for sometime there and having a permanent residence. International law and treaties may also apply, for example if one is born while the mother is located within the legal boundaries of a nation it would generally result in the baby having dual nationality/citizenship.
Being a good citizen should mean being of value and compliant in the eyes of the state. While the notion of citizenship makes only sense in the context of statehood, that is, the legal constructions that are limited by a territory, a nation, the classification of good or bad tends only to relate, in its most basic form, to how a person obeys the laws of the land as set by its government body and enforced by law officials and the courts. Noting that since states tend to last longer than its governance, someone that is labeled a bad citizen today may receive accolades for that criticized behavior in future circles of governance, and vice versa.
A good citizen also requires one to be attentive and an informed citizen and a participative citizen, by engaging in economic-political-social activities for the betterment of the state. As such knowing the national issues and problems by following news broadcast and press is of extreme importance, but remaining aware that control of the media is the control of the discourse, even your own, so, one should seek as many divergent and independent viewpoints as possible.
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is a program within the US Department of Homeland Security, responsibilities of an active American citizen include:
- Support and defend the Constitution.
- Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
- Participate in the democratic process.
- Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
- Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
- Participate in your local community.
- Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
- Serve on a jury when called upon.
- Defend the country if the need should arise.
Citizens' rights include:
- Right to vote (a right given by a combination of state specific laws and the 15th, 19th, 26th amendments of the US Constitution)
- Right to a fair and speedy trial
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of the Press
- Freedom of Assembly
- Right to National Security
- Right to Keep and Bear Arms
- Privilege of traveling freely
- Eligible to work in all areas
Do TWO of the following:
- (a) Visit a place that is listed as a National Historic Landmark or that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tell your counselor what you learned about the landmark or site and what you found interesting about it.
- (b) Tour your state capitol building or the U.S. Capitol. Tell your counselor what you learned about the capitol, its function, and the history of the USA.
- (c) Tour a federal facility. Explain to your counselor what you saw there and what you learned about its function in the local community and how it serves this nation.
- A tour of a local U.S. Post Office counts.
- (d) Choose a national monument that interests you. Using books, brochures, the Internet (with your parent's permission), and other resources, find out more about the monument. Tell your counselor what you learned, and explain why the monument is important to this country's citizens.
Watch the national evening news five days in a row OR read the front page of a major daily newspaper five days in a row.
What world issues did you learn about?
Choose one and explain how it affects you and your family.
Discuss each of the following documents with your counselor. Tell how you feel life in the United States might be different without each one.
(a) Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was the newly established government's written document that asserted freedom from the rule of the English King, going as far as establishing the right of the people in overthrowing all tyranny and setting rules on how to preserve individual freedoms. The Declaration of Independence is the document that legally establishes the United States as an independent nation and is at the core of all future legislations created by the U.S. government.
(b) Preamble to the Constitution
The Preamble was the "table of contents" for the Constitution. It outlined the most important aspects of the document, and explained the reasoning for having a constitution. It's important because it helps people to better understand the Constitution and why we have it.
(c) The Constitution
The Constitution enshrines the philosophy and reasoning behind the establishment of the U.S. republic, and talks about the different rights and freedoms all citizens must be given and defended. It is essentially an instruction manual. The Constitution is important because it establishes the basis of the country's social, legal and political structures.
(d) Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights includes the first 10 amendments to the constitution. These are the basic rights of citizens of the United States. Life in the U.S. could be constricted and more federally controlled without one. These basic rights are vital for a truly free country. These rights are often referred to simply by their order in the Bill of Rights, such as "First Amendment rights "or" pleading the Fifth" in legal cases. Most of these amendments help define how criminal courts and investigations are conducted. In brief, these amendments are:
- 1. It provides freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, plus the right to petition the government on laws that are unfair.
- 2. Guarantees the right to keep and bear firearms and to form a militia.
- 3. It provides freedom from forced housing of soldiers in homes.
- 4. Provides freedom from warrantless search and seizure and promotes the general welfare.
- 5. It provides freedom from double jeopardy, self-incrimination, and uncompensated property seizures, and a guarantee of a fair trial by jury.
- 6. The right to a lawyer and a speedy trial.
- 7. Guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases and prevents courts from overturning a previous jury's findings of fact.
- 8. It provides freedom from excessive court bail, fines and "cruel and unusual punishments."
- 9. Provides that other rights may exist in addition to those defined in the Constitution.
- 10. Provides that those powers not defined in the Constitution may be defined by the states or the people.
(e) Amendments to the Constitution
There are currently a total of 27 amendments to the Constitution, the first 10 being the Bill of Rights. The other amendments are:
- 11. Secures the right to sue a state.
- 12. Defines the election of President and Vice President and the fallback system if one should die in office.
- 13. Abolishes slavery.
- 14. Makes any person born within the U.S. an automatic Citizen.
- 15. Specifically dictates that all races have full voting rights.
- 16. Allows Congress to tax an individual's income.
- 17. Makes Senators an elected position.
- 18. Bans alcohol, beginning the era of Prohibition, beginning in 1919.
- 19. Gives women the right to vote, beginning in 1920.
- 20. Modifies when terms start/end, sets the presidential line of succession.
- 21. Makes the 18th amendment inactive in 1933, thereby un-banning alcohol, and ending Prohibition.
- 22. States that no one can be elected President more than 2 terms, or 8 years total.
- 23. Gives Washington DC the same number of electoral college votes as any state with the same population.
- 24. Bans fees to vote.
- 25. Reinforces the replacement system for the President and Vice President.
- 26. Sets the voting age to 18.
- 27. Deals with the payment of members of the House of Representatives and Senate. Any pay increases cannot begin until after the new Congressional class, by the national vote, takes office.
List the six functions of government as noted in the preamble to the United States Constitution. Discuss with your counselor how these functions affect your family and local community.
- Form a more perfect Union... States working together
- Establish Justice... Make and enforce laws
- Ensure Domestic Tranquility... Peace in our country
- Provide for the Common Defense... Keep country safe from an attack
- Promote the General Welfare... Contribute and promote happiness
- Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity... Make sure we stay free and keep our rights today
With your counselor's approval, choose a speech of national historic importance.
Find out about the author, and tell your counselor about the person who gave the speech.
Speech: President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
About the Author: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. He was also the Commander in Chief of the Union Army during the Civil war.
Importance at the time: In 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the site of one of the bloodiest and most important battles during the Civil War. Over 51,000 causalities had been suffered on both sides. Four months later President Lincoln gave this speech to dedicate a cemetery on this battlefield site. Lincoln reminded everyone what we were fighting for - "one nation under God". Not a separated nation. He also claimed that the nation built by our fore fathers "shall not perish from the earth". In other words, he would not allow the country to be destroyed.
How it applies today:
Choose a sentence or two from the speech that has significant meaning to you, and tell your counselor why.
Name the three branches of our federal government and explain to your counselor their functions. Explain how citizens are involved in each branch. For each branch of government, explain the importance of the system of checks and balances.
The three branches are...
- The Executive Branch - applies the laws
- The Legislative Branch - makes the laws
- The Judicial Branch - interprets the laws
Citizens have the right to vote on who takes up office in the Legislative Branch, and through the electoral college in the Executive Branch. However, citizens do not elect members of the Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch is nominated by the Executive and approved by the Legislative Branch. Citizens can also suggest laws and bills that the Legislative Branch can vote to put into action, as well as petition the government to put a vote to the floor of Congress without any members approval. This is how citizens can participate in the government. With checks and balances, one branch can check another to keep power balanced. For instance, a president can veto laws that Congress votes for, but if Congress can get two thirds of the states to vote yes for the bill, then that surpasses the veto. Also, if the Judicial Branch finds a law unconstitutional, then they can make the law null and void, cancelling the entire law.
Name your two senators and the member of Congress from your congressional district. Write a letter about a national issue and send it to one of these elected officials, sharing your view with him or her. Show your letter and any response you receive to your counselor.
To find and contact your two Senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
To find and contact your Congress person: http://www.house.gov/representatives/#state_al
- Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge with Workbook PDF, current requirements, and resources for the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge.
- Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities. US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Accessed November 11, 2014.
"Citizenship In The Nation Merit Badge" http://www.meritbadge.com/mb/003.htm 5/29/06
"A History of the Washington Monument" http://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm 5/29/06
"Washington Monument: Symbolism" http://www.nps.gov/wamo/memorial/symbolism.htm 5/29/06
"Wikipedia - Gettysburg Address" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_Address 10/14/2007
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