The Citizenship In The Nation Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2023 (New)


As an American citizen and BSA Scout, you’ll need to earn your Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge to reach the rank of Eagle. In this guide, I’ll help you to learn much more about our constitution, and gain a deeper understanding of how you can get involved and make a positive impact on our country!

Being an informed citizen is critical, especially in today’s chaotic political climate. By understanding the foundations of our democracy and being a good citizen in your community, you’ll help instill the Scouting spirit in others and guide our country in the right direction!

Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

Citizenship in the Nation has an equal mixture of knowledge requirements, research, and activities. For the activities you choose, I’ll also be providing some insights and tips from when I completed this badge. Be warned, there are some tricky requirements, so this will likely take at least 2 weeks to finish. Be prepared! 😉

If you’re up for the challenge, it’s time to get started. Take a few minutes to thoroughly read and understand the requirements you’ll need to complete. Then, I’ll help you to understand and complete each one so that you can begin earning your Citizenship in the Nation merit badge!

What Are The Citizenship In The Nation Merit Badge Requirements in 2023?

  1. What is the Constitution of the United States? What does the Constitution do? What principles does it reflect? Why is it important to have a Constitution?
  2. List the six purposes for creating the United States Constitution set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution. How do these purposes affect your family and community?
  3. List the three branches of the United States government. Explain:
    a. The function of each branch of government
    b. Why it is important to divide powers among different branches
    c. How each branch “checks” and “balances” the others
    d. How citizens can be involved in each branch of government.
  4. Discuss the importance of:
    a. The Declaration of Independence
    b. The Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution) and the 14th Amendment
    c. The traditional United States motto “E Pluribus Unum”.
  5. Watch the national evening news for five days in a row or read the main stories in a national media organization (e.g., a newspaper or news website) for five days in a row. Discuss the national issues that you learned about with your counselor. Choose one issue and explain how it affects you, your family, and community.
  6. With your counselor’s approval, choose a speech of national historical importance. Explain:
    a. Who the author was
    b. What the historical context was
    c. What difficulties the nation faced that the author wished to discuss
    d. What the author said
    e. Why the speech is important to the nation’s history.
    Choose a sentence or two from the speech that has significant meaning to you, and tell your counselor why.
  7. 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.
    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.
    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.
  8. Name your representatives in the United States Congress. Write a letter to your representative in Congress explaining your views on a national issue. Show your letter, along with any response you might receive, to your counselor.

CITN Merit Badge Requirement 1: Our Constitution

1) What is the Constitution of the United States? What does the Constitution do? What principles does it reflect? Why is it important to have a Constitution?

To kick off your Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, it’s fitting to first discuss the supreme law of the land: our United States Constitution! You can think of the Constitution as a blueprint for how the country is run. Most notably, it outlines the structure for our the 3 branches of government:

  • The Legislative Branch: In charge of making laws, this branch is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • The Executive Branch: In charge of enforcing laws, this branch is headed by the President.
  • The Judicial Branch: In charge of interpreting laws, this branch is headed by the Supreme Court.

Adopted in 1787, just 11 years after our country declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, the constitution was written to protect the basic rights and liberties of citizens for centuries to come. Our founding fathers wanted to create a system that was strong and fair, unlike anything that had come before it. So, they sat down and wrote the Constitution to ensure that our government would always be working for the people.

But how does the constitution actually help our government run smoothly? Beyond establishing the 3 core branches of government, it also has a built-in system of checks and balances which ensures that no one branch can become too powerful. Below are some ways our constitutional system of checks and balances operates:

  • Balance of Powers: The President can veto laws passed by Congress, but Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses. Additionally, the courts can declare laws passed by Congress or actions taken by the President to be unconstitutional.
  • Amendments: The Constitution can be amended. This means that the Constitution can be changed or added to by a two-thirds vote of the Senate and the House of Representatives, or by a convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Once proposed, an amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states before it becomes part of the Constitution. Btw, our first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights!
  • Federalism: Federalism divides power between the federal government and state governments. For instance, the federal government has the power to regulate trade between states, while states have the power to make laws on certain things like education or taxes. This way, the federal government can take care of big issues that affect the whole country, while states can take care of things that are specific to their own area.

What principles does our Constitution reflect? Our Constitution’s checks and balances exist on the principle of preventing tyranny by limiting the powers of any one group. In this way, our founding fathers hoped to create a just government that would prevent dictators and always serve in the best interest of its citizens.

To fully understand the principles behind our Constitution though, you’ll first need to understand its history. Although its a bit beyond what’s required to earn this merit badge, I’d highly recommend watching this fantastic CrashCourse video (13:04) on our Constitution and its background if you’re interested:

Why is the Constitution important? Without our Constitution, it is likely that the United States would not have the same level of stability, prosperity, and liberty as it does today. A living document, we’ve added 27 amendments since the Constitution’s creation, allowing for rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and women’s voting.

Our Constitution is essential for having a stable and functional government. It protects individual rights and liberties, limits the concentration of power, and ensures that the government remains accountable to the needs of its citizens. I’m sure glad our genius founding fathers established our constitution — are you? 😀

CITN Merit Badge Requirement 2: Purposes of The Preamble

2) List the six purposes for creating the United States Constitution set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution. How do these purposes affect your family and community?

The preamble, located at the beginning of the Constitution, serves as an introduction by our founding fathers to the purpose, guiding principles, and values of the document. Read carefully! Our preamble is one of the most well-known phrases in history, so it’s important to fully grasp its significance.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Did you notice the six main purposes covered? Take a second to think through the main points in the preamble, and consider how they affect your family and community. Then, watch this info-packed video (4:26). Afterward, we’ll dive into what each point means for your family and community!

Hope that gave you a great overview of what each point in the Constitution’s Preamble means. Below, I’ll be getting into a bit more detail about how each point works to create a better society for your family and community.

  1. To form a more perfect Union: The Constitution was written to strengthen the unity of the thirteen states that had just won independence from Great Britain. Today, that means more stable and united communities for young people and their families.
  2. Establish Justice: This point promises a fair and impartial system of justice for all citizens. This means that we can rely on the government to have fair laws which protect our rights and the rights of the people within our communities.
  3. Insure Domestic Tranquility: This phrase means that the government will maintain peace and stability within our country. A peaceful community is a safer and more supportive environment for Scouts and their families, wouldn’t you say? 🙂
  4. Provide for the Common Defense: This means that the government promises to defend our nation against foreign threats, ensuring the safety of all citizens. Without a system of common defense, we might have been taken over by another country at some point in history!
  5. Promote the General Welfare: Promoting the general welfare means increasing the well-being of citizens as a whole, through policies and programs that improve their standard of living. This includes providing access to education, healthcare, and other services that are necessary for a good quality of life.
  6. Secure the Blessings of Liberty: Finally, the government promises to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens for all time. This means that we and our families can live freely, express ourselves, and pursue our aspirations without fear of government oppression.

Our Constitution’s preamble has played a crucial role in shaping the society we live in today. It lays out The United States government’s guiding principles and ensures the rights, safety, and well-being of all citizens. Talk about an important sentence in history!

CITN Merit Badge Requirement 3: Branches of Government

3) List the three branches of the United States government. Explain:
a. The function of each branch of government
b. Why it is important to divide powers among different branches
c. How each branch “checks” and “balances” the others
d. How citizens can be involved in each branch of government.

Our federal government is divided into three separate divisions called the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches. This separation is called a system of checks and balances and is done to limit the power of any one group. For a great briefer on branches and their purpose, check out this informative video (3:49):

Have a general idea of the purpose behind each branch of government? Wonderful! In the section below, I’ll be breaking down each of the government branches and recapping the most important points you’ll need to know when discussing with your merit badge counseler:

3a) Explain the function of each branch of government

The Legislative Branch

The Legislative branch of government is in charge of creating and passing our nation’s laws. This branch is mainly directed by the US Congress, which is made up of both the Senate and House of Representatives. As citizens of the US, we elect our fellow citizens as congress members, thereby creating a government of the people!

Fun Legislative Branch Fact: The Senate has only consisted of 100 members since 1959, while the size of the House of Representatives has grown from 65 members in 1789 to 435 members today (this is because we gained a lot of new states since 1789)!

Congress is also in charge of creating an annual budget, approving proposed laws, and keeping the President’s power in check. By representing the people of the United States and creating just laws, the Legislative branch exists to be the main voice for the citizens of the United States. 😀

The Executive Branch

The Executive Branch is in charge of enforcing our nation’s laws and carrying out government policies. This branch consists of the President, Vice President, the President’s cabinet, and 15 other departments along with many other staffers.

Fun Executive Branch Fact: The President lives and works in the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the residence. It also has a movie theater, swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis court, and a putting green!

The President is tasked with nominating Supreme Court Justices for the Judicial branch, conducting diplomacy with other countries, and evaluating laws submitted by the Legislative Branch. To maintain a system of checks and balances, the President can also veto legislation created by Congress. However, Congress can overturn this veto with a 2/3rds majority vote.

The Judicial Branch

The Judicial Branch of government interprets the meaning of laws and judges whether any governmental actions violate the Constitution. This branch consists of our Supreme Court and other federal courts. The US President is in charge of nominating our Supreme Court Justices.

Fun Judicial Branch Fact: The Supreme Court Justices wear black robes during Court sessions as a symbol of impartiality and tradition. It’s believed that the robe helps to conceal the appearance of the judge, allowing them to focus solely on the law and the facts of the case.

The Judicial Branch has the final say in all legal cases that could set a precedent within our country. If there are any questions as to whether the other branches are acting unconstitutionally, the Judicial Branch will be in charge of delivering a verdict.

3b) Explain why it is important to divide powers among different branches

Our system of checks and balances exists to prevent one branch or individual from obtaining too much power. Having just declared independence from a tyrannical British king, our founding fathers decided to divide power amongst branches of government to prevent the formation of a monarchy.

The goal of dividing power was to ensure that the government would be accountable to the people and that the rights of citizens would be protected. Seems like it was a good idea on their part, as our 3-branch system has been working for over 200 years!

3c) Explain how each branch “checks” and “balances” the others

A system of checks and balances means that each branch of government holds some power over the others. This keeps each branch accountable to the needs of the other branches and, ultimately, the needs of citizens like you and me! Here are some examples of checks and balances that you can discuss with your merit badge counselor:

  • The President can veto laws proposed by the Legislative branch.
  • The President also holds the power to nominate Supreme court Justices for the Judicial branch.
  • Congress can overturn the President’s veto with a 2/3rd majority vote and also has control over the budget the Executive branch is allowed.
  • Congress also has the power to impeach (start the process to remove) members of both the Executive and Judicial branches.
  • Within the Judicial branch, the Supreme court can declare both proposed laws and presidential actions unconstitutional.
3d) Explain how citizens can be involved in each branch of government

As citizens today, we’re able to involve ourselves in each branch of government by electing members to Congress, voting for our President, and signing petitions that are reviewed by our courts. Through this complex system of checks and balances, we’ve been able to distribute power evenly throughout the 3 branches of government and keep our nation free.

Below are the main ways that we citizens can be informed and engaged with each branch of government:

  1. Legislative Branch: You can get involved in the legislative process by contacting your representatives via letter, email, or phone call. You can also attend town hall meetings (required for Citizenship In The Community!) and other public events to connect with your representatives. Most importantly, once you’re 18, you can participate in the electoral process and vote for candidates who share your views, values, and interests!
  2. Executive Branch: You can get involved with the Executive branch by staying informed about the actions and policies of our President, along with other executive officials. You can even contact your representatives to express your views! Most importantly, you can cast your vote for President in the general election which occurs every 4 years.
  3. Judicial Branch: Citizens older than 18 can participate in the judicial process by serving on juries. They can also attend court proceedings to observe the process to learn about how our court system works. Additionally, anyone can get involved in legal reform demonstrations or volunteer with organizations that provide legal services to those in need.

Informed, active citizens like you are key to a thriving democracy! By staying informed about issues and participating in the democratic process, all of us help to shape the future of this country and ensure that it is working in the best interests of the people. 😀

CITN Merit Badge Requirement 4: Unity In Our Nation

4) Discuss the importance of:
a. The Declaration of Independence
b. The Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution) and the 14th Amendment
c. The traditional United States motto “E Pluribus Unum”.

Each of these written principles has helped to create the backbone of our great nation! Whether it’s the document declaring our independence, the first 10 amendments protecting our rights and liberties, or our national motto, what these things have in common is a shared theme of unity and the protection of our rights and freedoms.

4a) Discuss the importance of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was a formal statement, drafted by our nation’s founding fathers, that asserted the separation of American colonies from the rule of the English crown. From this document, ratified on July 4, 1776, we established ourselves as an independent nation, governed by the people, for the people.

In the famous declaration, the line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is especially important. This sentence promises to oppose tyranny and helped to guide our country on the right path.

Declaration of Independence Fun Fact: The Declaration of Independence was not fully signed on July 4th, 1776, the day it was adopted by the Continental Congress. Many of the founding fathers, including John Hancock, the President of the Congress, signed it on that day, but others did not sign until later. The signing process was actually completed on August 2nd, 1776.

If Thomas Jefferson did not write the Declaration of Independence, we might still be a part of England today! Democracies might be much rarer, or may not even exist at all. In any case, there is little chance we would enjoy the same freedoms and rights as we currently do.

4b) Discuss the importance of the Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. Simply put, these amendments guarantee the personal rights of US citizens and limit the abuse of government power. In essence, the first 10 amendments making up the Bill of Rights are:

  1. Freedom of religion, speech, and the press.
  2. The right to keep and bear firearms.
  3. Freedom to refuse housing soldiers in your home.
  4. Protection from searches and confiscation of property without a warrant.
  5. Protection from self-incrimination, being tried twice for the same crime, and a guarantee to a fair trial by jury. An individual will also not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due legal process and will be compensated for any unjust losses they might suffer.
  6. The right to a jury, lawyer, and speedy trial.
  7. Guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases. Prevents courts from overturning the prior verdict.
  8. Prohibits ‘cruel and unusual punishments,’ as well as excessive fines or bail costs.
  9. If some rights are not mentioned in the constitution, they cannot take away from rights held by the people.
  10. Powers not defined in the Constitution are delegated to the states or the people. (Remember Federalism?)

While the Constitution serves as a blueprint for the US government, the Bill of Rights secures the liberties of its citizens. Without the Bill of Rights, the government might exert too much power over its citizens and infringe on their freedom. By immediately adding these amendments to the constitution, our founding fathers helped to preserve the rights of the people for generations to come!

Amendments to the Constitution (Bonus!)

Including the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution has seen a total of 27 amendments. These amendments act as clauses added to the constitution that keep our government up-to-date with the changing times.

In fact, the abolition of slavery and women’s voting rights are both amendments that have been added throughout our country’s history. Currently, because it takes two-thirds support from both the House and Senate to approve a new amendment, the most recent amendment was added over 30 years ago, on May 5, 1992

Fun Amendments Fact: The Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution) was not initially part of the Constitution when it was first proposed! However, founders such as James Madison, believed that a bill of rights was necessary to ensure that the government could not infringe on individual rights.

Without amending the US Constitution, we wouldn’t have been able to make changes to our laws and become a more unified nation. Amendments are a genius way to make positive changes to our government over time, but require unity and cooperation within our government.

Congrats on Finishing The First Half of Your Citizenship in The Nation Merit Badge!

Wow, we just covered a ton of interesting info about our nation! Great work. Are you starting to understand our complex system of government and the founding principles of the United States more fully? You definitely deserve a nice break for all your hard work; give yourself a huge pat on the back! 🙂

Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge (Requirements 4-8) click here (in progress)!

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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