picture of lone microphone.

Constitution; Part 5. Free Speech

 

During the summer of 1787, a group of politicians gathered in Philadelphia to draft a new U.S. Constitution. Of course, it wasn't easy sailing. Those against such actions, led by the first governor of Virginia, opposed the ratification of the original Constitution. They felt the new Constitution gave the federal government too much power at the expense of the states. They further argued that the Constitution lacked protections for people’s individual rights. This debate over whether to ratify the Constitution in several states hinged on the adoption of a compromise, which we now know as the Bill of Rights, that would safeguard basic civil rights under the law. 
page listing bill of rights

James Madison drafted most of the Bill of Rights. He was a Virginia representative who would later become the fourth president of the United States. He created the Bill of Rights during the 1st United States Congress, which met from 1789 to 1791 – the first two years that President George Washington was in office.

The Bill of Rights, which was officially introduced to Congress in 1789 and adopted on December 15, 1791, includes the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Today we are going to cover the First Amendment, what it is, and what it means.

Here is a reprint of the 1st Amendment.

1st amendment written out as an American flag

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

From this constitutional self-educated man, what the First Amendment seems to be about is protecting the right of dissenters and minorities to criticize the powerful. Basically, it gives the common man the right to stand up to the government if the common man feels violated individually, or in groups.   

Under its umbrella, the 1st Amendment actually protects 5 areas of speech. In order, they are. 

  • Freedom of religion: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
    Norman Rockwell's painting of 'Freedom of Religion'.
    of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This prohibits the government from establishing a “state” religion and from favoring one religion over any other. While not explicitly stated, this amendment establishes the long-established separation of church and state.
  • Freedom of speech: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. This part of the amendment covers the spoken word except for a few areas that the Supreme Court has struggled with over the years.
  • Freedom of the press: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. Like talking, this ensures that the
    Norman Rockwell's painting of 'Freedom of Speech'.
    published word is as safe as the spoken word. False or defamatory statements—called libel—aren’t protected under the First Amendment.
  • Freedom of assembly: Congress shall make no law abridging the people's right to assemble peaceably. To gather together or associate with a group of people for social, economic, political, or religious purposes. It also protects the right to protest the government.
  • Right to petition: Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The right to petition can mean signing a petition or even filing a lawsuit against the government.
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    Now even though the 5 protections should be adequate for protecting the right to speak as needed, there have been, and continue to be, gray areas in this amendment. These issues and areas are generally handled through the court system on a case-by-case basis. Here are a couple of gray areas;

    • Obscene material has historically been excluded from 1st amendment protection. However, the line determining obscene is constantly moving, making true protection legally difficult.
    • Incitement and/or threats are not protected, but here again, determining what words truly validate these threats can be difficult, especially when the intent is misunderstood, only partially expressed, or lost in the mix.
    • Over and/or under the protection of the First Amendment gets in the way of other protections covered in the Constitution. Trump being charged for saying he was cheated out of the election, as an example. this helped open up the charge of 14th Amendment rights (in fairness, I am new at this and not 100% sure this is the best example).
    Clip art of forefather signing constitution with the words 'Amendments to the Constitution'.

    I think the First Amendment is a true privilege that most Americans take for granted. It is the most important amendment, which is why it is listed first and foremost. With today's media that hides and picks its stories and news, plus the woke crowd pushing politically correct everything, I am truly worried we are quickly losing this valuable right. That's why all of us, EVERYONE needs to exercise this right as often as possible, even if we get censored on FB or TikTok, or raise eyebrows in public. Of course, we still need to be respectful and kind to others as we express this right.

     

    (Make sure you share and pass this on to all your friends so they can learn and grow with us).

     

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