• Exploring American History

1st Amendment provides for freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly and Petition

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.

Simply stated, the 1st Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech and the press, in addition to protecting the right to peacefully protest and petition the government.

Freedom of religion was what the Pilgrims (among others) sought when they came to America’s shores. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .

It also protects a citizen’s speech from federal, state and local government suppression - including lawmakers and elected officials, public schools, universities, courts and police officers. Though this amendment offers a good bit of freedom to the country’s citizens, there is also a layer of restraint which must be obeyed. Forms of speech which receive no protection under the amendment include: obscenity, fraud and child pornography; along with speech that provokes pending lawless action leading to illegal conduct or that violates intellectual property law, in addition to true threats.

Freedom of the press - the right to report news or circulate opinion without censorship from the government - was seen by the Founding Fathers as “one of the great bulwarks of liberty,” and thereby added to the 1st Amendment. Unfortunately, due to the advent of new technologies, numerous challenges to media freedom have now been created.

The right of peaceful assembly originated in chapter 61 of the Magna Carta. This right cannot be deprived without violating the essential principles of liberty and justice.

The right to petition (calling the government to account) offers American citizens the power to change injustices by joining with other citizens in support of causes through the use of petitions due to practices by the government that violates a cause.

The five freedoms protected by the 1st Amendment - speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition, serve to make the citizens of the United States the freest in the world.

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“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved.” Benjamin Franklin

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