Bill of Rights First Amendment
In December of 1791 after much debate the framers of the Constitution ratified the Bill of Rights. These rights were given to the PEOPLE of the United States and were spelled out so that they would never be infringed on. In the next 10 installments I will be reviewing these rights and hopefully, in my limited knowledge, be able to interpret their meanings.
So let’s start with Amendment 1 of the Constitution:
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.
The first section starts “Congress shall make no law… free exercise thereof…”. From what I remember from my somewhat depressing time in Dallas Public Schools, the people who were writing the Constitution were mostly from England. In England at that time, the Church of England was the official church and established the official religion for everyone. I would suppose that this portion of this amendment was meant to allow every person to freely practice their religion or even not practice a religion at all. While many of the people who helped form this country were Devout Christians they obviously wanted to secure that everyone be free to practice their own form of religion. Today that means anyone anywhere in the US can go to any church or be free not to go to church at all. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, or even Satanists can practice free from government interference. One note however I feel is VERY important is they never once said people could be free FROM religion. People are free to not practice but not to force others not to practice. I also note that it says that the government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. I would think that applies to schools allowing prayer or opening town hall meetings with prayer. It doesn’t note that government is NOT to practice religion just to not enforce one type.
“…Or abridging the freedom of speech…”, would allow you to express your dislike of certain policies or speak on behalf of an opposing view. That is one thing we all should consider when “debating” people of differing views, they have the right to say why they disagree just as you do. We all do not have to agree. My grandmother used to say “You can cure more with honey than with vinegar.” Maybe we can all learn something from that statement as well. I did notice it does say the word abridging, which actually, like it or not, seems to cover inflammatory speech as well. While I am not a big fan of using anger as a debate tactic, the Constitution does NOT allow the government to abridge our right to say inflammatory things. I think the practice of trying to “shut down” another persons’ argument is fruitless. We should strive to come to a resolution even if we do not ultimately agree. Sometimes what is best is to recognize someone else’s view and try to see where they are coming from even if you feel that direction is flawed.
“…or of the press;…”, means to me that the press should be able to help get the word out about the state of affairs of the US. The Press is a Freedom, and because of that freedom, the press is challenged to report and tell the truth. Now that is a double edge sword. While the government cannot get in the way of the press, it is the people’s job to police the press by not supporting any press that is untruthful or dishonest. The other thing you should consider is that only you can speak out against the press *see the first part of that section*.
“… or the right of the people PEACEABLY to assemble…”, I capitalized peaceably on my own accord. It seems that all too often we exercise our right to assemble but forget to do so peaceably. Let’s face it, the police have a hard enough time without our inability to control ourselves. Openly showing your dislike of a certain policy or law is your right and duty however, please remember the PEACEABLY part.
“… and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” So as an ending part the founders seemed to think that we have the right to say,“Hey government, stop what you are doing and listen to us. We have something to address with you!” Interesting. I thought we were supposed to just sit down, shut up and eat the broccoli. Seriously though I think this is probably the most under estimated and misunderstood of all this portion of the first amendment. We have the inalienable right to address our governing body and say “HEY STOP IT. “
I of course do not know if the founders put this amendment in the number 1 slot for a reason or it just came to pass that this was first but I think that it is fairly telling that this one is on the pole position of Rights of the people. Take a moment, let it soak in, and let me know what you think.
- The First Amendment and Westboro Baptist Church (ubeng394fall2010.wordpress.com)
- Sarah Palin and The First Admendment (eleftheria64.wordpress.com)
- Render Unto Caesar (Series): US Constitution and Bill of Rights (ptl2010.wordpress.com)
- Government “The right of the people peaceably to assemble…” (inquisitionnews.wordpress.com)
- Freedom of religion or just illiterate? (thepathtotyranny.wordpress.com)