This will be a biased blog post. The bias will be mine. The bias is formed by my life, my education, and my beliefs.
When the United States was young, very young, we wrote a document called “The Constitution“. The purpose of this document was to correct the many problems that were identified by our first attempt at starting a government with “The Articles of Confederation“. (For those who don’t remember these, they were an attempt to make the states the center of the country and to grossly limit the powers of the federal government). Part of getting “The Constitution” accepted, was the creation of a the first 10 amendments. These amendments are know as “The Bill of Rights“.
The “First Amendment” was created, in my mind, as the MOST important amendment. While the NRA and other gun rights supporters may feel that the “Second Amendment” is the most important, I tend to disagree.
The first address a few issues that were critical for a representative democracy. Let’s look at the words:
“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.”
First, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. With much of the country being settled by families that had lived under monarchies (who were “legitimized” by god, i.e. by a religious fiat), removing this aspect and allowing people to worship in the matter which is aligned with their own beliefs and conscious, was critical to allowing ideas and thoughts to grow. With no establishment of religion, people can also choose NOT to believe in a good or religion. That is there right.
Second, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press;”. Again, when your prior government was announced to be anointed by god, and therefore unassailable, the freedom of speech and the press phrase shows that the people are allowed and encoured to speak up, and have an advocate in the press. We see this point challenged quickly with the “Alien and Sedition Acts.” The idea of voter suppression was a key part of these acts, the Federalists were worried that too many people were becoming citizens and would change the direction of the company. Three of the four acts will quickly repealed after Thomas Jefferson became president.
And third, “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Governament of a redress of grievances.” And finally with a thoughtful and vocal populous, the writers of this amendment encourage us to question the government and petition for change.
I am a supporter of the first amendment. I got my undergraduate degree in Journalism. I podcast. I blog.
When I see the behavior of government officials attacking the press, because they don’t agree with questions or stories, I look back at the first amendment and like to call BS. We have these right, and even when we don’t agree with people, they have the right to speak their minds. Free speech, can be done thru words and actions.