Bill of Rights

Topics: First Amendment to the United States Constitution, United States Constitution, Freedom of speech Pages: 6 (1934 words) Published: March 24, 2013
The Bill of Rights : it is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserve some powers to the states and the public. The First Amendment (Amendment I) :

Originally, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by the Congress. However, starting with Gitlow v. New York, the Supreme Court has applied the First Amendment to each state. This was done through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by what is called the Incorporation Doctrine. The Court has also recognized a series of exceptions to provisions protecting the freedom of speech. Text: “ 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.”

* Establishment of religion
* Free exercise of religion
* Freedom of speech : speech critical to the government, political speech ( anonymous speech, campaign finance, flag desecration, free speech zones), commercial speech, school speech, obscenity, memoirs of convicted criminals, defamation, private action. * Freedom of press : taxation of the press, content regulation * Petition and assembly

* Freedom of association
* International significance

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....” This language restricts government both more and less than it would if it were applied literally. It restricts government more in that it applies not only to Congress, but to all branches of the federal government, and to all branches of state and local government. It restricts government less in that it provides no protection to some types of speech and only limited protection to others.

This is an overview of the major exceptions to the First Amendment — of the ways that the Supreme Court has interpreted the guarantee of freedom of speech and press to provide no protection or only limited protection for some types of speech. For example, the Court has decided that the First Amendment provides no protection to obscenity, child pornography, or speech that constitutes “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation ... where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

The Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television, and public employees’ speech. Even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be subject to “regulations of the time, place, and manner of expression which are content-neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.” And, even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be restricted on the basis of its content if the restriction passes “strict scrutiny,” i.e., if the government shows that the restriction serves “to promote a compelling interest” and is “the least restrictive means to further the articulated interest.”

Obscenity: the only type of speech to which the Supreme Court has denied First Amendment protection without regard to whether it is harmful to individuals.


A fundamental axiom of democracy is that citizens must have information and knowledge. People must be informed if they are to play an active role in the life of their country. Free and responsible media are critical...
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