The Constitution of the United States is an outline of the national government of the United Stated of America. It was written in 1787. Fifty-five men were there. They are known as the “Founding Fathers” or “Framers of the Constitution.” The Constitution of the United States was approved on June 21, 1788. The Constitution of the United States divides the government into three branches. First the Legislative branch, then the Judicial branch, last the Executive branch. The Constitution of the United States sets up the balance of power between the states. The rights that get added to the Constitution of the United States are called the amendments. The first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights. To date there are twenty-seven amendments to the constitution. The Constitutional of the United States has become a model for most countries around the world. It is a document that will last forever. “All religions must be tolerated... for... every man must get to heaven his own way.” (Frederick the Great).
Before the First Amendment was ratified, Americans had few rights. If you wanted to publish a paper, it went through the law. If you wanted to speak or say an opinion about the government or anything, you would need permission from the law. That .was the law. Thankfully to the First Amendment we have more rights. The First Amendment is about everyone in the United States having freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of petition, and freedom of assembly. The First Amendment was written because American citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms. The First Amendment reads:
“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. To understand the impact this amendment has on society, one must comprehend the historical background of this amendment and effect is has on citizens rights today. The First Amendment was ratified on November 20, 1789. Before the states approved the Constitution, many Americans worried that the government would become too powerful. At that time on September 25, 1789, Congress added 12 amendments to the constitution. Amendments three through twelve were added by the states to the United States Bill of Rights in December 15, 1791. The Bill of Rights was really for the federal government. Over time, the Bill of rights was applied to states and local governments too. James Madison proposed the U.S. Bill of Rights. The United States Bill of Rights was influenced by 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, Age of Enlightenment, and the Magna Carta. Two additional articles were proposed to the States. The first article never became part of the Constitution. The second article limited the powers of Congress to increase the salaries of the members. It was ratified two centuries later as the 27th Amendment. Though they are all in the Bill of Rights neither article establishes a right that can be used today. The United States Bill of Rights plays a great role in American law and government, and remains an important symbol of the freedoms and culture of the nation. The First Amendment was really needed. It helped to keep freedom of speech which many countries do not have. The First Amendment was added to the United States Constitution because it protects the basic rights of Americans from government interferences. The American Revolution was fought because Americans did not feel they were represented fairly in the British Parliament. The rights in the First Amendment were being denied by the Parliament. So the First Amendment protects our basic rights, such as the right to religious freedom and, unlike many nations, it prohibits an official religion for the nation. Citizens are free to worship any religion they want. The First Amendment establishes the principle of separation of church and state. The amendment also protects the freedom of speech and of press in the nation. This means that the government cannot prevent individuals from freely expressing their opinions, and the right to criticize the government, governmental officials, and the decisions made by our representatives. We are free to circulate ideas in print, movies, etc. Unlike the press in some countries, the American press is not subject to prior restraint. That means that government censorship of information prior to its being printed is unconstitutional. The amendment protects the right of citizens to get together peacefully. And, the citizens have the right to petition the government to correct a wrong or in support of an idea or law. The First Amendment is very important to America. If it weren’t for this amendment, America wouldn’t be itself. .Without freedom, the most important rights in a truly democratic society would be lost forever. Without them there would be no new ideas; we would all conform under totalitarian rule for fear of punishment. It is used in almost every current issue. For example, if you go back to the 1960’s Martin Luther King Jr. exercised his freedom speech by talking to the public on racism and that African American’s should have the same rights as Caucasians, Mexicans, Chinese, etc. He wouldn’t be able to do this if the first amendment hadn’t been created. Freedom of speech is only one part of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is another. There are two parts to freedom of religion. The first part is that there can not be an official state church and bans the government from favoring any religion. Without freedom of religion many Americans cannot choose the religion they choose to follow. For example, if you go back to 1943. The state of West Virginia forced students and teachers to be apart in saluting the flag, even though this went against their beliefs and religions. As a result the school was taking each individual's rights away from them and that was unconstitutional. The next part of the First Amendment is freedom of the press. Freedom of the press is very important because it gives Americans the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media, and published materials without government restrictions. “A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society.” (Walter Lippmann) Without the freedom of the press, popular magazines such as Seventeen Magazine, New York Times, J-14 Magazine, M-Girls Magazines, Elle, History, etc. would not be available unless through the government. For example, if you go back to the court case in1982. After members of Island Trees Union Free School District attended an educational conference, the school board determined that nine books in the high school library including Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Black Boy by Richard Wright, should be removed because they were inappropriate for young people. Several students and parents challenged the school board’s decision to remove these books from the library. That was taking the rights from the students and the authors. The First Amendment protects the right to receive information and ideas. The First Amendment stops the banning of material just because government officials and school officials don’t like the books, Magazines, etc. As a result they could not remove the books from the school library. Another part of the first amendment is freedom of petition. This gives Americans the rights to ask any request for the government to take action the without the fear of being punished by the authorities. The first test of the Freedom of Petition Clause came with the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These acts made it a criminal offense to criticize the government and the officials. Many people believed it was only a political act of President John Adams, and his supporters who were afraid that their Federalist Party was about to lose power in the election of 1800.A few people were convicted under the law. Many people gave petitions to Congress asking to cancel the Alien and Sedition Acts, but the case never went before the Supreme Court. Instead, after the election, the laws were allowed to expire and President Thomas Jefferson pardoned those who had been convicted. The Freedom of Petition Clause came to prominence during the 1830's when many people were petitioning the government to abolish slavery. On January 28, 1840, the Congressmen that controlled Congress passed a resolution. They listened to the people. The last part is freedom of assembly. This gives Americans the rights to come together peacefully. Without freedom of assembly such gatherings might be challenged, and religious gathering will be banned. Those who exercise their religious liberty often do so by addressing large audiences. Americans would not be free to assemble to hear another's views; freedom of speech would be reduced to a mere right to hold personal conversations on personal topics. Also those who hope to petition the government may attempt to form a movement, gathering people at rallies and meetings. If such assemblies were banned, petitions to the government would be impossible to call attention to the problem. For example, the court case in 1962. 187 African American petitioners organized a march to the South Carolina State House grounds in which small groups of fifteen would walk in an open public area protesting the policies of segregation in their state. The march was peaceful, did not block the road, or traffic, and was in an orderly fashion on public property. A group of about thirty police officers faced the group and then ordered its members to arrest all the men. The marchers did not stop or even pay the police any attention, but instead the men began singing religious and patriotic songs like the Star Spangled Banner, etc. They were arrested and later convicted of disturbing peace.
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