Reflections on the First Amendment Paper

Reflections on the First Amendment Paper
Ephraim Iivula
May 29, 2011
Kenneth Johnston
University of Phoenix

Reflections on the First Amendment
According to the First Amendment of the United States 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.” Consequently, citizens from different occupations often file legal challenges for court adjudication on perceived injustice. This paper focuses on numerous momentous cases related to three of the provisions of the First Amendment, namely freedom of speech, press, and religion. The cases as enumerated shortly represent such examples, in which citizens challenge social norms and seek for Supreme Court hearing or interpretation. In addition, the paper evaluates the rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives American citizens. Notable First Amendment Court Cases

John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General, et al. v. Free Speech Coalition, et al. (2002)
The right to freedom of speech came under scrutiny in the case of John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General, et al. versus Free Speech Coalition, et al. in 2002. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit's judgment against the plaintiff’s broader definition of pornography in enacting the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996. This broader definition, the court finds it in contravention with the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the definition of banning any depiction of pornographic materials, including films that Congress adds on the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 was overboard and as such violated the First Amendment. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote: "First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."

FCC .v. Pacifica Foundation, (1978)
This case put to test the First Amendment protections extended to a radio station's daytime broadcast. At the center of the case was comedian George Carlin's "Seven Filthy Words" monologue. “The Supreme Court held that Section 326 of the Telecommunications Act, which prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcasts over radio or television, does not limit the FCC's authority to sanction radio or television stations broadcasting material that is obscene, indecent, or profane. Though the censorship ban under Section 326 precludes editing proposed broadcasts in advance, the ban does not deny the FCC the power to review the content of completed broadcasts. ” In addition, the Supreme Court pronounced that, “broadcast materials have limited First Amendment protection because of the uniquely pervasive presence that radio and television occupy in the lives of people and the unique ability of children to access radio and television broadcasts.”

Sherbert v. Verner et al., members of South Carolina Employment Security Commission,(1963)
In this case, Adell Sherbert applied to the Employment Security Commission for unemployment benefits following her dismissal from work after she refused to work on Saturdays, something forbidden by her Seventh-day Adventist faith. However, the Employment Security Commission denied her unemployment benefits stating that she lost her employment because of misconduct and therefore ineligible for benefits. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States contended that Sherbert’s dismissal “violates the guarantee of religious freedom contained in the First Amendment.” As such, withholding Sherbert’s benefit was unlawful and therefore in breach of the religious freedom...

References: American Library Association: Notable First Amendment court cases: Retrieved from
John W. Whitehead , May 16, 2011, Renewing the Patriot Act: Who Will Protect Us from Our Government?, Retrieved from
Patterson, T. E. (2009). The American democracy (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Sherbert v. Verner et al., Members of South Carolina Employment Security Commission, et al. (1963): Retrieved from
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, First Amendment: Retrieved from
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