The First Amendment

The First Amendment
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is part of our countries Bill of Rights. The first amendment is perhaps the most important part of the U.S. Constitution because the amendment guarantees citizens freedom of religion, speech, writing and publishing, peaceful assembly, and the freedom to raise grievances with the Government. In addition, amendment requires that there be a separation maintained between church and state. Our first amendment to the United States Constitution 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. The First Amendment was written because citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms. Without our First Amendment, religious minorities could be mistreated, the government could possibly set up a national religion, protesters could be harmed or jailed, the press would not be able to criticize and report facts regarding the government, and citizens could not organize for changes they believe are needed. Although the first amendment was written into our constitution, the translation of the meaning of the written word is often challenged. Some people believe freedom of speech should not include hate words, pornography, and vulgar language in our music or on the radio or public television. In addition, there are people who believe in freedom of religion but only if the faith is similar to their own and there is a constant debate regarding freedom of the press and what newspapers should be able to report. Because interpretation of the first amendment is sometimes challenged, some court rulings on important cases regarding freedom of speech, religion, and press have changed some perceptions. For example the court case Schenck v. United States (249 U.S. 47, 1919) in regards to the first amendments freedom of speech. This case involved the Espionage Act, which was enacted during World War I. The Espionage Act stated that during wartime interfering with the draft and trying to make soldiers disloyal to the country or disobedient was seen as a crime. After the Act was passed almost 2000 people were accused of violating this law and were put on trial. Mr. Charles Scheneck was against the war and to protest he distributed thousands of pamphlets to persons who had been drafted. The pamphlets said that the government had no right to send U.S. citizens to other countries to kill people. The government charged Schenck with violating the Espionage Act and said that Schenck's pamphlets were intended to weaken the loyalty of soldiers and to obstruct military recruiting. Schenck said that the Espionage Act was unconstitutional. He said that the charges against him broke the First Amendment's promise that "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech." (Cornell, 2006). After the trial went through the federal courts, the case was in the end judged by the Supreme Court in 1919. The Supreme Court upheld Schenck's conviction, saying that the charge did not violate his First Amendment right to free speech although the judge did say that in many places and in ordinary times Mr. Schenck would have had a right to say everything that he said in his pamphlets. However, the judge said that how far a person's freedom of speech extends depends on the circumstances. The judge believed that during a war the government has the power to prevent obstructions to recruitment. Therefore, the government also has the power to punish someone who uses words that are proven to cause such difficulty. The judge took the argument that the question in each case regarding freedom of speech should depend on the circumstances in that if the words create a clear and present danger that the government has a right to get involved. The decision of the judge in Schenck v....
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