The ﬁrst amendment to our constitution reads as follows:
“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.”
Some would argue that the ﬁrst amendment is the most important clause in our constitution… that it protects all other rights and freedoms enjoyed by our citizens. Others would argue that the second amendment (the right to keep and bear arms) is the most crucial right granted to individual citizens...that this right ensures the protection of all other rights and liberties guaranteed our citizens. However, and contrary to the belief of some of my more conservative friends, I must agree with the former group…that the ﬁrst amendment provides the most meaningful and precious of rights assured our citizens. It allows “we the people” to worship as we see ﬁ t without government interference or mandate; allows the people to voice their opinions and publish those opinions without fear of persecution or control of the government. It allows for peaceful assembly of citizens to voice and promote their cause or belief and to make both formal and informal request for change when they feel change is necessary. These rights are not unlimited. A citizen may not lawfully yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater simply to cause panic. And, with reasonable limitations, a citizen’s speech and right of peaceful assembly may also be subject to lawful regulations of the time, place, and manner of expression. Freedom of the press does not (nor does freedom of speech) allow the publication of untruths or false statements damaging to a person’s reputation. In other cases, our freedom of speech and of the press does not protect ﬁghting words which by their very utterance, inﬂict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. Obscenity, in certain forms and classes are not protected by our ﬁrst amendment right. The right of peaceful assembly does not protect those that injure persons or property of others in the course of exercising that right.
When exercised as designed….as intended…these ﬁrst amendment rights deﬁne our country…they make America what America is all about. No other nation in the world so protects it’s citizens by such guarantees...but they are not absolute, and they should never be abused. They are a cornerstone, both to the design and establishment of our country. They are too precious to squander.