When the U.S. Constitution was written, some states thought the document failed to include a strong declaration of basic human rights. As a result, the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 amendments, were added. The Bill of Rights was written by James Madison, and the first amendment entitles all U.S. citizens to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government for grievances.
Freedom of Speech
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech allows citizens to speak without constraint or interference from the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for taking away this right. The government is allowed to breach this right if what someone says causes violence or disturbs peace, according to Cornell University Law School.
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the press is not that different from freedom of expression. The only difference is that freedom of the press allows individuals to express themselves through dissemination and publications such as newspapers or pamphlets, according to Cornell University Law School.
Freedom of Religion
The First Amendment has two clauses that prevent the government from establishing an official religion or preferring one religion over the other, according to Cornell University Law School. These clauses also enforce the separation of church and state. The "free exercise clause" makes it illegal for the government to interfere with the way someone practices their religion as long as it does not harm other people or disturb the peace. This freedom was important to religious colonists who faced religious persecution in Europe before coming to America.
Freedom of Assembly
The right to assemble allows people to gather in groups for lawful or peaceful reasons. The implied rights of freedom of assembly are the right to belief and association. However, the government may stop groups from assembling if they're involved in illegal activities.
Right to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances
The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances "guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) and other governmental action," according to Cornell University Law School. This right and the right of assembly work hand in hand when citizens join together and ask the government to change something. If citizens feel the government is doing something wrong, they have the right organize a petition without being hurt or facing legal action.
- The National Archives: Bill of Rights Transcript
- U.S. Government Printing Office: The Constitution of the United States of America
- UMKC: The Bill of Rights - Its History and Significance
- Fordham University: The Bill of Rights
- Yale Law School: English Bill of Rights 1689
- University of Chicago: Bill of Rights
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