Why is the 1st Amendment So Important?

Why is the 1st Amendment So Important?

by / Wednesday, 12 February 2014 / Published in Goodwin & Scieszka

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.

That’s the first amendment. It’s such a small amount of text that this entire country was founded on. It’s the ability for you to advertise, talk openly against politicians, dance naked (yes, that is a form of speech), and express yourself online. Don’t limit your understanding to spoken word, the 1st amendment covers painting, photography, singing, etc. It’s very broad in its scope.

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Foremost, understand that freedom of speech – the 1st amendment – applies to what the government can regulate. Because speech is a fundamental constitutional right, it’s given the greatest protection. Our founding fathers understood the value in speaking out against the government as a form of protection.

You can generally say whatever you want. But there are forms of speech and places where your rights are diminished because the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution in various famous court cases.

Sidewalks and parks are known as public forums and they are afforded the greatest protection, but places like military bases and airports are where the government can restrict your right to talk about subjects. For example, the Supreme Court upheld a regulation that said you couldn’t solicit for money at an airport for a religious institution. Generally, this would be considered speech, but at a non-public forum, like an airport, the interest in regulation is a lot greater than the interest in solicitation.

What are some other forms of regulated speech?
• Advertising that’s misleading
• In-person solicitation from a lawyer
• Political advertisements on buses
• Child pornography
• The FCC’s hold on broadcast media
• Adult entertainment zoning ordinances

There are many others, but we thought people should have a better understanding of what the 1st amendment is, and how it functions.

It applies to the government’s ability to regulate speech; that’s the crucial part to understand.

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