What's up Amendments?

How's your day going, Bill of Rights?

Just a Few Important Rights: Amendment 1

Let me Talk: Freedom of Speech

This literally is the right to say what you want when and where you want to say it. "Symbolic" speech is included. For instance, if a person decides to wear yellow shoes to work everyday to protest against something and the company says they aren't allowed, that would be considered an infringement of their rights. There are limitations to this right. Slander, to mar someone's reputation with what you say, is one of the limitations and another is labeled "treason"-giving away secrets to the enemy in war times. People are also not allowed to yell something untrue in a public place where it can hurt someone.

This part of Amendment I originated from the Founding Fathers' fear and anger at the king's way of dealing with people who said anything he disagreed with.They wanted to make sure that it wouldn't happen in the US. For instance: what happened after the Boston Tea Party. The act of throwing tea into the water was an expression, something protected by freedom of speech in the Constitution. King George III punished the Americans by further taxing them and by closing Boston Harbor.

I think that this is a reasonable part of Amendment 1, but also, in our society, we don't necessarily need the Constitution to tell us that everyone can say what they want. The thing is, you only have to glimpse at how "freedom of speech" was treated like in the Founders' time to wonder why they didn't write that down in the actual Constitution instead of in the Bill of Rights. And sometimes, some people just do need an important document to say it so they can believe it and abide by it. I think that freedom of speech is an important part of respecting others and showing tolerance. After all, even if you disagree, you wouldn't want to be arrested for speaking your mind right? This is 100% true: everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

You Have the Right to Worship Me: Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion states that you can worship as you like or choose not to at all. It also states that government cannot make any laws to trample on people's right to free religion or make any specific religion the "official" religion of the country/state. Like freedom of speech, this has its limits. One is that your "religious beliefs" can't cause you to break any laws, unless the law itself is a violation of your right. As long as you don't hurt others and/or society, you are allowed to worship or not worship as you wish.

Freedom of religion was made a part of Amendment 1 because in the colonies, many people were prosecuted for their religions and governments sometimes hid behind a religious excuse to manipulate people. In the Puritan societies, those people considered anyone not Anglican (including Catholics, Lutherans, Anabaptists, Quakers, Antinomians, any other religions like Judaism and Islam etc) were crazy and they persecuted them for their religious beliefs. This happened all over the colonies and in England in those times. This part of Amendment 1 prohibited this from happening.

The picture below shows a religious book from the Christian branch Jehovah's Witnesses. In Connecticut there used to be a statute that required licenses for those soliciting for religious/charitable purposes. Newton, Jesse, and Russel Cantwell were three Jehovah's Witnesses living in a Roman Catholic neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut. They were going from door to door, handing out pamphlets and playing a portable phonograph. Jesse Cantwell walked up to two men (Roman Catholic) and asked if he could play him the phonograph, which attacked the ways of many Christian branches, especially the Roman Catholic Church. The men were furious and barely restrained themselves from physically attacking the Cantwells. They were arrested for not having the permit and disturbing the peace. The Connecticut Supreme Court thought that their actions were not protected by the 1st Amendment, but the Cantwells appealed and the US Supreme Court found that their actions were in fact, expressions and should be protected by freedom of speech and religion.

As this picture implies, freedom of religion will only be respected if the right people are in power. Just take the colonists, for example. Leaving England so they could practice their own religions just so they could set up a rigid, unfair system like the one they had left, except it benefited them. That's the thing about these freedoms. I think that freedom of religion is a necessary right. I think the person next door should have no business caring if you're Muslim or Jewish or Christian, just as you shouldn't judge them on their religion either.

I Write so I have Rights: Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press is pretty much the same thing as freedom of speech, but it applies to anything written and published (aka books, newspapers, magazines, online blogs etc.) Any person has the right to express themselves in the press without fear of prosecution. Yes, there is an exception. You can't write libel, which is like slander but written down and in the newspaper.

Something compelled the Framers to want to guarantee the freedom of the press. Before the Revolution, publications in England and the colonies were subject to strict licensing. The government had to issue a license to print practically everything, especially if they were suspected of what was then called libel and what is now called disagreeing with public officials. No wonder the Framers wanted this to be a protected right!
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In the case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, a student newspaper wanted to print two articles that were found "inappropriate" by the principal. One was about teen pregnancy. The principal thought this would not be good for the younger students to read and that the girls in the article may be able to be identified. The second article was about how people act when their parents get divorced. The principal thought that the article didn't give enough chances for the divorced parents to defend themselves. He took both articles out of the newspaper and was then sued by the student, Cathy Kuhlmeier, who claimed her rights to freedom of expression (speech) and of the press were being infringed. The case was brought to the court, who ruled in favor of the school, Hazelwood East High School, because the fact that the principal, Robert Reynolds, had taken out the articles due to the content did not infringe on the student's right. Mr. Reynolds had the right to take something out of the newspaper, as long as he had good enough reason to do so.
As a published writer, freedom of the press is extremely important to me. It really is extremely similar to freedom of speech, except that the "expression" is done in ink. If I had to fear persecution for writing down that I thought the women's gymnastics judges in the 2012 London Olympics were terrible and showed EXTREME favoritism to the Russian team (which they did), I would write that the judges were amazing and no one would truly hear my opinion, which would defeat the purpose of the article and I shouldn't write at all if my point isn't getting out. Something that I must say: to write is a right!

(Not) A Community Building Assembly: Freedom of Assembly

People have the right to join together for whatever the cause in an assembly peacefully. Most of the time, the assemblies are protests or demonstrations. There is always a limit to these, and this isn't an exception. You can't create a safety hazard for the public nor can you "disturb the peace". If your assembly causes a riot, the police can break it up. That's where the "peacefully" part of the clause comes in.

The Framers had good cause to create this clause. The English monarchies were always trying to stop assemblies because they were scared the people would try to overthrow the king/queen/monarch. One time, a Quaker named William Penn went to the streets and preached there. He was arrested for it and later found innocent of any crime; but the arrest was enough for the British subjects to start wondering about their right to assemble.

Sign the Petition: The Right to Petition Government

This clause is basically just: you have the right to put together a petition and try to get government to create a bill about an issue important to you. This system of petitions ensures that people have a say in how they're governed. Government has restrictions on the time and place to hear a petition. For instance, they won't hear a petition at 2:00 AM.

During the time of the Revolution, the colonists sent plenty of petitions to the king and parliament about the unfair taxes and unreasonable punishments only to be taxed and punished some more. The Founders included petitions so that this would not occur again.

Oooh, sounds nice! Anyway, I think that yes, the right to petition is pretty necessary in our life nowadays. It's the way to get in contact with our government and to tell them our opinion and that we suggest they do this or that. It is a perfect illustration of democracy!

I'm not Trigger-Happy! I Just Require a Gun: Amendment 2

Don't worry! I'm Trustworthy with a Gun!

This amendment is the cause of a lot of controversy because many people interpret this in many different ways. The way I interpret Amendment 2 is: a militia is necessary to every state, but they don't follow you around every second of the day. In the militia's absence, you have the right to have a gun to defend yourself.

Ah, now we get to it: limitations to this amendment. A permit is required most of the time to buy a gun, and they will check to see if you have a criminal record. They don't want to give a gun to a serial killer! The process for getting a gun can be very long, or it can be short. You have to remember that gunshots can be fatal. You don't want that power in the wrong person's hands.

The reason the Founders created this amendment was, again, because of their dear friend, King George III. He kept guns away from the people, leaving them defenseless. The rebels had to steal guns from places the British kept them. The Founders weren't going to let that happen in their new, beautiful country! So voila! Amendment 2.

We've all heard about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It happened because a gun got into the hands of someone who was mentally ill. The man, Adam Lanza, shot twenty kids and six adults from the staff. The guns were his mothers (he killed her earlier). He hadn't even bought the guns himself, but had been exposed to them by his mother at a young age. Lanza killed himself with a gunshot to the head when he found out he had been spotted by police. The event left people wondering what to do with gun control so that this doesn't happen again and if it will be enough.
It's hard to say what I agree with because all the sides of the controversy make excellent. I do think though, that if people think "Oh, we can never know if they are truly good or not so let's give them a chance and see what happens," they will wait until the person does something truly despicable, like the Sandy Hook shooting, happens before they say "Oops! Mistake! Oh well, we gave him a chance!" I think people should use their judgement before acting, especially when deadly weapons are involved. Guns can save your life, or they can take it. Precaution will always be on your side.