First Amendment Under Fire-Matias L

Americans debate how tight regulations on speech should be


The first amendment: The foundation upon which the main principal of the United States is built on- freedom. The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and the right to form a rally. Some people however have debated how far this extent reaches. For the sake of example, would it be safe to yell "Bomb!" in a packed aircraft? Would it be safe to yell "fire!" on an enclosed ride?

Brief History

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. These words have sparked endless debate all over the country during the past two centuries. It all started 226 years ago when the Constitution was being drafted. The federalists (pro- constiution) wanted to get the Constitution ratified as soon as possible and get rid of the Articles. The Anti- Federalists (more pro- article) wanted to get a Bill of Rights in there to make sure certain rights were preserved. And so a consensus was reached. The federalists would have their Constitution, and the Anti- Federalists would have their Bill of Rights. So, right after the Constitution was ratified, as promised, James Madison got to working and proposed 12 amendments. Only 10 of these were ratified, but these first 10 were known as the Bill of Rights.
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Right to Assemble

Peaceably: the key word in that jumble of words known as the first amendment. The limit to the amendment is when someone gets hurt as a result of someone causing false panic or organizing groups to assassinate people. As soon as that line is crossed, the perpetrator is prosecutable. There should be absolutely no reason for someone being able to cause panic and perhaps kill or seriously injure American citizens, and get away scot- free. Protests also have to be contained. In the amendment it clearly states "peaceable assemblies". All of a sudden there can't be mass killings and destruction, such as Kristallnacht in 1938. Kristallnacht, or night of the broken glass, was two days during which the Nazi Germans destroyed over 8,000 buildings, and killed 91 innocent Jewish German citizens. People however, are allowed and should be allowed to assemble. To avoid conflict however, they must first contact the city mayor and he/ she will give them a proper area to assemble (such as the mall in D.C). The right to assemble was created to allow people to show government what they want and how government can do a better job at what they are doing. In Great Britain, protesting against the King was illegal and could get the protestors executed. Coming from ths tyranny, the Founding Fathers decided they wanted people to be able to express their feelings. It is also a good way to promote a certain idea, such as civil rights in the 60s. The right to assemble is currently used to protests many coal power plants and human rights. During the 60s and 70s many people in Universities protested against the Vietnam War. Many people claimed that this war was a waste of American lives and the U.S should back out of war that we should not have gotten invloved in at all. I believe that people should be able to assemble, because if not, then it would be in a certain sense an aristocracy because the government would be able to control the people's thoughts and how they promote their ideas.

Freedom of Speech

What does freedom of speech mean? Can you say ANYTHING you want ANYWHERE you want? Well, America is one of the most free countries in the world, but the people do have limitations. People are not allowed to promote assassinating the President, or causing false panic that can result in injury. Libel and slander is also illegal. The government however is not allowed to tell people what they can and cannot say as long as it is a harmless statement. The government is also not allowed to set microphones in people houses like the Stasi did (Amendment IV). The idea of freedom of speech was also born, just like many other amendments, by protecting things the British took away. The anti- federalists wanted to be absolutely sure the government could not tell people if they said something (that cannot harm someone), then they could be prosecuted. They also wanted to be sure that people did not say things purposely to injure, kill, or damage people in some way. In short, you are allowed to say anything you want, as long as you don't harm anyone or anything in doing so. Freedom of speech is currently used anywhere and everywhere in the States. In some countries people do not have the freedom to criticize the government as people do in the U.S. I believe people should be able to express their feeling in full, as long as no one is harmed.

Freedom of Religion

In England, church and state were together. What this means is that you had to follow a certain religion. If you didn't follow that certain religion, then you could be put in prison. America was formed when pilgrims migrated to the New World to avoid being prosecuted and start a new life. America therefore, did not want to become what they fled from. As a result, America is the melting pot we know today. In the U.S, one can find people of any religion, any race, and any descent because of our tolerance (for the most part). Freedom of Religion is excercised in the U.S every day, no matter what you believe in. I believe that Freedom of Religion should be practiced in every scenario. I also believe racism is wrong and racists are just as guilty as cyber- bullies per say. If freedom of religion were not practised in the States, we would not be as successful as we are. The U.S would not have such as strong workforce, such a large population, or such global extent.

Freedom of Press

Another big issue in England was the press was controlled by the government. The press essentially controls the people's thoughts. Most people believe anything reasonable they hear, and as a result the press can be a huge influence. The Founding Fathers didn't want America to be a police state where everyone believes their government gives them everything, when they have nothing. Government also cannot conduct prior restraint, or censoring articles before they are published. After they are published however, the government can take them down. One example is wiki- leaks. The government tried to capture Assange as he released sensitive classified information. Assange is currently in asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy. Another one of the government's restrictions is that they cannot buy out all of the major media companies. I believe the government should not be able to censor the press beforehand and/ or buy the media companies. In Argentina, the government has bought/ is trying to buy all the media. As a result, all of the press is pro government as all the opposers have been fired.
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Right to Petition

The first amendment guarantees the right to petition. A petition introduces an idea to Congress, or shows how popular an idea is to try to get a corporation or government to change something. Petitioning is done nearly every day in the U.S for varying reasons. Petitioning has been used in the past to get certain things done or repealed. This way the people have the power to show what they want and do it. Petitions can also be done to get candidates into office. A petition was successfully used in 2003, when Gray Davis was recalled as California Governor and Arnold Schwarzenneger was elected Governor. I believe petitions are neccessary to get ideas across and cannot be banned. If petitions are outlawed, then the people will be forced to relinquish their position in government activity.
Anti-Vietnam Protest