The Bill of Rights

By Tara Shecter

Amendment I

Freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and criticism of government officials and their actions.

"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."
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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

This statement means that the Congress is not allowed to make a law that makes people only support one religion and not allowing the practice of another. The people have the freedom to support any religion they choose or none at all. This part of the amendment was very necessary for the founders to create because under the kings rule, the citizens were not able to support their beliefs and if they did not do what the king wanted, they were sometimes killed. After living under these conditions, the founders decided that the people should have the right to encourage the religion they want, not what another person wants. I believe that this rule is fair because people should be allowed to support their beliefs. They should be allowed to support their beliefs because nobody is the same and everyone has a different opinion. I think that no one should have to change their opinion and beliefs for the reason that someone else told them to. In some countries, they do not have the right to freedom of religion. For example, the annual U.N. gathering came together after many ferocious protests in Muslim countries against a video on YouTube insulting Islam. People in these Muslim countries were furious that these people were not supporting their religion. These videos led to more than 50 deaths, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

"..or abridging the freedom of speech.."

This statement in Amendment I allows the people to have the freedom of speech. But, the freedom of speech is not unlimited. There must be a limit to the freedom of speech for the safety of the people. For example, laws prohibit slander and libel. Also, you are not allowed to go into an airport and scream, "Bomb!" if there really is no danger of a bomb. I think this is a very fair part of the amendment because you should be allowed to express your thoughts and opinions, but to an extent. The founders thought that this part of Amendment I was very important because under the rule of the king, if they said something against the government they would get in a lot of trouble or even executed. Unfortunately, it is still like that in some countries today. But, today in the United States, we are allowed to express our opinions without fear of being executed. For example, on radio stations, such as Sean Hannity, Sean explains his feelings towards the Obama campaign in a negative manner and does not have to worry about the government killing him and his supporters.
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The freedom is yours!

Here in the United States, you are able to say what you want (to an extent) without getting in trouble with the government.
Say What You Need To Say John Mayer Lyrics

Say what you need to say!

Have no fear to say what you support because you are able to in the United States!

"..or of the press.."

This small section of Amendment I, protects the expression of ideas in newspapers, books, radio, television, and to an extent, movies and the internet. The founders believed this part of amendment I was necessary because under the monarchy, all the information published was monitored and made sure that whatever was printed, did not hurt the reputation of the monarchy (did not talk badly about the monarchys' ruling). I believe that all parts of this section of Amendment I must be limited because printing embarrassing things or untrue things is not right. Today on celebrity gossip television shows, many things are said about celebrities that are not true at all. These things can be exaggerated or even completely made up! It is an invasion of privacy sometimes for the celebrities and bad for their reputation (if what is said is not true and harmful towards their good).
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This book about Oprah Winfrey was not written by Oprah Winfrey herself. It was written by Helen S. Garson. The freedom of press allows Garson to write this book about Oprah.

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This political cartoon describes that even though reporters, journalist, etc. are given the freedom of the press, it is sometimes very limited. Some people feel that news reporters are allowed to use the freedom of press to find out information that the public wants to hear, but under the control and limitations of the government (which they believe defeats the purpose of freedom of the press).

"..or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.."

The first amendment protects the right to assemble in groups and hold demonstrations. People are allowed to pass out pamphlets, hold meetings, and peaceably advertise their beliefs. But, courts have ruled that they can require a group to obtain a permit before holding meetings or demonstrations. The founders thought this was very important. They thought this was very important because under the king, the people had no freedom to assemble and discuss the bad things that the government might have been doing at the time. They had no right to protest against the things they thought the king should or should not have done. I agree with this part of the amendment for the same reason the founders did. I think that people should be allowed to protest and gather peacefully assemble without having to worry about the government arresting them.Today, the freedom of assembly is disputed. For example, on the night before the Republican National Convention in 2006, a group of more than 200,000 people, called United for Peace and Justice, which was a group against the Bush administration, wanted to assemble a rally to protest against President Bush. The city of New York opposed having the rally in Central Park and said that the group was too large and would damage the lawn. Leslie Cagan, head of the protest group, called the ruling, "a slap in the face of our constitutional rights." Cagan believed that not allowing them to hold the rally and protest, was against the first amendment and unconstitutional. The judge said there is "no credible evidence" that the city's refusal was not based on the protest group's political beliefs. Regarding this case, I believe that the city must let the group protest because they have that freedom. I believe that the only acceptable reason that people should not be allowed to rally or assemble is because it is a safety hazard. Destroying the lawn in Central Park does not violate any part of the amendment nor is it unsafe. Therefore, I think the city must let the group rally. The city would just need to fix the lawn if it is ruined.

"..and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Finally, Amendment I allows the people to criticize government officials and their actions. Also, to sign petitions in support of an idea, to present those petitions to government officials, and to send letters to those officials are all protected. The founders thought this was very important. They thought this was very important because under the king, the people had no freedom to be able to tell the monarchy if they thought what the king had done was right or not. Since the people are the ones who must live under the rule of the monarchy made 500 years ago or what the government says today, I believe that this part of Amendment I is one of the most important parts of the amendment itself. We the people must be able to tell the government what we think they need to improve and change. In 1966, the Supreme Court was obligated to protect this freedom of the people (along with every other part of this amendment and the other amendments). In this case of Brown vs. Louisiana, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions of five black people who participated in a peaceful sit-in at a local branch library to protest the segregation at the library. The court was forced to protect these men's right to petition, along with their freedom to peacefully assemble.
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This picture shows a women giving her petition to congress on women's right to vote. After much discussion and reasoning, women were granted the right to vote.
Civil Rights Promotion Project - Freedom Of Petition

Use your voice

You have the right to petition and this video explains that you should use your voice and opinion to help support what you believe is right.

Amendment II

The right to bare arms

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
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This amendment explains that the people have the freedom to keep weapons in their home, strictly for protection and hunting. But, this amendment is one of the most debated issues today. The question that cannot be agreed on is, what kinds of weapons should be allowed in people's homes? Should nuclear weapons be allowed? It never says in the constitution that you can't have them. Should only hand-guns be permitted? The amendment does not state any of these things because the founders probably did not think too far into the future and ever realize how advanced our society might be regarding nuclear weapons and guns. The founders originally created this amendment because they had just broken away from Great Britain and were very vulnerable to a country with a strong military. The founders decided that the people should be allowed to have guns in their home to defend themselves if there was ever an attack from another country. I think that today, people are abusing their power to have these guns in their home. For example, on December 14 of this year, a man named Adam Lanza went into a small school called Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and shot twenty kids and 6 adults. Of these children, most of the kids were first graders and kindergarteners. After this horrible tragedy, and many more like it in just the year of 2012, this amendment has had the most debate ever. I think that people should have the right to bare arms, but the rules and regulations must be must stricter. It should not be easy at all to get a gun. People's records must be crystal clear if they want to obtain one. Also, a nuclear weapon definitely should not be allowed to be in the possession of civilians.
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The Second Amendment
This video is an explanation of the second amendment and why the founders created it.