The Bill of Rights

Amendment 1: Giving People Freedom

The Words for Our Freedom

Amendment one states, "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 means that the people have freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly.

Why was it Created?

It was created to protect the civil liberties of people in the United States. Most colonists migrated to the United states because they wanted greater religious freedoms. The Founding Fathers wanted to protect that. Also, they wanted to ensure the state did not force people to follow a specific religion.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment. It is also protected by many state constitutions and state federal laws. This does not give the people absolute freedom. The Supreme Court has noticed many categories of speech that are not protected in the first amendment. For example, you are not allowed to say anything that is not true and causes people danger. For instance, if you were in a movie theater and someone screamed fire and there was no fire, it is not protected by freedom of speech. The government has put restrictions on freedom of speech.

I agree that people should be able to say what they would like, but I also support that the government does not allow people to say things that can cause harm to others.

There are many things that happened in history that had an affect on why this amendment was created. First, a 1646 Massachusetts law, for example, punished persons who denied the immortality of the soul. Also,in 1612 a Virginia governor declared the death penalty for a person that denied the Trinity under Virginia's Laws Divine, Moral and Martial, which also outlawed blasphemy, speaking badly of ministers and royalty, and "disgraceful words."

There was a case that occurred recently that involved students in Des Moines, Iowa. They thought that there freedom of speech was being violated. The students decided to wear black armbands to protest against the war in Vietnam. The school administrators banned the students from wearing the armbands. Some of the students that believed they could not do this decided to continue to wear them anyways. This resulted in suspension. One of the students, John Tinker, who did not think this was fair sued the school for violated amendment one, freedom of speech. This was taken to the St. Louis courthouse. The votes were split 4 to 4, then it was taken to the US Supreme Court. The court accepted to hear the case and the students ended up winning 7 votes to 2. They said it was a violation of amendment one to not allow the students to wear these bands because they did not cause harm to others.

I agree that the administrators were violating the first amendment by not allowing the kids to wear the armbands. I think it was inspiring that a kid would try so hard to stand up for what he believes in.

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is protected by the first amendment. Freedom of religion is also like separation of church and state, a concept created by Thomas Jefferson. Freedom of religion prohibits the federal government from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

One of the reasons that freedom of religion was established is because of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was before there was a first amendment that protected peoples rights. That is one of the many reasons they created freedom of religion. The Holocaust was a time where a man named Adolf Hitler who gathered Nazis and took any Jews to a camp and either put them to work until they died or killed them because of their religion.

I support this part of the first amendment. I think that it is okay for people to practice the religion they believe in, but I do not think it is okay for people to be allowed to practice a made-up religion.

The Muslims recently wanted to create a building right next to the twin towers on the land they purchased. People were saying that was not right because of all of the lives that the Muslims took of the innocent people that were in the Twin Towers that day. The Muslims that wanted to build went to court and the court said they could build it there and use it to meet about their religion, because of the first amendment.

Freedom of Press

Freedom of the press in the United States is protected by the First Amendment. It is generally interpreted as prohibiting the government from interfering with the printing and distribution of information or opinions, although freedom of press is subject to some restrictions, such as defamation law and copyright law.

A case involving freedom of the press dealt with Harry Crosswell was charged of libel for printing the story stated many bad things about Thomas Jefferson. Back then you were not allowed to say anything bad and publish it. Everything needed government approval before being published and Harry Crosswell did not get the approval before publishing it.

Recently there was a case dealing with a school newspaper publisher that was talking about drugs and a women said that in the article he was promoting drugs. That was not his intention and he made sure that it was not written like that. The women said it was not protected in amendment one, but the boy was correct and it was protected by the first amendment.

I highly support this portion of the first amendment because it allows normal people to read and find out what they want to know as well as the people that the item that was published about has some privacy.

Freedom to Assemble

Freedom to Assembly is the individual right to come together and collectively express, pursue, promote, and defend common interests. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, civil liberty, and political right. Freedom of assembly is usually used in the words, the right to protest.

I personally do not think people should have total freedom to assemble because that means that terrorists also have the freedom to assemble and that could turn out poorly. Although, I do think people should be able to petition against things they do not believe in as long as nothing dangerous is done or said.

Some of the reasons that they passed this portion of the amendment were for things that happened in history. One example of something that happened in history that effected this amendment was, during World War I, individuals petitioning for the repeal of sedition and espionage laws were punished and the Supreme court did not pay attention to the case.

A modern time example was in Edwards v. South Carolina (1963) the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of black students who peacefully marched on university grounds. The Court said that the protesters' peaceful meeting on public grounds represented "basic constitutional rights in their most pristine and classic form."

Right to Petition

In the United States the right to petition is guaranteed by the First Amendment, which specifically prohibits Congress from abridging "the right of the people... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I support the right to petition. I think that people should have the right to at least show their feelings and find a reason to gather together and show how they feel unified as one, as long as no one is in danger.

Many things occurred in history that resulted in us having the right to petition as part of the first amendment. During the 1790s, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, punishing opponents of the Federalist Party; the Supreme Court never ruled on the matter. In 1835 the House of Representatives adopted the Gag Rule, barring abolitionist petitions calling for the end of slavery. The Supreme Court did not hear a case related to the rule, which was abolished in 1844.

One of the most dramatic events dealing with the right to petition involved John Quincy Adams petition against the "gag rule" that overpowered the presentation of anti-slavery petitions. In his first term, though not an abolitionist himself, Adams presented anti-slavery petitions from Pennsylvania citizens as a matter of duty to their constitutional right.

Amendment 8: Protecting us From The Unfair

The Words for Our Protection

Amendment eight states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

What is Amendment Eight

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause applies to the states.

I do not support the eighth amendment because if the person being punished did something terrible they should be allowed to receive a cruel punishment. I do however think it is much better here then in foreign countries where it is "an eye for an eye".

The main reason that the United States created and passed the eighth amendment was because of how the british treated the colonists. The United States recognized this and decided to forbid this from happening to us.

A recent case violating amendment eight involved a federal judge in Nevada who certified class action status for a lawsuit filed by inmates who claim inadequate medical care at Ely State Prison constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and civil rights violations. U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks appointed attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union to represent "all prisoners who are now, or in the future will be, in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections" at the state's maximum security prison. The ACLU filed suit against the prison in March 2008 on behalf of several inmates. It alleges that deprivation of medical care is so extreme that all inmates are subjected to "constant significant risk of serious injury, medical harm, premature death, and the needless infliction of great physical pain and suffering."

By Samantha Printz