Amendment 1

Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, and Assembly

Freedom and Rights

"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."


This is the first amendment; it states the freedom we have in the areas of speech, press, religion, and assembly. It is one of the most important amendments that we have, and without it, people would wreak havoc on the government and each other.


One of the most debated topics in history is how far the limits of different religions can stretch-take King Henry VIII for example. He wanted to divorce his wife but the strict, conservative rules of his Roman Catholicism forbade it. People followed and supported him, but many disapproved. Today, divorce is legal in almost every country, and the people who try to outlaw divorce are considered extremely religious or just illogical. This supports the theory that people should be able to believe in whatever they want, be as conservative as they please, and worship whatever they want to worship because it may just be easier, smarter, or . Currently, there are all different types of churches and temples and religions- there are even people who decide to have no religion or live religiously independent. To me, freedom of religion means that people are free to do this without being threatened or harmed, threatening or harming other people, and bashing other religions. There are many court cases that test the government's cooperation with the first amendment. One of these cases was the Sherbert v, Verner case of 1963. Sherbert was fired from her job because it conflicted with her religious beliefs, and she was unsatisfied by this. She brought up a case that got passed to the Supreme Court. It stated that the government should take a better interest in cases where people are not allowed to practice or express their religion because it conflicts with their job. Sherbert won her case, and I completely agree with the decision because our religious freedom has been supported for centuries. Like freedom of religion, freedom of assembly allows people to come together and express what they please, but there are also limits. In 1774, the First Continental Congress came together to discuss the coercive acts and how they had been punished for dumping tea into the Boston Harbor. The Second Continental Congress met a year later to discuss a plan of action, indirectly leading the the American Revolution. This gave us the freedom we have today, and it also helped create the Constitution. Although a lot of good groups assemble, this does not stop the bad assemblies. For instance, the Westboro Baptist Church is a group of people who religiously assemble and express their hatred for the gays, Jews, and a lot more of the population. They are even picketing the funerals of the Sandy Hook shooting victims. In my opinion, the government should abolish this hate crime and make sure the members of the church pay for what they are doing, but since freedom of assembly is stated in the Constitution, that can't happen unless the meaning of the amendment gets expanded. I go both ways about freedom of assembly because what people assemble for can be amazing, but it can also be horribly terrible and wrong. The government has already banned funeral protesters from coming within 300 feet of the service, and I think they should ban people who assemble and make threats or plans of destruction. Two other rights the first amendment states are freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Like freedom of religion and assembly, freedom of speech and press is limited- slander and libel are prohibited by law. Slander is false speech intended to damage a person's reputation, and libel is the same thing, but written or published. Also, making direct threats, especially to the president, is illegal and will result in harsh punishment. In 1612, a Virginia governor declared that anybody who denied the Trinity under Virginia's Laws Divine, Moral and Martial would be put to death. Today, punishments are not as strict and harsh, but they still exist. For example, in 2001, congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act. Federal funding was restricted to all public libraries and schools that did not have filtering software installed on all computers to block certain material from being accessed through the Internet. This act was good because children can't access harmful or inappropriate websites, but on the negative side, it may block too many websites- like websites used for college-level essay research. In my opinion, this act should not have been passed. If someone is unintelligent enough to get a virus or access inappropriate websites on a public computer, they probably shouldn't be on it. Freedom of the press allows news-type businesses and companies to broadcast or publish anything that people of all ages can legally see. They are not allowed to censor it before it has been released though, that's called prior restraint and it is unconstitutional. Censorship still isn't even legal in the United States, though that almost got repealed in 2012, which infuriated many people across the nation. The difference between slander and libel now and slander and libel back when there were colonies instead of states is that truth was not a defense. In 1735, John Peter Zenger, a popular publisher, was tried by the state of New York for publishing antagonistic remarks about the governor. Thanks to his wise attorney, he was acquitted for the crime and made a huge landmark in the history of press freedom. In my opinion, the limitations for freedom of speech and the press are that threats of terrorism and other crimes should never be tolerated, but people have the right to express any opinion that they please. All of the aforementioned rights and freedoms mentioned above are very similar- they all allow opinions to be expressed, but if things go too far, there will be harsh consequences. This is one of the most important amendments because it supports John Locke's theory that all people are born with natural rights, but it does not support the lawless nation that Locke may have had in mind. With this amendment, people are free to say what they want to say, do what they want to do, and be who they want to be without riots of people deeming it unconstitutional, and this is the way life is supposed to work.


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Amendment 8: No Excessive Bail, Excessive Fines, or Cruel and Unusual Punishments

Bail, Fines, and Punishment

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


This is eight amendment-stating some of the lines for people who get tried with crimes. First, it talks about excessive bail, or the lack of it. Excessive bail is money or property that an accused suspect deposits with the court to gain release from jail until the trial. If excessive bail is posted by a judge, the defendant's lawyer can make try to get the bail value lowered or appeal to a higher court. A very famous case where this occurred was Michael Jackson's court case, which he later won. I think it was right of the court to lower the bail because they did not have any absolute proof that he had committed the alleged crimes. In much earlier times, 1829 to be exact, Habeas Corpus W. was tried upon three indictments of offences. There was a large bail to pay, and he simply couldn't pay it. He was sent to jail, but later released. Like excessive bail, excessive fine requires someone to pay a lot of money, but instead of holding the money over someone's head to make them come to their trial, the government just takes this money. In my opinion, fines don't really do much but take money away from people and give it to the government. If someone is less wealthy, taking so much money from them could change their entire life- but definitely not in a good way. For example, in the 1920's, when alcohol was illegal, a property that held festivals was found guilty of alcohol possession and distribution. Although the festival as a whole was found guilty of this, the owners of the property did not get arrested or punished because they were not the ones selling illegal substance. The court debated about giving the owners a large fine, but this was turned down by the Supreme Court. I agree with the Supreme Court's choice- if they were not the ones guilty of the crime, they should not be paying for it. In more modern times, 2009, a student named Joel Tenenbaum illegally downloaded thirty songs from the internet. At first he got threats telling him to pay $3,500, but he ignored all of them- until he had a lawsuit for $675,000 from a recording agency. In court, the lawsuit was reduced by a factor of 10, but he still has to pay a huge amount of money. In my opinion, this is still a case of excessive fine, but Tenenbaum deserves it after ignoring all of the warnings about lawsuits. Although money does impact someone's lifestyle, some punishments may be more harsh that- like the electric chair for example. This is one of the most debated topics about the eighth amendment- the death penalty. In my opinion, death penalty should be used on only the smartest or the most destructive of the criminals. For example, immediately killing Osama Bin Laden was an exception to unconstitutional punishment. It assures that he will never personally strike our country again because he could have escaped if we had punished him any other way, and who knows what could have happened. I think that there are punishments worse than death though, like watching bad things happen to people you care about and spending a lifetime in prison with no real, outside-world interaction. There are also punishments that cause physical pain, but those aren't brought up very often. For example, in the 1500's, many people were very superstitious about witches. If a woman was accused of being a witch, the Puritans would hang her or kill her in other painful ways. In my opinion, hanging a woman accused of witchcraft is just ridiculous, but killing Osama Bin Laden was one of the best things to happen to the United States in a long time. Small crimes do not need horrible punishments like this, though. Only give out these punishments to people who truly deserve it. All of these- bail, fines, and punishment- have something in common. They all somehow punish a person accused of committing a crime. Each of these is terrible in its own unique way, but they are also extremely stressful, which is probably why they are not legally allowed to deal out these punishments for crimes that aren't big enough. That is my opinion regarding the eighth amendment.




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