1st Amendment

Essay by eviek06College, UndergraduateA, October 2006

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"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 familiar, though frequently ignored or misapplied, words comprise the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America . This Amendment was written because at America's beginning, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms. As our blueprint for personal freedom and the guarantee of a free people, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

When the U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, it did not contain the fundamental freedoms now outlined in the Bill of Rights, because many of the Framers deemed it unnecessary. After vigorous debate, however, the Bill of Rights was adopted.

The Bill went into effect on December 15, 1791, when the state of Virginia ratified it, giving the bill the majority of ratifying states that it required to protect citizens from the power of the federal government.

Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be victimized, the government would have the power to establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not assemble for social change.

Some Americans have vigorously disputed the application of the First Amendment. Most people believe in the right to free speech, but debate whether it should cover flag-burning, tobacco advertising, hate speech, pornography, solicitation and various forms of symbolic speech.

Many would agree to limiting some forms of free expression as show of esteem to our society's ethical values. After all. you can find censorship almost anywhere around you. It's in music, television, and even literature.