The First Amendment is probably the most well known of the amendments in the Bill of Rights. It is also one of the most important ones. The First Amendment 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” (Education for Freedom Lesson 1).
To break it down, there are five key freedoms that are stated in the First Amendment.
1. Freedom of Religion– the First Amendment states that the government does not have the ability to establish a certain religion for the country to follow. It also states that the government does not have the right to forbid the practice of any religion. Citizens are allowed to attend religious meetings, or not attend them at all!
2. Freedom of Speech– as stated in the First Amendment, “people have the right to speak freely without government interference” (Illinois First Amendment Center). As a Mass Communications major, this freedom of the First Amendment is especially important. There are many rules and stipulations one must know about this freedom. While citizens do have the ability to speak freely, there are limitations and exceptions to that freedom. Some examples of speech that would not be protected under the First Amendment include but are not limited to, speech that would incite imminent lawless action, true threats, obscenity, or defamation (Freedom of Speech in the United States).
3. Freedom of the Press– the government does not have the authority to control what is printed in newspapers, broadcasted on radio and television, or sent through the Internet; Government is not able to interfere. Similar to the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of thePress is also important to Mass Communications majors and also has limitations. For more information of limitations and instances where the government can interfere, look to Freedom of the Press.
4. Freedom of Assembly– in the First Amendment, it is stated that “people have the right to gather in public to march, protest, demonstrate, carry signs and otherwise express their views in a nonviolent way” (Illinois First Amendment Center). The key word in this freedom is peacefully. Government puts limitations on the Freedom of Assembly by requiring sometimes hard to get permits that allow individuals to speak in a public place or march in a certain area.
5. Right to Petition– this freedom means that citizens are allowed to petition governmental laws if they seem unfair. Individuals are allowed to gather signatures and lobby legislative action to see a change in laws.