This is the first in a series of posts I want to do on the Bill of Rights. It seems that most Americans have forgotten or never learned what these first ten amendments to our Constitution said and what they mean to our freedoms. The Constitution would not have been ratified without them.
I am going to post each amendment and make a few comments on them as I do.
First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion, and Petition
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.
There is some debate concerning the meaning of this amendment but some things are clear. Congress is specifically prohibited from making any law which establishes a religion. The most obvious interpretation of this is that there can be no state religion in the United States of America. This would include the religion of atheism, and this is as much a religion as Christianity or Islam.
This clause does not say that those in government cannot have a personal religion, nor does it say they can’t express it and be guided by it in their decisions as long as it does not become an established religion because of their actions.
The second clause tells us that Congress cannot make any law which prohibits the free exercise of one’s religion. How lawyers have managed to change this to mean that we cannot express anything religious in the public forum or on public property is beyond me. I guess that we will just have to attribute this to the fact that lawyers are paid big money to change the meanings of words so their clients can brake laws and contracts. Religious symbols cannot be prohibited on government property if the words of this amendment mean anything.
The second aspect of this amendments has to do with the freedom to say what we want. The word “abridge” means to deprive of something or to shorten something. This part of the first amendment is about the right to freely express our ideas. If we think something is right or wrong we have the right to say so. Threatening speech or speech that endangers, like crying “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater is not protected speech. Sometimes protected speech may be offensive to someone. This is constitutional. It is OK to say homosexuality, or some religion, or same-sex marriage is wrong even if it offends those who believe these things are right. On the other hand, those who think these things are right have equal right to say so.
The modern hate speech laws violate this part of our Constitution. Hate laws are always biased, and when the other side comes to power they will change the bias and use them against those who wrote them.
The last two parts of this amendment are pretty self-explanatory. We have the right to assemble together peacefully for political, religious, and other purposes.
The last part says we have the right to petition the government when we feel it has violated the precepts of the Constitution. The founders of our nation did not have this right with the government of England of their day.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved