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First Amendment of United States Constitution

FirstAmendment of United States Constitution

Justlike the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment was originallyrestricted to the actions that the federal government could not doand never bind the states. Several state constitutions formulatedtheir own bill of rights that included the provisions similar tothose in First Amendment. However, the state provisions were onlyenforceable by the state courts.

Withthe addition of Fourteenth Amendment in US constitution in 1968, thestate was prohibited from denying its people liberty without any dueprocess. Ever since, the Supreme Court has been in the forefront ininterpreting the bill of rights to the state government. Forinstance, between 1920s and 1940s, the Supreme Court used to applyall the clauses outlined in the First Amendment to the stategovernments. Therefore, the First Amendment had to cover actions bylocal, state and federal governments. The Amendment is alsoapplicable to all government branches, including courts, juries,agencies, legislatures and executive officials. These include allpublic employers, public school systems and public university systems(Vaughan 110).

However,First Amendment is applicable only to the restrictions which areimposed by government because the two amendments Fourteenth andFirst, refers to the government actions only. As a result, when aprivate employer terminates an employee due to his/her speech, thenthe First Amendment violation might not be applicable. Likewise, whena private university expels a student because of his/her speech,there is no violation. The legislature may sometimes enact the lawsin order to protect people from retaliation by the privateorganizations. Similarly, some laws by states prohibit employers fromholding any political activity when off-duty. Such prohibitions maybe classified under legislative choice rather than First Amendment(Lewis 56).

Thefirst amendment of United States Constitution refers to the act ofgovernment that protects freedom of expression from the interferenceby government and freedom of religion. According to the amendment,the Congress shall not make any law that respect establishment of acertain religion or prevent the free exercise thereof. The Congressshall not abridge freedom of speech, press, assemble or petition tothe government for the redress of their grievances.

Thefreedom of expression encompasses the right of freedom of press,speech, petition and assembly with the aim of redressing thegrievances and implied rights of belief and association. SupremeCourt is responsible for interpreting the extent of protection thatis afforded by the stipulated rights. According to the Court, thefirst amendment applies to the entire federal government despite itsapplicability being expressed to the Congress. Also, according to thecourt, the Fourteenth Amendment protects the First Amendment rightsfrom interference by the state government (Haynes et al. 67).

Thetwo clauses within the First Amendment allow freedom of religion, andthe clause was established to prohibit the state government frompassing the legislation in order to establish an official religion orexpress preference for a certain religion. The amendment enforcesseparation of state and church. As a result, some of the governmentactivities related to religion have been constitutionally declared bySupreme Court. This includes the provision of transport for thestudents in parochial schools as well as enforcement of the bluelaws. A clause that allows the free exercise prohibitsthe&nbspgovernment&nbsp(state) from meddling&nbspwith thereligious practices of a person.

Amongthe basic freedoms, allowable is the freedom of speech that allowsindividuals express themselves without constraint or interference bygovernment. Therefore, the Supreme Court requires that the governmentprovides considerable justification for interfering with a person’sright of free speech or when it regulates the contents of speech.Reduced stringent tests are applied for the content-neutrallegislation. Also, the Supreme Court has recognized that the stategovernment may prohibit freedom of speech which can trigger violenceor breach the peace (Lowi et al. 89).

Despitethe misunderstanding on the freedom of the press as guaranteed by theFirst Amendment, it might not be very different from right of speech.The freedom of press allows individuals express themselves usingdissemination and publication. It is a component of constitutionprotection for the freedom of expression and does not afford themedia people special rights that are not afforded to other citizens(Lowi et al. 90).

Thefreedom of assembly allows people gather for lawful and peacefulpurposes. Implicit in this right is freedom of belief andassociation. Supreme Court has expressed its recognition of the rightof freedom of belief and association within the First Amendment. Theright is implicitly limited for right of association outlined in theFirst Amendment and&nbspwas&nbspexclusive of the freedom of socialassociation. Therefore, the government may prevent people fromassociating in illegal groups. Right to association protectsgovernment from demanding&nbspregistration by a group or disclosureof its members. The right also protects the government from denyingbenefits to a person based on past or current membership in a certaingroup. However, there are exceptions when the court identifies thatthe interests of the government in disclosure or registrationoutweighs the interference with the rights in the first amendment. Inthis case, the government can compel individuals express themselves,belong to certain associations or hold particular beliefs (Goldstein204).

Onthe other hand, right to petition allows the government freedom ofredressing the grievances by allowing people right to question thegovernment on any litigation or action they consider was wrongfullydone. This works hand-in-hand with the right of assembly that allowpeople to come together to seek for the intervention of thegovernment (McConnell 34).


Thefreedoms of press, assembly, speech and petition, as collectivelyreferred as freedom of expression is on the broader perspectiveformulated to offer protection from the restrictions by thegovernment. As a result, the government is denied the right to outlawany antiwar speech, racist speech, speech inciting violence or evenprocommunist speech among others. Also, the federal government may beunable to impose any tax for certain types of speech or even limitdemonstrations which express people`s grievances. Additionally, thegovernment is not supposed to authorize any civil lawsuits based onthe speech of a person, unless that speech falls within theexceptions of the First Amendment recognition. As a result, publicfigures cannot sue an emotional distress inflicted by some offensivearticles unless the articles, on top of being offensive, they includesome statements which fall in exceptions of the ‘false statement ofFact.`

Theguarantees of free expression are unlimited to political speech. Theycover speech on religion, morality, social issues or even scienceamong others. On the other hand, the freedom of the press protectsthe mass communication from interference by the government. However,this does not allow the media any constitutional rights beyond thatof other professional speakers. Finally, from the analysis, thefreedom of petition protects the right of communication withgovernment&nbspand this includes lobbying the officials fromgovernment departments and court petitions, for any grievances,unless the lawsuit is on a legal basis.


&quotFirstAmendment Rights: An Encyclopedia: V.1: Traditional Issues on theFirst Amendment V.2: Contemporary Challenges to the FirstAmendment.&quot ChoiceReviews Online50.09 (2013): 50-4788. Print.

Goldstein,Leslie F. &quotFreedom of Religion in the United States and Aroundthe World The Bible, the School and the Constitution: The Clash ThatShaped Modern Church-State Doctrine. By Green. New York, NY: OxfordUniversity Press, 2012. 294 Pp. $29.95 The Religion Clauses of theFirst Amendment: Guarantees of States` Rights? By West. Lanham, MD:Lexington Book, 2011. 202 Pp. $70.00 Equality, Freedom, and Religion.By Trigg. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012. 184 Pp. $ 45.00.&quotPoliticsand Religion6.01 (2013): 204-10. Print.

Haynes,Charles C., Sam Chaltain, and Susan M. Glisson. FirstFreedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America.Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.

Lewis,Anthony. Freedomfor the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment.New York: Basic, 2007. Print.

Lowi,Theodore J., Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle. AmericanGovernment: Power and Purpose.New York: Norton, 2002. Print.

McConnell,Ashley. FirstAmendment.New York: Roc, 2000. Print.

Vaughan,Ray. TheFirst Amendment.United States: Xlibris, 2000. Print.