The First Amendment guarantees certain rights and freedoms for Americans. It is interesting that the country’s founding fathers met and saw the need to have a constitution that protects and guarantees the basic rights of each American. Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers, famously said that he would prefer a country that is full of newspapers but lacks a government. Here, he was stating that American’s rights override the needs of the government.
The following are the five basic freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees all Americans:
Freedom of Religion
For centuries, the US has been referred to as the “land of the free.” What this means is that Americans are free to do whatever they want. To this end, the constitution – through the First Amendment – offers them the Freedom of Religion. With it, the government is prohibited from punishing you for practicing whatever religion you consider appropriate for you. However, although you are guaranteed this freedom, you do not sacrifice any human being.
What is more, this freedom prohibits the government from forcing any American to practice a particular kind of religion. Through this guarantee, you can worship the deity of your choice without having to worry about being ridiculed. Additionally, you are free to sue anyone who ridicules or punishes you for practicing your preferred religion. Without the amendment, the government would probably have pushed one religion down everyone’s throat.
Freedom of Speech
Secondly, the First Amendment guarantees the Freedom of Speech to all Americans. What this means is you are free to share your thoughts regarding any issue under the earth publicly and on any platform. As you do this, the constitution protects you from being subjected to any form of punishment, especially by the government. However, over the years, the American courts have grappled with various issues regarding this guaranteed freedom.
Most critically, the courts have sought to discover or interpret the limits of this freedom. Despite all the litigations regarding this freedom in the courts, First Amendment prohibits the government or any of its agencies from denying you this right. Nevertheless, the courts may determine that you have abused this freedom if your speech threatens the country through a clear and present danger.
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the Press shares several principles with Freedom of Speech. However, the courts have differentiated the two by prohibiting the government from censoring any information prior to publishing or writing. What this means is the government can never force anyone – including the media – from publishing any information that the public deserves to know unless it proves that the details are a threat to national security.
Similarly, your freedom would cease in the following instances:
- Defamation of character
- Fighting words
- True threats
- Incitement to break the law
- Plagiarizing copyrighter material
- Soliciting others to commit crime
Freedom to Assemble
Over the years, the government has sought to disperse groups of people gathering to protest certain actions. Normally, this leads to intense debates regarding whether their rights were violated. That is exactly the scenario the First Amendment envisaged when it guaranteed American’s Freedom to Assemble. What is more, the amendment protects the rights of Americans to plan and participate in peaceful protests or to associate with anyone you like.
Freedom to Petition the Government
It is common for Americans to feel the government needs to be pressed to make changes on certain issues. You are guaranteed the Freedom to Petition the government at the county, state, or federal level. Moreover, you can do this alone or as part of a group without having to face consequences of your actions. For all of this, you have the First Amendment to thank for guaranteeing you such freedom. With this freedom, you can hold the government accountable.
The constitution, through the First Amendment, has guaranteed these freedoms since 1792.