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Why is The First Amendment Important: Citizens' Freedom of Speech

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The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the US government make up the country’s political system. The United States now has 50 states, each with its own constitution, governor, and legislative body (typically a state senate and state assembly), and each has its own legal system, which includes lower and higher courts. A constitution is a set of basic principles or precedents that a state or other initiation is said to be governed by. A constitutional amendment is a change to a polity’s, organisations, or other sort of entity’s constitution. Amendments are frequently incorporated into pertinent portions of an existing constitution, modifying the content directly.

‘The Constitution of the United States was written in 1787 by 55 delegates at a Constitutional Convention. Its purpose was to revise the weaker Articles of Confederation that had held the 13 states together after they gained independence from Britain’. By June 1789, Madison submitted 12 amendments, though only 10 were passed and ratified in 1791 as the Bill of Rights’ (Ann Schmidt, 2021). Seventeen more amendments have been approved since, each holding their own substantial amount of significance. These amendments were designed to strengthen citizens’ rights in the United States.

So why is the first amendment important? The First Amendment, which safeguards citizens’ freedom of speech by allowing them to freely speak whenever they want and believe, as well as their freedom of religion and press, can be seen as the most significant right provided by the Bill of Rights. ‘It states that ’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.’ (National Archives, 2022). Speech, religion, the press, assembly, and the ability to petition the government are the five freedoms it safeguards. The citizens of the United States of America are the freest in the world because of these five guaranteed liberties. This allows Americans to freely express themselves, voice their opinions, and worship without intrusion; they can protest in tranquilly, and their opinions are carefully considered and taken into account. The First Amendment is significant because it assures citizens freedom of religion, speech, and assembly. The amendment was written so that Americans might freely express themselves without fear of the government meddling, as it gives residents the freedom to speak anything they choose, associate with others, and practise their own faith without fear of being detained or punished, which is something not many other nationalities can claim, and something that American citizens are very proud of. ‘Many Americans appear to believe that our constitution has been a model for the rest of the democratic world’ (Dahl, 2003).

Moreover, this amendment is significant because it restricts and prevents Congress from regulating people’s religious beliefs. Without this provision, the government might oblige people to participate in specific religions and penalize those who do not. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause are two clauses of the First Amendment that deal with religion. The government cannot ‘establish’ a religion, according to the Establishment Clause. The term ‘establishment’ has no specific definition. It used to indicate that state-sponsored churches, such as the Church of, were forbidden. Today, the three-part standard established by the United States Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 governs what constitutes a ‘establishment of religion’. According to the ‘Lemon’ test, the government can only help religion if the primary goal is secular, the support does not promote or discourage religion, and there is no undue entanglement between church and state (United States Courts, n.d). The government has no authority to compel any individual or person to attend church services or to stay away from the church against their choice. It cannot compel someone to express a belief or disbelieve in any church or religion. It also forbids any sort of punishment for anybody who entertains or prophesizes religious disbelief or believes in exchange for church attendance or non-attendance. It prohibits the use of any amount of tax, whether big or small, to aid in religious activities or indeed religious institutions themselves, and this not only relates to any type of religion but also to any form of practise that can be adopted by these types of institutions to either exercise or inform matters of faith. There should be a clear distinction between religious practice and any state of federal government, with no open or hidden connection between the two branches.

An additional reason the first amendment is greatly significant is due to the fact it protects the freedom of the press; the freedom to publish news and express opinions without fear of government restriction. There are many places across the world, such as the Middle East, where press freedom is severely restricted or even non-existent. Freedom of the press can be seen as a great privilege and greatly significant as it can help to preserve a balance to the influence and authority of the government, thus making American citizens free to form knowledgeable opinions and be well-read and well-informed. It allows citizens to have the power within themselves to believe or not believe what they choose, to write and publish and share what they believe. This amendment allows journalists to write whatever they please, regardless of whether the government disagree with it and this helps to maintain a balance of authority. ‘When we see the number of journalists around the world that are killed and that die (for writing against the government), they hold high what we do in America. All of those are looking to us because they see what journalism means, what free press means. We cannot forget that’ (Richard Lui of NBC, 2021). Individuals who spoke or did anything that was regarded as opposed to the king’s orders were penalized in colonial times. It was forbidden to worship any deity other than’s religion, as well as to speak against any royal official. Musicians had to pay a fine to play their instruments whenever they wanted to do anything unique, such as performing theatre, which eventually would leave them in a tremendous amount of debt. The first amendment was originally put in place to end the restrictions people had on political expression and coverage in the media.

Among the others, one of the most significant rights protected by the first amendment is the ability to petition the government and assemble or even protest. Expressiveness, particularly political protest, can take numerous forms. Conduct can communicate a message that is frequently more potent than words alone. Classic instances are civil rights sit-ins and protest marches for civil rights and against different wars. Protesters have set fire to books, draught cards, bras, flags, and crosses, among other things, to send a stronger statement. The anti-censorship concept indicates that we should not allow political expression to be suppressed, even if it is expressed symbolically rather than verbally (Bodenhamer).

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