Many people say the First Amendment is called that because it was meant to be first, and I agree!
Let me take a moment to remind you of the awesome beauty of our nation’s first law. These forty-five words are as revolutionary now as they were in 1776.
“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.”
The problem right now is people only want to pick certain parts of the First Amendment to support and defend at the expense of others, or they want to reserve the rights found in the First Amendment to some people or groups and not others. The entire amendment gives all of us the right to free speech, no matter where we stand on the political spectrum, how rich we are, and (thanks to the 15th and 19th Amendments) what color or gender we are.
The press sometimes takes advantage of this Amendment, using it as an excuse to spread incendiary rumors. It is our responsibility as citizens to question what we hear from those in the media. After all, there’s a reason why it is illegal to cry “Fire!” in a packed theatre. Those who cry wolf will find themselves alone when a real crisis arrives. Nonetheless, the First Amendment makes it clear that the press is not “the enemy of the people” but rather a friend that when listened to with a discerning ear helps us stay informed of issues that we all face as a nation.
We the people—all of us--have the right to peaceably assemble. “Peaceably” is the operative word here. It means when people assemble to make their voices heard they should do so in a manner that assures that people and property are not injured or damaged.
The First Amendment also assures us that we have the right to worship any God or no God, as we see fit. As citizens of this nation, we enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to explore and practice our faith. This law also makes it clear that a Hindu standing before a judge has the same rights as a Christian. This reflects the Constitutional adage that “all are created equal.” We must defend the 100% barrier between church and state!