In the news recently there have been multiple passionate conversations about our individual’s freedom of speech, the basis of our first amendment. What exactly is the first amendment? And why is the first amendment such a difficult issue when it comes to people exercising this right? Even today the right to follow the first amendment initiates a pro and con discussion.
The, “Bill of Rights,” established by the first meeting of the United States Constitution, passed in December 15, 1791. It originally consisted of ten amendments stating what our country believed in. It represented America, a country welcoming a melting pot of diversity.
The first amendment states: “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.” http://archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
The pros of having the first amendment in place are that we have the freedom to express our opinions in this country, share our opinions with others, and follow individual faiths. We also have the freedom to vote and express our views to our government, without fear of being jailed or tortured for our beliefs. That is, as long as we abide by the legal laws of our states.
As a writer, freedom of speech is one right we consider being most important. Writers can create and share ideas, enjoying creative freedom without being governed or denied. Writers may not always agree with each other’s viewpoints but understand how important it is to have the right to express them. Comedians can write material choosing anyone to be the brunt of their jokes. Newspapers can print the news as they see it.
We can also for the most part follow our individual faiths and religions in this country without fear of being harmed. We can join organizations that share our beliefs. For the most part we can select the schools we choose to send our children to.
The cons of having the first amendment in place are that it also can bring out voices of hate, hate mongers. Some individuals use the first amendment to spread hatred and slander. Race and religious differences can initiate bitter controversy and violence in our country, also throughout the world. Wars are fought because of racial and religious differences by radicals. People speaking out, expressing their freedom of speech can spew negative behavior among those who disagree.
We all know about America’s past history, which included disturbing violent expressions of freedom of speech. Cross burnings, lynching, church and synagogue burnings, and bombings. In the past there have been incidents of book burnings and book banning against authors who people believed broke moral codes. Music has even been banned in public due to the believed immoral standard music provoked. At times groups have formed to protest violently and hatefully express their freedom of speech against certain races, religions, or politics. Politicians run bitter campaigns and have negative verbal outbursts due to disagreements in their political beliefs. All have stood up for their first amendment rights.
Today there is a verbal first amendment controversy going on in New York and other parts of the country concerning a religious building being constructed. Both viewpoints are expressing their freedom of speech. One man’s religious viewpoint, Rev. Terry Jones, has expressed his negative viewpoint on the controversy by reporting he will burn a religious book of faith. Again he has people expressing their pro and con viewpoints on his first amendment rights.
There are no specific guidelines to when expressing one’s first amendment rights should be encroached on or limited. I believe having freedom of speech should automatically come with some form of standards or decency, intended so no-one forcefully inflicts their opinions on others to a point of abuse, personal degradation, or physical harm. Marching and speaking out for personal and civil rights should be performed in a non-violent manner. But then again who has the right to govern our individual first amendment rights? Limiting our first amendment rights delete what they were initially meant to stand for in our country.
The first amendment and the, Bill of Rights, will remain an important part of what America stands for. As American citizens we should accept this right as a gift. So many other countries don’t understand or accept this unique gift.
To obtain further information about our, “Bill of Rights,” please click on the link below.
http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights or http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/First_amendment