The Women’s March. The DACA marchers. The March for Our Lives. What’s the deal with all of these rallies? Americans marching together with other Americans is an example of our First Amendment Rights in action.
Our country’s laws are written in the Constitution. Included in the Constitution is the Bill of Rights, which explains American’s rights. One of these is called the First Amendment. The First Amendment grants Americans freedom of expression. That means that people can choose to say and do whatever it is they believe.
This right is very special to Americans. We want to express ourselves. If someone sees a problem, they must point it out. That way it can be solved. This is how change can happen. Many see it as their civic duty [responsibilities of citizens] to exercise their First Amendment rights to make our lives as good as possible. Laws protecting women’s and minority’s rights couldn’t have been put in place without people gathering and expressing themselves freely.
At the same time, there have been many complications with the First Amendment. Sometimes protecting one person’s freedoms could cause problems for another. This has caused many challenges. Citizens have the right to gather and speak out, but what if it gets out of control? Your neighbors can post a sign in their yard, but what if it has offensive language? The news can run a story, but what if it’s not factual?
Fortunately, the Supreme Court helps us understand what freedom of expression really means. The Supreme Court has decided that you can express yourself freely as long as it’s true and it doesn’t lead to immediate harm to others. This way, everyone gets to exercise their own rights fairly.
What Do You Think? Why is the First Amendment important to you?
Photo Credit: Susan See Photography