First Amendment Background

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					The First Amendment: some
The First Amendment: what is it?
• When our ‘Founding Fathers’ created the United
  States, they wrote a rulebook for government
  called the Constitution.
• Among other things, this rulebook included
  something called “The Bill of Rights”, which
  protect the fundamental freedoms of the people
  and their individual states from any infringement
  by the federal government.
• The First Amendment is the first of ten rights
  guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
First things first: what does ‘The
     First Amendment’ say?
• Amendment I “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.”
 What does the First Amendment
• The First Amendment originally said the federal
  government may not tell people what religion to
  be, what they can think, what they can say, or
  what they can write.
• The federal government also was not allowed to
  tell people who they could associate with, nor
  could it deny people the right to sue the
  government if it violated their rights.
The First Amendment: The Big
 The First Amendment was a reaction to
the tyranny practiced upon the people by
   government during the ‘Dark Ages’
• The ‘Dark Ages’ are often thought of as being the
  opposite of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’.
• During the ‘Dark Ages’, the period from the end of the
  Roman Empire to the Renaissance, total control of the
  people by tyrannical governments (usually kings who
  claimed direct connections to God) left most people
  trapped in ignorance and darkness.
• As a reaction against the ‘Dark Ages’ the ‘Age of
  Enlightenment’in the 16th and 17th Centuries brought the
  bright light of free thinking to the world.
 ‘Age of Enlightenment’ thinkers
      questioned authority!
• Enlightenment thinkers realized tyrannical governments
  maintained power by keeping the people silent and in the
• People during the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ realized that
  government forced people to believe whatever made the
  leaders stronger and richer.
• Enlightenment thinkers realized the people must be
  allowed to question government authority in order to
  ensure their freedom.
• Our Founding Fathers wanted to make sure our new ‘post
  revolutionary’ government didn’t return us to the ‘Dark
Four Reasons why the Founding
   Fathers thought freedom of
 expression is essential to a free
1. The freedom of Expression is
the foundation of self-fulfillment
     (the right to happiness)
• The rights of individuals to express their
  thoughts, desires, and aspirations and to
  communicate with others proves the
  dignity of every member of society.
   2. Freedom of Expression is vital to
    getting and expanding knowledge
• People are capable of intelligent thought only when they
  can consider all available facts and ideas in order to
  compare their conclusions with those of others.
• The right of citizens to express themselves can’t depend
  on what the government or others think about their views.
• All points of view should be represented in the
  ‘marketplace of ideas’ so that society can benefit from
  debate about their worth.
• When people are free to expose themselves to lots of
  knowledge they can expand knowledge from the known to
  the unknown.
   3. Freedom of expression is
   necessary to our Democratic
• To be truly masters of our own fate and of
  elected government, we must be well-
• To be well-informed, we must have access
  to ALL information, ideas, and points of
• Government tyranny depends on mass
  4. Freedom of expression provides a
  check against government corruption
              and excess.
• Restrictions on freedom of expression authorize
  the government to decide how, and against
  whom, the restrictions should apply.
• Our Founding Fathers thought that the more
  authority a government has to control the
  people’s thoughts and words, the more it will use
  that authority to suppress unpopular minorities,
  criticism, and dissent.
                  In conclusion
• The Age of Enlightenment led people to question the
  beliefs about what the government said was true in the
  world, because they realized government control
  depended on the people’s ignorance.
• Our Founding Fathers believed well-informed thought
  could lead to the truth without government’s interference.
• Our Founding Fathers knew they needed to guarantee that
  government would never be able to tell people what
  religion they would follow, what they could think, say, or
• The Founding Fathers also knew they needed to guarantee
  people the right to gather to argue (assemble) and to sue
  the government if it overstepped its boundaries.

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