After the US Constitution was ratified (see yesterday’s insightful post), some people actually got around to reading it and said, “Ooops! We left some stuff out!” They then reconvened the Constitutional Congress and set about adding the Bill of Rights which is what we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
The first of these is called the First Amendment. The First Amendment provides for Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Religion. Let’s take a closer look.
Freedom of Speech, formerly known as Freedom of the Press, is very important to our democracy. Without this Freedom, Congress might very well have passed a law limiting viewer access to the Casey Anthony murder trial or to Dancing with the Stars when Bristol Palin was on. In addition, it protects Fox News’s right to call itself “Fair and Balanced” despite all evidence to the contrary.
This amendment protects the media’s the right to conduct probing, in-depth investigations into matters of significant public importance like the economy and Lindsay Lohan’s shoplifting charge. It also protects Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck who are, of course, the heirs to the legacy of our Founding Fathers.
There are, of course, some limits on free speech. You are not protected by the First Amendment if you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But if Rush Limbaugh calls the President a “scum sucking lower life form who wants to burn every Dittohead to death by locking them in a theater and starting it on fire,” that’s OK.
You cannot show Janet Jackson’s nipple on TV but you can show Jack Bauer tearing out someone’s fingernails with a garden trowel. It is pretty clear from the notes of the Constitutional Convention that this is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended.
The First Amendment also protects Freedom of Assembly as long as you aren’t a Muslim or protester in Madison, Wisconsin. So Glenn Beck can get together with 50,000 lunatics on the Mall in Washington, DC to whip them into a paranoid frenzy by equating Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler but don’t even think about trying a sit-in at the State Capitol in Madison. Lucky for us those brave men 235 years ago resisted efforts to force them to join the International Brotherhood of Declaration of Independence Writers, Constitution Framers, and Founding Fathers, AFL-CIO.
The First Amendment also protects Freedom of Religion. Some people think this means separation of church and state but it doesn’t. It means that the government can’t force you to join a certain religion. This is good because it’s unlikely that the government would force you to become a Unitarian. It’s much more probable that you’d be handling snakes, speaking in tongues and gathering at the river.
The First Amendment also enables us to combine Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Religion in creative ways. For example, we can all feel free not only to get together with people who believe, like we do, that abortion is a cardinal sin but we can also parade around with picket signs of dead fetuses and threaten an abortion provider or two. Of course, we can’t really kill any abortion providers because that would violate their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and everyone knows that liberals are never as happy as when they are aborting fetuses.
Tomorrow: The Second Amendment: Your Right to Hunt Doves with a Submachine Gun