That First Amendment Thing by Sally McKiernan
June 16, 2016
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The first amendment reads “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.” There are people who take this law to the absolute maximum, others cross the line and even abuse it. The question really is, “where is that line?” Legally, there are a few things a person can do, while protected by their rights to express themselves, that I personally find drastic and extreme. Flag burning is a most controversial “freedom”. The constitution actually protects a person who decides to burn the flag solely as a sign of hate. Some things that cross the line legally when dealing with the first amendment are libel, violence, perjury, blackmail, true threats, fighting words, and obscenity.
What does a teenager feel about all of this? For one, a young United States concluded that this amendment established personal freedom, and those “new” Americans did it without going off the rails! I feel lucky to live somewhere that prioritized this. I am legally allowed to express myself however I choose as long as it doesn’t violate those reasonable restrictions. My favorite part of this permitted freedom is that it restricts congress from respecting an establishment of religion, and allows people to freely practice what they believe. Attending Catholic school has given me the opportunity to learn about persecuted people, in the past, in the present, and (regretfully and, perhaps, most likely) in the future. Much intimidation and terror has had to do with religion. I can’t imagine practicing something I am completely opposed to, and I am grateful I never have had to recognize that type of brutal bullying.
Another interesting part of this amendment that draws attention is freedom of expression. Many people use art and writing as an outlet of communication. Others direct their abilities and texts, well, to anything they choose. If someone wants to stand on the street and sing their heart out, they are allowed to do so, even if they are singing or talking about something with which many other people disagree! Freedom of expression is a beautiful idea to me, because there is so much creativity in this world that can be shared through people not being fearful of restrictions. There are few limitations when it comes to expression regarding American’s zealous subject matter. I am grateful for this independence, and what it means to me as we approach one of the country’s great holidays (Independence Day). I am also grateful for some of the restrictions that it contains, because I feel our laws set a bar on what is, and what is not, appropriate. I believe the First Amendment is the most important one, and it should always be protected and respected