Remember our First Amendment rights during National Newspaper Week
Published 3:30 pm Friday, October 11, 2019
We are thankful to call the U.S. home, where people share some of the strongest protections and freedoms.
This week, which is National Newspaper Week, is a celebration of the First Amendment, which includes five of perhaps our most important freedoms as Americans.
The theme of National Newspaper Week, which is an annual observance recognizing the service of newspapers and their employers sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers, is “Think F1rst — Know Your 5 Freedoms.”
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Like many newspapers around the country this week, we are proud to honor and celebrate National Newspaper Week and in the process, to celebrate our freedoms protected by the First Amendment.
The First Amendment of the Constitution was passed by Congress in 1798 and ratified in 1791. It is the first of 10 amendments which make up America’s Bill of Rights.
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.”
The amendment assures Americans of five freedoms: the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Some of those freedoms are more easily understood than others. But it’s important that Americans be informed about their own freedoms.
History.com gives a great overview of these freedoms and what they mean.
- Freedom of speech gives Americans the right to express themselves without having to worry about government interference. It’s the most basic component of freedom of expression.
- Freedom of press is similar to freedom of speech, in that it allows people to express themselves through publication. There are certain limits to freedom of the press. False or defamatory statements — called libel — aren’t protected under the First Amendment.
- Freedom of religion prohibits the government from establishing a “state” religion and from favoring one religion over any other. While not explicitly stated, this amendment establishes the long-established separation of church and state.
- The First Amendment protects the freedom to peacefully assemble or gather together or associate with a group of people for social, economic, political or religious purposes.
- The right to petition can mean signing a petition or even filing a lawsuit against the government. It protects the right to protest the government.
Of course, many people interpret these laws differently, which is why there are a plethora of Supreme Court cases and others that seek to interpret the First Amendment protections.
While nearly every law on the books is up to interpretation, the protections of the First Amendment should never be at risk of being eliminated.
We believe good journalism is the strongest deterrent to attacks on our free speech, our rights and, ultimately, those freedoms ensured to us in the First Amendment. That is why journalism matters as much now as ever.