Imagine what it must have been like more than 200 years ago. A group of men cram into a room to form a new nation. What will it be like? How will it be run? Who will run it? They created the Constitution to answer these questions. They did their best to think of everything, and they had great ideas that guide our country today. But they also realized that it may need to change from time to time. So these leaders created a way for the Constitution to be changed through an amendment. An amendment is an addition to the Constitution that holds just as much power as the Constitution itself. All laws in the U.S. must follow all of the rules in the Constitution.
The First Amendment
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was passed in 1791 and includes additions to the Constitution protecting people's rights. The First Amendment is all about freedom. The people who wrote the amendment believed that their freedom had been threatened or taken away by the British before the Revolutionary War and freedom from Britain. These amendments keep this from happening again.
What Does It Say?
The First Amendment says that '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.' But what does this mean?
People in the United States have freedom of religion and can practice any religion or no religion. Many people had come to the U.S. to be free to worship, something they couldn't do in their own countries. Our founders wanted to make sure that people would always be free to worship.
U.S. citizens have freedom of speech and can voice opinions without punishment from the government. There are exceptions though, so don't cause a riot or threaten the life of the president! When Britain ruled the U.S., some speech had been considered illegal, like saying bad things about England or her king. But now, you are free to express your opinion that homework should never be given or that kids should have unlimited video game time. That doesn't mean that others, like teachers or parents, will agree.
Newspapers, magazines, and other news sources can say what they want, even when they criticize the government. This is freedom of the press. Before this time, people had sometimes been limited to reporting only what the government wanted them to print.
You are free to gather in groups (or assemble) on public property to support or protest anything. This includes groups for young people like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H clubs. Historically, large groups were broken up to control activities that were against the government.
Each person can have a role in the government. You can join a group arguing for a specific cause or contact your elected officials to express your opinion about a specific issue. Historically, common people had no role or voice in the government.
The First Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1791. As part of the Bill of Rights, it promises that all people living in the U.S. will be free to voice their opinions and ideas about our country. So take advantage of your rights and send a letter to your congressperson today!
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack