FIRST AMENDMENT to the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION – WikiVidi Documentary
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FIRST AMENDMENT to the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION – WikiVidi Documentary


WikiVidi.com First Amendment to the United States Constitution The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was originally proposed to assuage Anti-Federalist opposition to Constitutional ratification. Initially, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by the Congress, and many of its provisions were interpreted more narrowly than they are today. Beginning with Gitlow v. New York, the Supreme Court applied the First Amendment to states—a process known as incorporation—through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Everson v. Board of Education, the Court drew on Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence to call for “a wall of separation between church and State”, though the precise boundary of this separation remains in dispute. Speech rights were expanded significantly in a series of 20th and 21st-century court decisions which protected various forms of political speech, anonymous speech, campaign financing, pornography, and school speech; these rulings also defined a series of exceptions to First Amendment protections. The Supreme Court overturned English common law precedent to increase the burden of proof for defamation and libel suits, most notably in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Commercial speech, however, is less protected by the First Amendment than political speech, and is therefore subject to greater regulation. The Free Press Clause protects publication of information and opinions, and applies to a wide variety of media. In Near v. Minnesota and New York Times v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected against prior restraint—pre-publication censorship—in almost all cases. The Petition Clause protects the right to petition all branches and agencies of government for action. In addition to the right of assembly guaranteed by this clause, the Court has also ruled that the amendment implicitly protects freedom of association. Background In 1776, the second year of the American Revolutionary War, the Virginia colonial legislature passed a Declaration of Rights that included the sentence “The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained, but by despotic Governments.” Eight of the other twelve states made similar pledges. However, these declarations were generally considered “mere admonitions to state legislatures”, rather than enforceable provisions. [^] After several years of comparatively weak government under the Articles of Confederation, a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia proposed a new constitution on September 17, 1787, featuring among other changes a stronger chief executive. George Mason, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the drafter of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, proposed that the Constitution include a bill of rights listing and guaranteeing civil liberties. Other delegates—including future Bill of Rights drafter James Madison—disagreed, arguing that existing state guarantees of civil liberties were sufficient and that any attempt to enumerate individual rights risked the implication that other, unnamed rights were unprotected. After a brief debate, Mason’s proposal was defeated by a unanimous vote of the state delegations. For the constitution to be ratified, however, nine of the thirteen states were required to approve it in state conventions. Opposition to ratification was partly based on the Constitution’s lack of adequate guarantees for civil liberties. Supporters of the Constitution in states where popular sentiment was against ratification successfully proposed that their state conventions both ratify the Constitution and call for the addition of a bill of rights. The U.S. Constitution was eventually ratified by all thirteen states. In the 1st United States Congress, following the state legislatures’ request, James Madison proposed twenty constitutional amendments, and his proposed draft of the First Amendment read as follows: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed. The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable. The people shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting for their common good; nor from applying to the Legislature by petitions, or remonstrances, for redress of their grievances. This language was greatly condensed by Congress, and passed the House and Senate with almost no recorded debate, complicating future discussion of the Amendment’s intent. The First Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, was submitted to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789, and adopted on December 15, 1791. Establishment of religion Thomas Jefferson wrote with respect to the First Amendment and its restriction on the legislative branch of the federal government in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists : Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. In Reynolds v. United States the Supreme Court used these words to declare that “it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinion, but was left free to reach [only those religious] actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.” Quoting from Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom the court stated further in Reynolds: In the preamble of this act [.. .] religious freedom is defined; and after a recital ‘that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty’, it is declared ‘that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere [only] when [religious] principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.’ In these two sentences is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State. Originally, the First Amendment applied only to the federal government, and some states continued official state religions after ratification. Massachusetts, for example, was officially Congregational until the 1830s. In Everson v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court incorporated the Establishment Clause : The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion to another… in the words of Jefferson, the [First Amendment] clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State’… That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach. In Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution prohibits states and the federal government from requiring any kind of religious test for public office. In the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, The Court concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” In a series of cases in the first decade of the 2000s—Van Orden v. Perry, McCreary County v. ACLU, and Salazar v. Buono —the Court considered the issue of religious monuments on federal lands without reaching a majority reasoning on the subject. Separationists [^] Everson used the metaphor of a wall of separation between church and state, derived from the correspondence of President Thomas Jefferson. It had been long established in the decisions of the Supreme Court, beginning with Reynolds v. United States in 1879, when the Court reviewed the history of the early Republic in deciding the extent of the liberties of Mormons. Chief Justice Morrison Waite, who consulted the historian George Bancroft, also discussed at some length the Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by James Madison, who drafted the First Amendment; Madison used the metaphor of a “great barrier”. In Everson, the Court adopted Jefferson’s words. The Court has affirmed it often, with majority, but not unanimous, support. Warren Nord, in Does God Make a Difference?, characterized the general tendency of the dissents as a weaker reading of the First Amendment; the dissents tend to be “less concerned about the dangers of establishment and less concerned to protect free exercise rights, particularly of religious minorities.” Beginning with Everson, which permitted New Jersey school boards to pay for transportation to parochial schools, the Court has used various tests to determine when the wall of separation has been breached. Everson laid down the test that establishment existed when aid was given to religion, but that the transportation was justifiable, because the benefit to the children was more important. In the school prayer cases of the early 1960s, , aid seemed irrelevant; the Court ruled on the basis that a legitimate action both served a secular purpose and did not primarily assist religion. In Walz v. Tax Commission, the Court ruled that a legitimate action could not entangle government with religion; in Lemon v. Kurtzman, these points were combined into the Lemon test, declaring that an action was an establishment if: The Lemon test has been criticized by justices and legal scholars, but it remains the predominant means by which the Court enforces the Establishment Clause. In Agostini v. Felton, the entanglement prong of the Lemon test was demoted to simply being a factor in determining the effect of the challenged statute or practice. In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the opinion of the Court considered secular purpose and the absence of primary effect; a concurring opinion saw both cases as having treated entanglement as part of the primary purpose test. Further tests, such as the endorsement test and coercion test, have been developed to determine whether a government action violated the Establishment Clause. In Lemon the Court stated that the separation of church and state could never be absolute: “Our prior holdings do not call for total separation between church and state; total separation is not possible in an absolute sense. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable”, the court wrote. “Judicial caveats against entanglement must recognize that the line of separation, far from being a ‘wall’, is a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship.” WikiVidi.com [ Visit WikiVidi.com or browse the channel ]

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