Bill of Rights: Article I

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.
Article I is perhaps the most important of the Bill of Rights. It bundles a number of rights which makes me wonder if this was a tactic to insure its passage. In my humble opinion, these are the rights which have made the United States great. They are constantly challenged but fighting off those challenges make the country stronger.

With the growth of Islam in this country there have been cries to declare the United States a Christian country. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists as well as liberal Christians are justified in viewing this as a gross violation of the First Amendment.

 There are already practices which have chipped away at the concept of the separation of church and state such as the  revision to the Pledge of Allegiance which tells the world we are one nation under God (the implication is that this is a Christian God). If we testify in court we promise to  tell the whole truth with the help of God. Our coins proclaim that in God we trust; as the value of a coin diminishes, does it mean that God is not to be trusted? God exists for the personal affairs of people of all colors and nations, not for the affairs or agenda  of a government entity.

If the movement to declare the United Sates a Christian nation gains strength, I am glad that the we have the right to peaceably assemble and  to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The key word is peaceably. Carrying weapons to a demonstration is not a right! Petitioning the government for protection against religious zealots is a right!

No matter what ones position is on the separation of church and state we are indebted to the founding fathers for making it clear that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. The ability to peaceably debate an issue, without fear of incarceration, is a right we should cherish. It would of been astute if the crafters of Article I had somehow made it clear that these freedoms were not to be abridged by the executive branch of government. The thinking may have been that the judicial branch would be our safeguard against abuses of power by the President. A President using the dangers posed by terrorists as justification for the infringement of the freedom of speech and the press is in danger of violating the First Amendment. As more than one President has learned, Father does not always know best.

I must admit that there limitations on the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a questionable excuse for slander, libel, intimidation and lies. That is what keeps the Supreme Court busy.

 Now if only there was some way to take the politics out of Supreme Court appointments. Until then an informed citizenry remains as the best tool to protect our democracy. Freedom of speech and of the press are the best tools we have for an informed citizenry. Any encroachment of these rights should be viewed with alarm.

1 comment:

Sarah Keller said...

As always, a wonderful post Tony!