First Amendment Values
Americans value the First Amendment as much as a teenage girl values her cell phone. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it. Thanks to the authors of the Constitution America has established the fundamental laws, government, and basic rights for American citizens. The document was signed on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia. Later, Madison introduced 19 amendments, 12 of which were adopted. Ten of them were ratified and became the Bill of Rights on December 10, 1791. The First Amendment recognizes Americans’ freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to assembly, and right to petition (Madison). Roger Pilon, a United States House Representative, demonstrates his support of the First Amendment when stating, “In a free society, individuals and organizations are and ought to be free to associate in any way they wish, to speak as they wish, and to spend their money as they wish, provided only that in the process they respect the rights of others to do the same” (Pilon). Although Pilon is an advocate, he does feel that there need to be restrictions.
These restrictions change as new situations occur, like the internet, for example. When new problems are noticed free speech must be re-evaluated to protect the safety of all.One landmark case for freedom of speech was the Schenck v. the United States case, where Schenck and a woman named Elizabeth Baer distributed flyers claiming the draft dishonored the 13th Amendment. The handouts prompted the reader to ignore the draft and to proceed only with peaceful action. Schenck was then brought to court for violating the Espionage Act passed in 1917. It was said that he was “attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment” (Schenck v. the United States). After both were convicted, they claimed the Government was violating the First Amendment. The court addressed this by explaining how the government has more power during wartime, even when it comes to constitutional issues. It was concluded that free speech is not protected when it presents a danger to Congress (Schenck v. the United States).In addition, freedom of the press is re-evaluated with the newer generations as well. The New York Times Company v. the United States and Hustler Magazine v. Falwell are great examples of this.
In the New York Times Company v. United States case, also referred to as the Pentagon Papers case, the government was not allowing the New York Times or Washington Post to publish documents about the Vietnam war. “The Court found that the claims that publication of the documents would interfere with foreign policy and prolong the war were too speculative, and could not overcome the strong presumption against prior restraints” (Admin). Furthermore, the Hustler Magazine v. Falwell was taken to court after “Hustler Magazine published a parody of a liquor advertisement in which Rev. Jerry Falwell described his “first time” as a drunken encounter with his mother in an outhouse” (Admin). The court claimed that satire and political cartoons like this one have been in many debates and could see no standard to differentiate these parodies that would not harm public discourse. In conclusion, the First Amendment is a highly valued addition to the Bill of Rights. Without it, America’s five most basic freedoms would be quite limited. The Supreme Court has to put minor regulations on these freedoms to ensure the safety of all. It is important to abuse the freedoms given, so they are not questioned to change. Many regulations change over time due to the changes in different generations.