North East Digital Village
Bill of Rights
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 First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The Unites States was barely established and her citizens were demanding protection for and guarantee of their basic freedoms. The foundation of our open society, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. Without the First Amendment — and subsequently, a system of courts that upholds it and laws that do not abrogate it — religious minorities may be persecuted, the government may establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government without fear of reprisal, and citizens could not petition for social change through speech or gatherings of any kind.
Historically, at times of national stress — real or imagined — First Amendment rights come under enormous pressure. During the "Red Scare" of the early 1920s, thousands were deported for their political views. During the McCarthy period, the infamous blacklist ruined lives and careers.
Today, the creators, producers and distributers of popular culture are often blamed for the nation's deep social problems. Calls for censorship threaten to erode free speech.
The First Amendment exists precisely to protect the most offensive and controversial speech from government suppression. The best way to counter obnoxious speech is with more speech. Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution.
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First Amendment Center (firstamendmentcenter.org): Comprehensive research coverage of key First Amendment issues and topics, daily First Amendment news, a unique First Amendment Library and guest analyses by respected legal specialists.
American Civil Liberties Union Protecting Free Speech (aclu.org):
Freedom of speech is protected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and is guaranteed to all Americans. Since 1920, the ACLU has worked to preserve our freedom of speech. Learn more and take action to protect the right to free speech. ACLU civil rights/civil liberties organization with affiliate organizations in each state.
Justice Learning (justicelearning.org): Justice Learning is an innovative, issue-based approach for engaging high school students in informed political discourse. The web site uses audio from the Justice Talking radio show and articles from The New York Times to teach about reasoned debate and the often-conflicting values inherent in our democracy. Includes articles, editorials and oral debate from the nation's finest journalists and advocates. Site includes detailed information about how each of the institutions of democracy (the courts, the Congress, the presidency, the press and the schools) affect the issue.
All About the First Amendment (justicelearning.org)
: What the First Amendment says and what it means, Timelines for the Freedom of Speech and Association and the Freedom of Religion.
The Power of the Purse: Can Congress Use it to Control Speech? (justicelearning.org)
: How far can government go to impose its views, when it makes spending decisions? The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to decide the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, a federal law that permits the government to deny federal funding to colleges or universities if they prohibit military recruitment on campus. Law schools across the country have challenged the law, arguing that they have a First Amendment right to deny recruitment because the military openly discriminates against gay, lesbian and bisexual law students.
Intelligent Design: Scientific Inquiry or Religious Indoctrination? (justicelearning.org)
: A Georgia court recently ordered the Cobb County public schools to remove an anti-evolution sticker from textbooks, renewing the nearly century-old battle between science and religion. How far can school systems go to require the teaching of creationism and the theory of "Intelligent Design" without violating the Constitution's mandate to separate church and state?
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First Amendment Rights Committee: cite: (abanet.org) Works within the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities to protect and advance First Amendment freedoms, including religious rights, free speech, freedom of the press, the right of association and the right to petition government for redress of grievances. It accomplishes its mission by educating the legal profession through programs and published material, amicus briefs, when appropriate, and recommendations for policies to be adopted by the American Bar Association.
Center for Constitutional Rights (ccr-ny.org):
CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Litigates proactively to advance the law in a positive direction, to empower poor communities and communities of color, to guarantee the rights of those with the fewest protections and the least access to legal resources, to train the next generation of constitutional and human rights attorneys, and to strengthen the broader movement for constitutional and human rights.
Civil Rights.Org (civilrights.org): Empowering the civil rights community to lead the fight for equality and social justice in the emerging digital society through the establishment of an online social justice network representing people of color, women, children, labor unions, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, major religious groups, gay and lesbian people, and civil liberties and human rights group.
The Constitution Project (constitutionproject.org): A bipartisan nonprofit organization that seeks consensus on controversial legal and constitutional issues through a combination of scholarship and activism.
Liberty and Security Initiative
: First Amendment and Government Secrecy - efforts by the government to inhibit the media, to conduct surveillance of religious and political organizations, and to suppress information about detentions and other actions.
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