The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to freedom of expression. Many people know that there is such a thing as freedom of speech, but the First Amendment protects more than speech. It protects the right of Americans to practice any religion they want, it protects the right of newspapers or other forms of media to report truthful information, and it protects the right of groups of people to gather together peacefully. It also guarantees the right of Americans to make a complaint about the government without being afraid of punishment.

Freedom of religion covers more than an American's right to go to any church. It also extends to the right to wear religious symbols, such as crosses on necklaces, or clothing. For example, a school cannot tell a student that he or she cannot wear a hat or some other type of headgear if his or her religion requires it.

However, it is important to remember that the First Amendment does not protect an American's right to say anything he or she wants at any time. For example, you cannot make threats against another person or write an article that is full of lies and expect the Constitution to protect you. Something called "false speech" is also not protected. That would include saying something that is not true just to frighten people, such as claiming that there is a bomb in a building just to see everyone run outside. You can express opinions, though, and that includes your right to express your opinions about the government. This is an important freedom that not all countries have and, in fact, it did not exist in Colonial America. When America was still a British colony, it was illegal to criticize the government.

The right to gather together peacefully also has its limits. If a crowd gathers on private property, such as a private home or a business, and begins a protest or some other type of disturbance, the property owner can ask the crowd to leave. There may also be situations where a permit or some other type of permission is required for a large group to gather.


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