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The First Amendment


Considered by many the most important amendment to the Constitution is the First Amendment. It states,

"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."

THOMAS JEFFERSON This was not the first draft, by any means. There were multiple drafts regarding the freedoms that should surround religious and speech expression.

An earlier draft, spread out over two amendments, read,

"(3)Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed. (4) The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the People peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to apply to the Government for redress of grievances, shall not be infringed."

This was a hotly debated amendment, with Madison among others very concerned about the wording. It is worth noting that the earlier version stressed that speech was meant to be contributive to the common good. This similar concept is present in the preamble to the Constitution.

Another interesting point was that the while the religion clause was originally separate from the speech and assembly clauses, the later two were not separate. A reasonable explanation of this might be that the two were always to be considered together. Thus free speech was intended to be limited to political speech.


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