The First Amendment is the very foundation of our democracy. But what is it and how does it affect us?
The First Amendment is part of what is known as the Bill of Rights, which consists of the first 10 amendments to the constitution. The Bill of Rights was ratified Dec. 15, 1791.
The First Amendment 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 people to peacefully assemble, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
These rights have helped to lay the groundwork of our nation.
Without the First Amendment, we here at the Six Mile Post would not be able to do our jobs. That is why the Six Mile Post is sponsoring First Amendment Awareness Week, Jan. 30-Feb. 4.
The freedom of the press is not the only right protected under the First Amendment. The right to peacefully assemble is also protected as well as the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Make no mistake, these rights are under attack. On Nov. 5, 2011, during the Occupy Wall Street protest in Atlanta, two college reporters were arrested while covering the Occupy crackdown. According to the “The Signal,” Georgia State University’s student newspaper, the reporters told the arresting officers that they were from the press. One was wearing her press ID. The arresting officers told one reporter that student journalist are not part of the real press.
Statements such as these clearly indicate an ignorance of the rights protected under the First Amendment. In an information age, when anyone can instantly become an I-reporter, who decides who the “real” press are?
Recent controversial legislation known as SOPA and PIPA threaten to destroy the freedom of speech on the Internet. Google, Craigslist, Facebook and a number other companies joined a massive protest on Jan. 18. SOPA’s bizarre copyright rules could virtually eliminate sites like You- Tube, Vimeo and even Facebook.
So, get out there and exercise your right to be heard. Take time to stay current on recent political issues, and speak out on blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. Do your part to teach others what the First Amendment is. If we lose these rights, then we may never get them back.