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What does the term "First Amendment Law" refer to?

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enotes | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted March 3, 2014 at 11:17 PM via web

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What does the term "First Amendment Law" refer to?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 3, 2014 at 11:45 PM (Answer #1)

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The term “First Amendment law” refers to legal decisions that have been made that interpret the meaning of the First Amendment.  The First Amendment protects many important rights, but it is not clear how far it goes in protecting those rights.  Therefore, there have been many court cases in which the Court has been asked to interpret passages of that Amendment.  These cases, together, make up First Amendment law.

The First Amendment is perhaps the most important amendment in the Bill of Rights.  It protects some of our most basic and valued rights.  It protects us from the establishment of an official religion and it protects our right to practice our own religion freely.  The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.  It protects the freedom of assembly and it protects our right to petition the government if we feel we have been wronged.  These are some of our most important political and social rights.

However, the First Amendment is not completely clear.  For example, when it says that Congress may make no law that abridges the freedom of speech, does it mean that we can tell lies about other people?  Does it mean that corporations have the right to spend as much money as they want to support or oppose a particular political candidate?  These things are not clear.  Therefore, the Supreme Court has had to decide many cases regarding various aspects of the First Amendment.  All of these decisions make up First Amendment law.

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