Within a democratic society, five important rights correspond to those that are listed in the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. The First Amendment includes five distinct rights, which are often referred to as the "five freedoms." Each of these freedoms includes responsibilities along...
Within a democratic society, five important rights correspond to those that are listed in the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. The First Amendment includes five distinct rights, which are often referred to as the "five freedoms." Each of these freedoms includes responsibilities along with the rights. The full text of the First Amendment is this:
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.
Examining the idea of freedom of religion enables us to see how rights and responsibilities are interdependent. The Congress, which represents the people, cannot impose an official religion, and the Constitution guarantees that everyone can follow any religion they choose. This requires everyone to respect others' freedoms as well.
The right to free speech is crucial in a democracy, as it guarantees that anyone may speak out in opposition to a policy that they believe is wrong. Speaking one's mind is a necessary step toward effecting social and political change. The accompanying responsibilities include honesty and refraining from inciting violence or restrictions to others' free speech.
Free speech is also closely connected to the last right mentioned: the right to petition the government. This means that one can communicate their ideas to elected representatives or others who are empowered to change laws. It does not allow anyone to coerce those representatives.
Freedom of the press is associated with the right to speak freely, as "the press" includes any publication of opinions that criticize the government or powerful people and institutions. An individual who is not a journalist could have an op-ed piece published. Here again, the responsibility for honesty applies.
The right to assemble peaceably is important in part because it goes beyond an individual right. It allows a group of people to occupy the public streets for any reason that is not expressly prohibited. The legality of the assembly may be contested, as was often the case during the Civil Rights Movement actions, so the responsibility to remain peaceful applies to those assembled and to law enforcement.