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What are the diverse opinions regarding the First Amendment?

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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 the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Because of the freedoms expressed in the First Amendment, interpretations of who should receive those freedoms have been the subject of controversy throughout specific times during history and even today.

To address the diverse opinions regarding the First Amendment, it is important to think of this question in terms of periods throughout history since the Constitution was ratified in June of 1788. For example, slavery was not abolished until 1865, meaning the First Amendment rights were not granted in all cases to enslaved persons. Furthermore, the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s aimed to restore the freedoms of the First Amendment to persons of color marginalized by society.

After assessing how marginalized persons throughout history were denied their First Amendment rights, address whether or not the First Amendment applies to non-citizens of the United States. Who is not protected by the First Amendment? Address popular opinions about this by:

  • Watching the news and reading the opinion sections of newspapers to discover viewpoints as they relate to freedom of the press.
  • Visit the official website for your local and state politicians to discover their stance on rights for their constituency.
  • Ask your friends, relatives, colleagues, and classmates about their opinions regarding who should be protected by the First Amendment.
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