First Amendment Rights Under Attack

First Amendment Rights Under Attack
First Amendment Rights Under Attack

The Constitution of the United States and its Amendments are supposed to be a guarantee to the people that the government will not usurp certain rights. The one the framers put at the top of the list is, arguably, the first among equals. Enshrined within it are the ideas that a person is free to practice the religion of their choice, the freedom to speak their minds and several others. Sadly, these ideals have been eroded over time in recent years. In some cases through governmental action and in others through their inactions.

Free Speech

The pertinent clauses here read “[C]ongress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”

The Civil War was a dark chapter in American history. The generally accepted number of dead is 620,000 soldiers, although some estimates run twice that number due to inherent inaccuracies in the rolls of the Confederate States of America armies. Today, the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, commonly incorrectly referred to as the “Confederate Flag,” has become a contentious symbol.

There are those who see it as a symbol of a people who stood up to the bullies in the northern states, aka the Union. Others, probably the overwhelming majority, view it as racist and oppressive. People who see it as a source of pride feel the movement to scrub it from history is an assault on their Freedom of Speech.


This is the first clause in the amendment: “[C]ongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), over the history of our country, has made a series of decisions ruling that this prohibition extends to all levels of government and both public and private entities. By and large, people and groups seem to take the most umbrage with Christianity and are firmly in the liberal camp when it comes to politics.

Attacks are often centered on benedictions in open local council meetings, displays of the Ten Commandments, or signs/symbols on public property. For example, the City of Hawkins, Texas was forced to remove a long-standing road sign saying “Jesus Welcomes You” that may or may not have been on city property. Pressure brought by an advocacy group led the city council to remove the sign by the dark of night before the local church exhausted its legal options in court.

Wherever someone lands on the political spectrum, cheering the circumvention of the rights granted by the Constitution can have dire consequences. Consider Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran minister, who spent seven years in a Nazi concentration and penned a famous lamentation after the war was over:

“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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