First Amendment


The founders of the United States government tried to protect our liberty by assuring a free press, to gather and publish information without being under control or power of another, in the First Amendment to the Constitution. We are not very protected by this guarantee, so we concern ourselves on account of special interest groups that are fighting to change the freedom of expression, the right to freely represent individual thoughts, feeling and views, in order to protect their families as well as others. These groups, religious or otherwise, believe that publishing unorthodox material is an abuse of free expression under the First Amendment. As we know, the Supreme Court plays an important role in the subject of free speech and expression, and we need to understand that the court system is the center of the interpretation of our First Amendment rights.


There are various reasons given for censorship; a classroom or library may restrict or ban a book or other learning resource because it includes social, political, or religious views believed to be inappropriate or threatening. A movie or TV program may be considered violent, or indecent because of nudity or inappropriate behavior. Also, a song or speech could contain language thought to be vulgar, or ideas and values that some consider objectionable. Although these examples are good reasons for censorship, initiating these steps would unveil a censorship disaster. Looking at all levels of American citizens, some of the people that want censorship are legislators on a local, state, and even federal level. Others are members of boards or committees, organized to review books, films, or other forms of communication on behalf of a community. Occasionally the censurers are teachers, librarians, or school administrators, who determine that a book or a classroom item may not be suitable for the students. Often censurers are parents, members of religious groups, or just citizens who are concerned about the presence of indecent or improper material in their schools, libraries, theaters, bookstores, television, and else where in the community.


As always, there are those individuals that oppose the power to censor. There are members of society that believe in the freedom to speak publicly and to publish. This is a basic belief in the freedom of expression and is to be protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. On the eve of the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, the first wave of a nationwide survey, comprising more than 1500 citizens was conducted. Through this survey it was found that American rate free speech as their second most precious First Amendment right and regard a free press highly in the abstract. Although there are strong cases made for and against censorship, the rising trend calling for censorship can threaten our basic rights to free expression and the right to be informed. At the center of the debate is the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees our right to read, speak, write, and communicate freely. The government at the state or federal level cannot interfere with this right. However, the First Amendment does not protect some forms of expression including libel and slander, false advertising, and obscenity. Compared to other countries within the world, we are advanced politically and technically. Our ability to learn and to communicate with one another will only make the complex issue of censorship grow.


We should consider ourselves lucky by world standards, in many countries the freedom of expression is extremely limited, or sometimes not permitted at all. In these societies, the government censors views that are not in line with their policies, controlling controversial opinions on television, in newspapers, and even in public or private meetings. Members in our society believe in following the tradition of our First Amendment. This tradition allows us the freedom to read, write, speak, and therefore to learn. Our basic freedom is necessary for progressing society. It would be impossible ever to agree upon what should and should not be censored.