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. (Source)
This amendment, ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, has a lot in it.
- Congress can not make a law that either establishes one religion over another or prohibiting people’s ability to practice the religion of their choice.
- Congress can’t take away the freedom of speech, or the citizens right to have free press.
- Congress can’t stop a assembly if it’s peaceful even if it’s against something they did.
This is where people usually go to when they try to explain why laws that are obviously religion based in nature are unconstitutional, even if you believe our country was founded on Christian principles. This was a reaction to Britain’s state religion and how alternative religions including alternative practices of the state religion were often considered criminal. Many of the first colonists were coming because they wanted to practice their religion in peace in the way they choose. And this right protects this. It also protects those who believe differently then you from being forced to worship in the same way if you are the one with power.
This does not however outlaw a lawmaker using his religion to influence his decisions, even if we disagree with them.
This amendment also protects our freedom of speech. Which yes, does mean we can say what we want to say. We can all have opinions. This does not however protect you from receiving consequences from utilizing your freedom. I have seen people say stupid and/or cruel things and when they are confronted scream FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Ok, that means you have the right to say what you want to say, not that people can’t react to it. Mostly this refers to the citizenry’s right to protest it’s government. To be able to disagree with our leaders without being arrested for it. To have ability to form our news organizations without it being controlled by our government.
The third element of this amendment is to make it so the government can’t arrest people who are peacefully protesting the government. This has been a challenge for some smaller governments as they have long-term protests that disrupt things that have no relation to the protest. It goes with the Freedom of speech. You have the right to protest, but if you do something stupid with your freedom you might end up having consequences.