First Amendment Explained
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.
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
What do the words of the First
The First Amendment prevents the government from establishing an
official religion. Citizens have freedom to attend a church, synagogue,
temple or mosque of their choice — or not to attend at all. The
First Amendment allows us to practice our religion the way we want
The First Amendment keeps the government from making laws that might
stop us from saying what we think. People have the right to criticize
the government and to share their opinions with others.
of the press
A free press means we can get information from many different sources.
The government cannot control what is printed in newspapers and
books, broadcast on TV or radio or offered online. Citizens can
request time on television to respond to views with which they disagree;
they may write letters to newspaper editors and hope those letters
will be printed for others to see. They can pass out leaflets that
give their opinions. They can have their own Web pages and offer
their opinions to others through the many means made available by
Citizens can come together in public and private gatherings. They
can join groups for political, religious, social or recreational
purposes. By organizing to accomplish a common goal, citizens can
spread their ideas more effectively.
“To petition the government for a redress of grievances” means that
citizens can ask for changes in the government. They can do this
by collecting signatures and sending them to their elected representatives;
they can write, call or e-mail their elected representatives; they
can support groups that lobby the government.