By ALEX JONES
Sandusky High graduate attending Ashland University
"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."
-- The First Amendment
Many Americans are able to quote the liberties granted to us in the First Amendment. However important it is just to know these rights, it is equally important to know why these rights are given, and to what extent they are given.
Those who opposed the ratification of the Constitution were mainly concerned with the lack of individual rights within the Constitution. After negotiation and compromise, our Constitution was ratified by the states, and the Bill of Rights followed shortly thereafter. It was up to our Founding Fathers to pick and choose exactly what was to be addressed by these amendments, and how they were to deal with them.
The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights dealt striclty with civil liberties and is the most important declaration of individual civil liberty in the history of mankind. That amendment lawfully guaranteed the foundation of our freedoms today. Freedom of religion, press, speech and assembly is what separated American from the rest of the world and set the bar for all other free nations.
Why were these rights so important to our Founding Fathers? The first and most obvious reason was that they just won a war during, and before which, their rights to these were greatly infringed upon. They had a blank slate to form the government that could effectively guarantee freedom for its citizens. With the First Amendment, these men guaranteed the freedoms they held dear.
Every American finds one of these rights very personal, and it means something different for every person. While I hold my freedoms of religion and press very dear, someone else might say that their freedom of speech is the most important. Just as long as Americans never forget the rights we are guaranteed and realize how to properly use these rights our country will be fine. It is only when we abuse these rights, or worse forget they are even there, when we find ourselves in trouble.
I still remember Mr. Penrose's explanation on abusing our rights. He told us our rights are like an arm swinging in front of someone's face: We can swing our arm only until we hit someone on the nose. We have the freedom of speech until it becomes hate speech. We have the freedom of the press until it becomes libel. It is absolutely imperative we exercise our rights, but within the legal limits that have been set on these rights.
Our First Amendment rights are the most important ones. They guarantee that we can operate as a society without fear or inconsistent governement laws and regulation. There is no telling what our great nation would be like if there were no First Amendment rights. So do not allow apathy to let these rights slip into disuse. Remember that we are always given the right to say, write, gather and worship as we please, as long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others.