Monday, October 31, 2016

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.  

This is the FIRST Amendment because it is of utmost importance to a democracy.  Any attempt to ignore or remove any part of it would be disastrous.  Imposing on others a particular religion or restricting the free exercise of some religion is a violation of our constitutional rights.  To keep someone from speaking their mind would also be a violation.  To deny the right of peaceful protest would undermine it.  We, each and all, have these freedoms—to take any of them away from any person or any group diminishes our democracy.

The freedom of the press is of particular importance, especially in these days of 24/7 media coverage.  This freedom means that Rush Limbaugh, Anderson Cooper, Chuck Todd, Meghan Kelly, Chris Wallace, Glen Beck,  Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times can report whatever they wish (hopefully based on solid evidence and facts).  The freedom of the press is essential even though it may report falsehood, bias, or simply be seeking higher ratings.  Any infringement on this “right” is a violation of our democratic principles.

We may rail against certain segments of our free press, we may disagree, but we cannot abridge the right of the press without serious consequences.  We are free to speak against it—we are not free to eliminate it.  When a presidential candidate decides to ban a newspaper and revoke press credentials the First Amendment is threatened. Five months ago, the Trump campaign tweeted: “Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record setting Trump campaign, we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post.”  When I first heard that I was terribly shaken.  Since then we’ve heard reporters labeled as “scum,” “slime,” “dishonest,” “disgusting,” “not good people,”  “sleazy,” and among the worst human beings he (Mr. Trump) has ever met.  He has the freedom, according to the First Amendment, to say these things, but is he not undermining and infringing upon the “freedom of the press?”  I think so—and if one newspaper is banned, others might be.  That’s scary! Thomas Jefferson thought it scary too:  “The only security of all is in a free press.” 

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