The first amendment, one of the landmarks of the U.S. Constitution, protects Americans from undue influence from the government. It protects the freedom of religion and freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to rightful assembly (Cornell Law School, 2018). It prohibits the Congress from enacting any rule that can prohibit citizens from seeking redress from the government. The First Amendment was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791 and continued to guide the operational landscape of the government. In its most basic form, the law checks the excesses of the government and advises on the extent to which the U.S. executive can go in restricting the rights of any individual. The U.S. Supreme Court has often interpreted that the first amendment applies to all the federal states though expressly applicable to the U.S. congress.
The right to freedom of speech allows American to express themselves without any form of regulation or censorship. However, the US Supreme Court requires the executive to give valid reasons in case of censorship of the freedom of speech; a substantial justification should be provided for the interference. Substantial refers to what is objective and reasonable, and the evaluation of the circumstances of a breach that would have been caused by the content of the speech. Basically, the laws prohibit any form of arrests or criminal liability for anything spoken or written about a person or topic which is considered truthful or a conveyance of an honest opinion. However, the freedom of expression can be controlled by the government under certain circumstances. For instance, the executive can prohibit forms of speech that may cause a breach of the peace or culminate into violence (Cornell Law School, 2018). It should be realized that the right to free speech includes the media that convey the information.
Under the freedom of speech, the first amendment further provides for the freedom of the press. However, the right to free speech has some restrictions even for the media. Since these rights can be abused by individuals, the government is justified to limit or ban a libel (dissemination of false statements about an individual that may injure his or her reputation) (University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2017). Other censored articles include obscenity, fighting word, and other words that may incite people or groups of people against each other. For instance, a government is justified to require an activist to obtain a permit before addressing a public.
The establishment clause inhibits the federal government from championing a sole state religion, or according such religion any form of financial support. Concerns have been raised whether the establishment clause prohibits the federal government from supporting Christianity. For instance, interpretation of the establishment was evident in the 1947 case of Everson v Board of Education where the courts upheld a law that reimbursed parents for expenses of busing their children to parochial schools (University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2017). In Estate of Thornton v Calder, the courts dismissed a clause that gave workers an undue advantage not to work on their Sabbath on the basis that such a clause was disguised to promote religion. The free exercise, on the other hand, stipulates that individuals are allowed to hold a non-revocable (cannot be revoked by the state) religious affiliations. However, the contentious issue is the extent to which the government can control a conduct ingrained in religious belief.
Overall, the first amendment has played an essential role in protecting the rights of Americans. The provisions protect the right to freedom of expression, religion, and rightful assembly. Since the rights can be abused, the executive is justified to limit such rights especially when actions from them has the possibility of injuring individual repute or fuelling violence and hate.