First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution

Amendment I

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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

~~~~  Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791.

“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” — Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)


“The right of freedom of speech and press has broad scope. The authors of the First Amendment knew that novel and unconventional ideas might disturb the complacent, but they chose to encourage a freedom which they believed essential if vigorous enlightenment was ever to triumph over slothful ignorance.  This freedom embraces the right to distribute literature, and necessarily protects the right to receive it.” — Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U.S. 141 (1943)


"Our review of the Supreme Court's decisions confirms that the First Amendment does not merely prohibit the government from enacting laws that censor information, but additionally encompasses the positive right of public access to information and ideas ... this right, first recognized in Martin v. Struthers and refined in later First Amendment jurisprudence, includes the right to some level of access to a public library, the quintessential locus of the receipt of information.” — Judge Morton Greenberg, Kreimer v. Bureau Of Police For The Town Of Morristown, 958 F.2d 1242 (3d Cir. 1992)


First Amendment Resources

 The First Amendment and Common Interpretations of its Clauses, National Constitution Center

U.S. Constitution: First Amendment Annotations from FindLaw

Notable First Amendment Cases