First amendment rights

DEFINITION

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, the right of peaceable assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag in public to protest government policies is a right protected by the First Amendment. Similarly, one contemporary artist's work in which the flag was placed on a floor, and another's in which it was placed in a toilet have been guaranteed protection under this law's guarantee of freedom of speech.Freedom of expression is not without limits. A classic case: a person falsely shouts "Fire! Fire!" in a crowded theater. If an ensuing panic, some people may be seriously injured. Courts have ruled that the shouter cannot defend the triggering of panic as protected by freedom of expression. Similarly there are justifiable laws against defamation, slander, perjury and other injurious false expressions.In early 2006, twelve caricatures (first appearing in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten the previous September) satirizing Mohammad triggered protests, some violent, among Muslims of many nations. Muhammad was portrayed in one of the drawings wearing a turban in the shape of a ticking bomb. He stands at the gates of heaven, arms raised, saying to men who look like suicide bombers, "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins." The newspaper justified its action by saying it was exercising its freedom of expression. It could be argued that an understanding of Islamic culture, or of humanism, would preclude the publication of such drawings as these as irresponsible. (See iconoclasm, transgressive art, and xenophobia)Quotes: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire (1694-1778), French philosopher, author. "Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech." Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American public official, writer, scientist, and printer; one of the "founding fathers" of the United States of America. "Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all others. But without freedom, no socialism either, except the socialism of the gallows." Albert Camus (1913-60), French-Algerian philosopher, author. "Socialism of the Gallows," interview in Demain (Paris, Feb. 21, 1957; reprinted in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, 1961). "We must teach students about their First Amendment rights rather than restrict their use of particular books and materials. As educators, we must encourage students to express their own opinions while respecting the views of others." Pat R. Scales, contemporary American author (with Judy Blume) of Teaching Banned Books, 2001, who was a middle-school librarian for 28 years. "Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political aggenda it may be thought to imply." Stanley Fish, contemporary American professor at Florida International University. "Conspiracy Theories 101," a guest editorial in The New York Times, July 25, 2006, p. 13. Related links: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is an organization in the United States of America that deservedly call's itself the nation's guardian of liberty. It works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the country's Constitution and laws. Its mission is to conserve America's original civic values ― the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. Free Press is an American nonpartisan organization working to increase informed public participation in crucial media policy debates, and to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector.Also see censorship, Center for Arts and Culture, culture jamming, erotica and erotic art, feminism and feminist art, fig leaf, nude, obscene, pornography, and xenophobia.

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