The First Amendment
The First Amendment Explained
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.
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
What do the words of the First Amendment mean?
Freedom of religion
The First Amendment prevents the government from establishing an official religion. Citizens have freedom to attend a church, synagogue, temple or mosque of their choice — or not to attend at all. The First Amendment allows us to practice our religion the way we want to.
Freedom of speech
The First Amendment keeps the government from making laws that might stop us from saying what we think. People have the right to criticize the government and to share their opinions with others.
Freedom of the press
A free press means we can get information from many different sources. The government cannot control what is printed in newspapers and books, broadcast on TV or radio or offered online. Citizens can request time on television to respond to views with which they disagree; they may write letters to newspaper editors and hope those letters will be printed for others to see. They can pass out leaflets that give their opinions. They can have their own Web pages and offer their opinions to others through the many means made available by the Internet.
Freedom of assembly
Citizens can come together in public and private gatherings. They can join groups for political, religious, social or recreational purposes. By organizing to accomplish a common goal, citizens can spread their ideas more effectively.
Right to petition
“To petition the government for a redress of grievances” means that citizens can ask for changes in the government. They can do this by collecting signatures and sending them to their elected representatives; they can write, call or e-mail their elected representatives; they can support groups that lobby the government.
Do Not Read This!!
What are Banned Books?
What is Banned Book Week?
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read, highlighting the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
What's the difference between a challenge and a banning?
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.
Why are books challenged?
Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom:
1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
2. the material contained "offensive language"
3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"
Who challenges books?
Throughout history, more and different kinds of people and groups of all persuasions than you might first suppose, who, for all sorts of reasons, have attempted—and continue to attempt—to suppress anything that conflicts with or anyone who disagrees with their own beliefs. Parents challenge materials more often than any other group.
Map of Book Challenges
Quotations on The First Amendment
“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”—George Orwell, author, c. 1945
“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”—Benjamin Franklin
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”—Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)
“[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”— Judy Blume
“Indeed, perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”—Judge Lowell A. Reed, Jr., American Civil Liberties Union, et al. v. Janet Reno (No. 98-5591)
The Censorship Debate
Issues to consider...
There are many differing viewpoints on the debate surrounding censorship. Below you will find several viewpoint essays from the Opposing Viewpoints database located in MEL. These essays express the opinions of individuals on both sides of this issue. Also included, an interview with YA author Chris Crutcher on Censorship. Take a moment to think about each side of the debate to better understand how YOU think and feel.