First Amendment Quotes

First Amendment Quotes

“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 United States Constitution

“Censors never go after books unless kids already like them. I don’t even think they know to go after books until they know that children are interested in reading this book, therefore there must be something in it that’s wrong.”
~Judy Blume

“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
~ John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife

“When the Washington Post telephoned me at home on Valentine’s Day 1989 to ask my opinion about the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwah, I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression.

Plus, of course, friendship—though I like to think that my reaction would have been the same if I hadn’t known Salman at all. To re-state the premise of the argument again: the theocratic head of a foreign despotism offers money in his own name in order to suborn the murder of a civilian citizen of another country, for the offense of writing a work of fiction. No more root-and-branch challenge to the values of the Enlightenment (on the bicentennial of the fall of the Bastille) or to the First Amendment to the Constitution, could be imagined. President George H.W. Bush, when asked to comment, could only say grudgingly that, as far as he could see, no American interests were involved…”
~ Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

“I was astonished, bewildered. This was America, a country where, whatever its faults, people could speak, write, assemble, demonstrate without fear. It was in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. We were a democracy…
But I knew it wasn’t a dream; there was a painful lump on the side of my head…
The state and its police were not neutral referees in a society of contending interests. They were on the side of the rich and powerful. Free speech? Try it and the police will be there with their horses, their clubs, their guns, to stop you.
From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country–not just the existence of poverty amidst great wealth, not just the horrible treatment of black people, but something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society–cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”
~ Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

“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.”
[The One Un-American Act, Speech to the Author’s Guild Council in New York, on receiving the 1951 Lauterbach Award (December 3, 1952)]”
~William O. Douglas

“Our First Amendment rights are not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess. The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights. The Free Exercise Clause is both an individual and a collective liberty protecting a right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience. Therefore, we strongly support the freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, not only in their houses of worship, but also in their everyday lives.”
~ Republican Party, Republican Platform 2016

“The way liberals are interpreting the First Amendment today is that it prevents anyone who is religious from being in government.”
~ Rush Limbaugh, The Way Things Ought to Be

“A funny thing happened to the First Amendment on its way to the public forum. According to the Supreme Court, money is now speech and corporations are now people. But when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with the political consequences of this, they’re treated as public nuisances and evicted.”
~Robert B. Reich

“Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as by evil men. Nationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon but at other times and places the ends have been racial or territorial security, support of a dynasty or regime, and particular plans for saving souls. As first and moderate methods to attain unity have failed, those bent on its accomplishment must resort to an ever-increasing severity. . . . Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
~Justice Robert H. Jackson

“The Fourth Amendment wasn’t written for people with nothing to hide any more than the First Amendment was written for people with nothing to say.”
~ Dave Krueger

“Our democracy depends on an informed citizenry to survive, Your Honor. Besides the advancement of truth, science and morality in general, the freedom of the press is a backbone of democracy. It exists to keep the government transparent, and the human instruments of government honest.”
~ Kenneth Eade, The Spy Files

“It is the press, above all, which wages a positively fanatical and slanderous struggle, tearing down everything which can be regarded as a support of national independence, cultural elevation, and the economic independence of the nation.”
~ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

“Regulated” rights are not rights. They are niceties and platitudes intended to keep the populace thinking their individual autonomy is respected by their government.”
~ A.E. Samaan

“The United States has experienced more than two centuries of political stability. When viewed against the background of world history, this is remarkable. The First Amendment has played a singularly important role. When citizens can openly criticize their government, changes come about through orderly political processes. When grievances exist, they must be aired, if not through the channels of public debate, then by riots in the streets. The First Amendment functions as a safety valve through which the pressures and frustrations of a heterogeneous society can be ventilated and defused.”
~ Jacqueline R. Kanovitz, Constitutional Law for Criminal Justice

“You probably have the right to disclose them, guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that’s no guarantee that will keep you away from criminal prosecution.”
~Kenneth Eade, The Spy Files

“Here’s a teacher who’s talking about Jesus and, oh no, she quotes a Bible verse, horror of horrors. The world’s breaking and torched and completely messed up, but God forbid some teacher mentions Jesus.”
~Travis Thrasher, God’s Not Dead