Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press

1st amendment in Bill of Rights of US Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

Here are some interesting things from this law related book on the 1st amendment of the US Constitution. The book is called United States Code Annotated Constitution of the United States Annotated Amendment  1 and published by Thomson West. I found it at my local state university.

“At the heart of this amendment is the ineluctable relationship between free flow of information and a self-governing people; embodied in our democracy is firm conviction that wisdom and justice are most likely to prevail in public decision making if all ideas, discoveries, and points of view are before citizenry for its consideration…Constitutional right of free expression is intended to remove governmental restraints from arena of public discussion, putting decision as to what views shall be voiced largely into hands of each of us in belief that no other approach would comport with premise of individual dignity and choice upon which our political system rests.

Principal function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute; it may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger…It is purpose of this amendment to preserve uninhibited market place of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of market, whether it be by government itself or private licensee…Central commitment of provisions of this amendment forbidding abridgement of freedom of speech is that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, an wide open.

A function of “free speech” is to invite dispute, and it may best serve its high purposes when it induces condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. The constitutional protections for speech and press were fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for bringing about political and social changes desired by the people. Protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people, and all ideas having even slightest redeeming social importance have full protection of guaranties, unless excusable because they encroach upon limited area of more important interests.

This amendment protects the right of an individual to speak freely, to advocate ideas, to associate with others, and to petition his government for redress of grievances, and it protects rights of associations to engage in advocacy on behalf of their members; government is prohibited from infringing upon these guarantees either by general prohibition against certain forms of advocacy or by imposing sanctions for expression of a particular views it opposes.

First amendment protects right not to speak or associate, as well as right to speak and associate freely.

Constitutional command of free speech and assembly is basic and fundamental and encompasses peaceful social protest. Rights under this amendment and Amend. 14 of speech and communication constitute important rights, fundamental to our notions of ordered liberty, and access to information enabling conscious choice as vital to our democratic way of life.”

And freedom of speech and freedom of press would all mean nothing if it were not for freedom of conscience. Freedom of concience is another way of saying freedom of thought. Justice Cardozo, in Palko v. Connecticut, said that  “freedom of thought, and speech…may say that it is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.”

Freedom of thought/conscience, is where we think for ourselves and that we reason and judge things for ourselves. We make our decisions on whether to do this or not, or to accept this position or not, and once we have freely chosen these beliefs or positions, we are allowed to freely express them and speak them. If you have no freedom to though or conscience, then how can you have freedom of speech and press to begin with? You would not be expressing anything of your own, but what someone else told you to think and to say.

We are all individuals, all unique, all have our own point of views. We all have freedom of conscience and make decisions for ourselves, and to express our views with everyone else. It all starts with the freedom of conscience. And when other people have freedom of conscience, we can foster discussion and debate amongst these views, whether political or social.


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