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Philosophy Politics Religion Religion, Politics and Philosophy

On the First Amendment to the United States Constitution

I have yet to meet an individual who, on looking at it, would state that the United States Constitution was not a pretty amazing piece of work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure such people exist. I’m simply saying that, either they have chosen to bite their collective tongues when around me, or I have not met them.

To be fair, as well, there are almost certainly a good many people out there who cannot and do not support the U.S. Constitution as a document under which they either can or could live—and that’s regardless whether or not they found it to be extraordinary.

I should also clearly state that many folks don’t really understand this particular founding document either at all, or particularly well.

Take, for example, the First Amendment to the Constitution. To begin with, it is really quite short. Additional to this it is exceptionally pointed in its focus. Allow me to quote it here:

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

This seems like an easy to understand thing, right? Then how is it that so very many people seem to totally ignore the first five words of the text? The people who wrote the amendment seem to intend to be very specific in their meaning throughout the whole of it (as, as I have said, tends to be true for the Constitution as a whole).

As such, when they say, “Congress shall make no law…” you would think the meaning they intended to convey would be crystal clear to pretty much everybody—and most particularly, to legal and more importantly Constitutional scholars.

It seems to me, this one phrase makes it clear that the amendment was designed specifically to prevent the Congress of the United States from creating legislation which in its nature, abridges the activities enumerated in the latter part of the amendment.

Yet, when, in these modern times, you hear a person talking about their “First Amendment rights” being trampled upon, they seem to be talking about the action of states, counties, municipalities or even individual people (not acting as representatives of Federal Law Enforcement). Rarely do they appear to be addressing an instance where the U.S. Congress has actually written a statute that in some wise, infringes any of the activities enumerated.

Were this a case where it were obvious that the “author(s) of” the amendment, seemed to be interested in generating a restriction that “cascaded” to lower levels of government or the people themselves, this would be a different matter.

Allow me to give you an example in the very next Amendment to the Constitution. The text of that amendment being cited below:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Note that in the second amendment, there is zero qualification regarding to whom it applies, in terms of who may or may not infringe the right in question. And there is intentionally extremely “wide” language regarding to whom the right itself applies. It is clearly “the right of the people.” As far as I am able to tell, this means, “pretty much everyone.”

It’s important to remember that the document we’re talking about was written in very particular and specific language, and that it was done so with great and strong purpose(s).

It’s also extremely important to consider that the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution—the so-called, “Bill of Rights,” were somewhat a “bone of contention,” with many arguing they were more likely to cause harm, than to do good.

The reason we should consider this, is that because this is the case, the writers of those Amendments, were likely to be exceptionally careful in their verbiage. On top of this, the resultant language would have been discussed and re-hashed, who knows how many times.

In short, it is virtually certain, and I think history bears this out, that even more care was used in sculpting the Bill of Rights, than likely occurred where the Constitution itself was concerned.

When you consider how much work went into the creation of the Constitution itself, that’s saying quite something in my view.

I want to be very clear, I’m not saying that people should abridge other’s right to freedom of expression (as freedom of speech is commonly termed in the modern day). Nor—given the choice—would I have it be common practice for any of the other rights to be taken at a lower level.

My point is strictly that the issue addressed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has an entirely limited scope.

Not being versed on the existence of the rights to activities in question at subcomponent levels of the United States, I can make no statement with regard to the ubiquity of law or regulation protecting the freedoms enacted on a federal level in the First Amendment to the Constitution. I hope such protections exist, but one thing is pretty certain. Unless somebody can explain to me how I’m incorrect in my logic, they are not provided by the First Amendment—not past the legislative actions of the U.S. Congress.

There’s another part of this I must leave (at least at present) to men who better know the U.S. System of courts. That is, does the U.S. Supreme Court, or for that matter, any federal court have the authority to hear and make pronouncements—whether in appeals or in any other sense—on laws made at a lower level not specifically spoken to or about at the federal level.

This I will leave to people more educated in the ways that matter for that sort of thing to consider and discuss.

Okay, at my limit yet again. Have a wonderful day and, thanks for reading.

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