?The First and Second Amendments of the United States Constitution On September 25, 1789, The Bill Of Rights was submitted to the states for approval, based on the previous Constitution’s insufficient assurances for civil freedom, liberties and justice. Concerned that the Constitution neglected to clearly state the basic civil rights of the citizens of the United States, Anti- Federalists opposed the Articles of Confederations, which gave state governments more authority (“Bill of Rights, n. . ). As a result the first tem amendments commonly known as The Bill of Rights was approved by congress in 1791, undeniably guaranteeing citizens of The United States essential and important rights. The 1st and 2nd amendments are perhaps the most predominant, dominant sections of the Bill of Rights. The following essay will explain the contents of the 1st and 2nd amendments; it will also examine and analyze current controversies relating to the two amendments.
The 1st amendment of the Constitution granted citizens of the United States a prestige award by “prohibiting Congress from making any 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” n. d. ). As a result of these, paramount ratifications’ Americans were granted five key components which include the freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly and the right to petition the government.
The 1st amendment includes many privileges’ and protections for the citizens of America for example it prohibits congress from establishing a national religion or showing preference of one religion over another. The next clause in the Amendment is the freedom to freely practice one’s religious beliefs. The Amendment also adds the freedom of speech which entitles Americans the ability to freely express their opinion on government policies, oppositions of the nation’s policies and much more.
American’s were also granted the freedom of press which enabled them to freely post and express their opinions and idea to the public, the first amendment also approved the freedom to petition the government showing disapproval on political matters along with the right to hold a peace assembly . These landmark rights maybe considered the greatest privileges an American holds and are tested through legal cases. A great example is found in an important case which tested the freedom of religion clause of the Constitution was the case of Vitale vs.
Engel in 1962. In this case the Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional to have an educator guide prayer in school, because it conflicted with the Establishment Clause in the First amendments. (“Engel v” 1962. ). Another case which tested the establishment case is the case of Van Orden v. Perry is another example of the separation of church and state in this case Thomas Van Orden bought suit against the state of Texas, due to his opposition of a monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol building.
Orden felt that the monument represented an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion; he argued it went against the 1st constitution and violated the establishment clause. The Supreme Court ruled against Orden in this case and found that the monument did not violate the establishment clause and determined the monument as a historic statement and not a religious endorsement. (Rehnquist, 2005). A more recent example of the protection of individual’s rights under the 1st amendment involves the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which controls the financing of political campaigns.
In the case of Davis v. Federal Election Commission, Jack Davis a wealthy New York politician who challenged and brings suit against the Federal Election Commission’s due to his opposition of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act arguing that it’s unconstitutional and goes against the 1st amendment of the constitution to discriminate against a candidates using their personal funds to promote their own election. (“Davis v. F.
Commission” 2008) The Supreme Court ruled in his favor and declared the act as unconstitutional and found it conflicting with the 1st amendment. An excellent example which tested the freedom of press clause was an incident which involved Judith Miller and Philip Shenon, prominent New York Times reporters with ties with head government officials. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, America began an aggressive war on terror which included in depth investigations of terrorist funding.
In the course of an investigation involving an Islamic charity organization, the reporters received information from a confidential source regarding the government’s plan of an upcoming search of the premise and freeze of assets, on the eve of the search, Miller contacted the organization for comment on the matter. The government felt that her actions endangered the agents and allow the organization to prepare for the search. In return the governments asked for full cooperation from the New York Times including phone record which will help reveal the source of the leaked information.
The New York Times refused to provide the information which provoked the government to obtain the information by any means. As a result the New York Times sought constitutional protection for both the reporter phone records and the identities of all confidential sources. The judge ruled in favor of the New York Times citing the revelation of the records was banned by both a common law and the First Amendment. (“New York Times” 2006). The 2nd amendment of the constitution maybe one of the most infamous and controversial modification of the charter.
The 2nd amendment protects a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms the law states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, and shall not be infringed. ” (“Second amendment” n. d. ). The American Bar Association (“Bill of Rights” 1791) has stated that “there is more disagreement and less understanding about this right than of any other current issue regarding the Constitution. It is a confusing right and can be inferred in many ways and is interpreted accordingly with each case.
The definition of the right to keep and bear arms is one of the most argued amendments in the constitution because some state the right refers to militia and their right of bearing arms to uphold and protect the security of a free nation when needed. While others believe the amendment gives each and every individual the right to keep and bear arms. However one construes the amendment, it has been a great topic of concern, argument and debate, ever since it has been ratified. The federal government has approved guidelines on gun ownership which includes registration of all guns, proof of ownership and a clean background check.
Immense portions of the population are in opposition of gun control and feel individual gun ownership is a constitutional right that should not be limited or controlled. Supporters of gun control feel tragedies’ such as the massacres at Columbine high school; Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech University; which was the most fatal shooting by a sole gun man in The United States, (“School Shooting” n. d. ). Supporters of gun control feel that tragedies like these should be motivation for tighter and stricter gun laws and control.
Gun control advocates argue that policies with tougher and harsher laws would prevent and control future events like these from taking place. A recent noteworthy case in which the rights of the 2nd amendment were tested was in the case of the District of Columbia v. Heller. This landmark case dealt with an individuals’ right to own a firearm unrelated with service in a militia, to be used for lawful purposes, which include self-defense in ones residence. The Supreme Courts ruled according to the constitution and as a result decided that the 2nd amendment guards an individual’s right to bear arms for private use.
The outcome of the case reversed the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 declaring it to be unlawful and unconstitutional. (“District Columbia,” 2008). The court also determined the act which mandated all firearms to be stored unloaded, disassembled and placed on safety lock as unconstitutional. This was a very noteworthy case because it was the first Supreme Court case in the history of the United States to precisely focus on whether the right to bear arms is applies only to military forces or did it also include individual citizens.
When amending the constitution the founding fathers purposely placed these important essential rights and freedoms at the forefront of the Bill of Rights. In order to form a true democratic republic the founding fathers, understood the magnitude of these key elements. In including these key rights and liberties the framers ensured that citizens of the United States will receive the utmost privileges’ allowing them to fully express themselves in all ways including religiously, verbosely, and publicly also the ability to freely agree or disagree with the government.
These are fundamental freedoms are rights that many citizens of other countries can only dream however these are everyday privileges’ granted to each and every American. REFERENCES Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008) Retrieved October 11, 2009 from U. S Supreme Court Media Oyez http://www. oyez. org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_07_320 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al. v. HELLER (2008) Cornell University Law School. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from Cornell University Law School (website) http://www. law. cornell. du/supct/html/07-290. ZS. html Engel v Vitale. (1962). Retrieved October 13, 2009, from Wikipedia http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Engel_v. _Vitale First Amendment to the United States Constitution (n. d. ) October 11, 2009 from Wikipedia http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/1st_Amendment Rehnquist, C. (2005, June 27). Thomas Van Orden, Petitioner v. Rick Perry. Retrieved April 9, 2007, from http://straylight. law. cornell. edu/supct/html/03 -1500. ZO. html Second Amendment to the United States Constitution (n. d. October 8, 2009 from Wikipediahttp://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution School shootings (n. d. ) Retrieved October 13, 2009, from Wikipedia http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/School_shooting The New York Times Co. v. Gonzales (2006) Retrieved October 14, 2009 from Likelihood of Confusion http://www. likelihoodofconfusion. com/? page_id=553 United States Bill of Rights. (1791). Retrieved October 8, 2009, from http://en. wikisource. org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_United_States_of_America.
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