How important is the First Amendment? For a free lunch, students will have rights taken away

Staff Editorial

April 10, 2013

The first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution are collectively called the Bill of Rights and guarantee specific personal freedoms to American citizens. They were written in 1789 by James Madison and came into effect in 1791. Although the amendments are all important in their own right, the First Amendment is especially important to the Campus Chronicle staff. It states:

“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.”

In simplified terms, the amendment gives American citizens the right to worship anyone or anything, to voice their opinion about any subject and to gather whenever and with whomever they would like. Most importantly, to us journalists, and to those across the country, is the freedom of the press to report, criticize and challenge the actions of the government and other influential citizens. Being that our nation has supported these rights for 221 out of the 236 years of its existence, it is hard for us to fathom living without them.

Unfortunately, many countries, especially those under socialist rule, do not have the same rights that we so often take for granted. For example, Article 35 of the Chinese constitution promises the right to “freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration.” Contrastingly, this same constitution also states that the rights granted within it are not enforceable unless the national legislature passes a supplementary law that requires them to be enforced.

This clause, within the Chinese Constitution, allows their government to censure any person, newspaper, television program, website and even article of clothing that they feel broadcasts a message that they find unacceptable and inappropriate; what is and is not acceptable is completely to the discretion of the government. It is this level of governmental power that our founding fathers intended to avoid by creating and implementing the Bill of Rights.

As individuals who have chosen to become journalists, our staff understands the power that the 45 words of the First Amendment have had on our country and more specifically on our intended profession.

In an effort to assist more citizens in understanding the importance of the First Amendment, we invite you attend the First Amendment Free Food Festival.

This event, hosted by the HPU chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists, will be held on April 10 at 12:30 p.m. on the Slane outdoor basketball court. All spots to participate have been filled, but please feel free to attend with the purpose of viewing and supporting the event, where First Amendment rights will be briefly taken away for an important learning experience.