The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is an amendment to the United States Constitution, a part of the Bill of Rights, which is generally taken as a limitation on the power of the federal government. The Amendment protects five specific freedoms:
The amendment 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.||”|
The protection for free speech was largely motivated to safeguard the preaching of the Bible. Several passages in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, support a right of free speech, including Numbers 11:26-30 (Moses allowed free speech by declaring, "If only all the people of the LORD were prophets!"); Mark 9:38-41 (admonition by Jesus not to stop strangers who cast out evil in his name).
A group of colonial leaders known as the Anti-Federalists expressed concern that the Constitution contained no guarantee of individual liberties, and they pressed for the document to be amended. Their insistence led to the creation of the Bill of Rights by James Madison in 1791. Many of the amendments went through several revisions before they became the final versions we are familiar with today and the First Amendment itself went through eight revisions. In early versions of the First Amendment, the issue of Conscience was included. Conscience in religious matters was a big deal.
The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed. No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.
House committees made modifications to this proposal, changing the language:
No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.
Next, Representative Samuel Livermore offered the following revision:
Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.
Fisher Ames offered another revision, which is much closer to the final revision:
Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.
Congress further debated these revisions until the final was produced:
Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.
Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
|“||To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny. --- Ronald Reagan||”|
Liberals often focus on the "Establishment Clause", arguing that because the federal government cannot endorse or establish a religion, the state must remain neutral, or even hostile towards religion. This position is not supported by the original intent and application of the Constitution. Michael Farris argues that the Establishment Clause should not apply to the states because it is a jurisdictional limit on federal power, rather than a protection of rights incorporated by either the Due Process Clause or Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
However, liberals often overlook the clause explicitly allowing for the free exercise of religion, also known as the Free Exercise Clause. Conservatives argue that this clause can be interpreted to allow much more leeway to the majority of religious Americans than liberals currently allow, and that it provides legislators with great flexibility in supporting the ends of Christian faith, as long as all other religious denominations are equally supported. The fact that Congress may pass no law establishing or respecting a particular Christian denomination provides the federal government with the freedom to support a variety of Christian ventures, notably the faith-based initiatives enacted under President Bush.
The extent of First Amendment protections of freedom of speech have been a topic of controversy even within the conservative movement. While all conservatives agree that the First Amendment grants absolute protection to ideas, including so-called hate speech, many argue that it does not protect certain "expressive conduct" like flag-burning and violent video games, a position opposed by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who believes that while flag-burning is reprehensible, the First Amendment does not contain an exception allowing for the government to forbid it.  
American liberals have attempted to use the so-called Fairness Doctrine and political correctness in order to silence conservative viewpoints. These ideologically-motivated attempts to limit free speech are in direct violation of the First Amendment, specifically, and, by extension, the entire U.S. Constitution.
Many liberals also believe in "hate speech" laws, which allow the government to silence "offensive" views, including criticism of the homosexual agenda, "racist" speech (often defined broadly to include opposition to mass immigration) and "Islamophobia."
Atheist, lawsuits and restrictions to religious freedom
The Freedom From Atheism Foundation has a webpage on their website entitled "Ongoing Lawsuits". The American Atheists has a webpage on their website entitled "Legal sucesses". The Center for Inquiry engaged in lawsuits related to faith based initiatives concerning prison ministry.
In June 2014, given the focus of atheist organizations on lawsuits, Sikivu Hutchinson wrote in the Washington Post that atheist organizations generally focus on church/state separation and creationism issues and not the concerns the less affluent African-American population faces. Hutchinson also mentioned that church organizations do offer significant help to poor African-Americans. See also: Atheism and charity and Western atheism and race
- NAB version quoted above.
- The Columbia Documentary History of Religion in America Since 1945
- Bill of Rights of the United States of America (1791)
- Congress Creates the Bill of Rights
- Ongoing Lawsuits - Legal - Freedom From Religion Foundation
- Legal sucesses - American Atheists
- Postal, Leslie (April 20, 2011). Bill asks voters to OK taxpayer funding of religious institutions. Orlando Sentinel.
- Mazzei, Patricia (April 27, 2011). Blaine amendment repeal passes Florida house. Tampa Bay Times.
- Center for Inquiry will not appeal adverse decision in Florida lawsuit. CFI (February 8, 2016).
- Bettis, Kara (February 23, 2016). Atheists drop suit to block Christian prison ministry funding. New Boston Post. Retrieved on May 16, 2016.
- Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America
Bill of Rights:
1 - Freedom of speech, press, religion, etc.
2 - Right to bear arms
3 - Quartering of soldiers
4 - Warrants
5 - Due process
6 - Right to a speedy trial
7 - Right by trial of a jury
8 - No cruel or unusual punishments
9 - Unenumerated rights
10 - Power to the people and states
11 - Immunity of states to foreign suits
12 - Revision of presidential election procedures
13 - Abolition of slavery
14 - Citizenship
15 - Racial suffrage
16 - Federal income tax
17 - Direct election of the United States Senate
18 - Prohibition of alcohol
19 - Women's suffrage
20 - Terms of the presidency
21 - Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
22 - Limits the president to two terms
23 - District of Columbia Voting for President
24 - Prohibition of poll taxes
25 - Presidential disabilities
26 - Voting age lowered to 18
27 - Variance of congressional compensation