The United States is regarded as one of the most stable governments in the world and Americans are quick to point out the foundational documents of the country are why. It is also why people are so eager to immigrate to the United States. One of the most important laws in these originator documents is the First Amendment. Located within the Bill of Rights which can be found in the Constitution, it is so full of meaning that it is hard to have a political discussion without addressing it at some point.
The actual text of the amendment reads:
“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.”
While this paragraph may appear to be rather short it is truly dense with information that affects the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. Here, we will break down each clause to better understand each of the amendment’s features:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
This is a rather important aspect because it is often cited as the formalization of the initial impetus of the colonies. What it means, in plain language, is that everyone in the United States is allowed to follow the religion of their choice. It also means that you don’t have to practice a religion if you don’t want to.
“…Or abridging the freedom of speech…”
This is perhaps the most cited clause of the first amendment, but also one of the most contentious. There are a few instances where it is not allowed, but generally this means that you will not be punished by the government for holding an opinion or speaking out.
“…or of the press…”
Very similar to the freedom of speech only in written form instead of spoken. The government cannot prevent you from printing a thought even if they don’t like it. Under very infrequent circumstances they may.
“…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”
This is the clause that allows for protests to occur. It also allows people to gather anywhere for any reason. The government cannot make a law that states that “no more than ten people may be in the same place at the same time” specifically because of this law. However it is important to note the word “peaceably” this expressly prohibits riots.
“…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances…”
This is generally considered the freedom to petition clause and means that you can ask your government for something to change.
So, as a review, there are five basic rights guaranteed by the first amendment, they are: the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, assembly (protest), and petition. These are things that have been granted to all permanent residents and citizens of the United States. File for permanent resident status through the Green Card Lottery and become that much closer to enjoying these freedoms full-time!