“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.”
One of the most important rights the First Amendment protects is freedom of expression, also known as free speech. This right sets America apart from other countries whose governments stop their people from expressing opinions.
What Is Freedom of Expression?
Freedom of expression is the right to express your views without worrying about the government punishing you for it. The term “speech” can be used to describe nearly all ways of communicating thoughts.
The founding fathers included freedom of speech in the Constitution because the people who came to America from England did not have the right to speak their minds and criticize the British king.
Why Should We Protect Free Speech?
Protecting free speech is one of the most important things the Constitution does for American citizens. Without free speech, the government would be allowed to oppress its citizens without fearing punishment.
Free speech allows us to share ideas to create a better society. If the United States did not protect free speech during the time of slavery, people fighting to free African slaves would not have been able to speak out. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have led a movement that resulted in giving civil rights to black Americans in the 1960s.
Some believe that the government should place more limits on speech. They do not want Americans to make certain types of comments. While many use their freedom for bad aims, it would be more harmful to use the government to silence them. If the state can silence people for having horrible views, it can eventually silence us all.