The First Amendment: Simplified and Explained

United States Constitution

Jack Smith
4 min readNov 15, 2020


The First Amendment is the first text in the United States Constitution. The First Amendment protects several basic freedoms in America such as; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and more.

The First Amendment was part of the Bill of Rights, deriven from the Magna Carta that, alongside 9 other amendments was ratified in the United States Constitution on December 15, 1791.

What the First Amendment Covers:

  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Right to Assemble
  • Right to Petition the Government
  • Freedom of Association (Not original but Supreme Court Ruling)

For an in-depth look at the First Amendment and legal cases surround it, check out the Cornell Law School article here.

Main Text of the First Amendment

“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.”

Freedom of Religion

The Founding Fathers had strong convictions in their devotion to religion. They recognised that any truly free nation’s government, should allow all religious groups to be able to freely practise their faith. They did not want the new government to take this God given freedom away.

Basic Overview:

  • Everyone is allowed to believe and practise whatever religion they want.
  • The government can regulate religious practises such as human sacrifice, sexual abuse and illegal substance use.
  • Everyone and anyone can choose not to follow any religion.

Freedom of Speech

Another very important freedom that the Founding Fathers included into the First Amendment was Freedom of Speech. The Founding Fathers didn’t want the government to prevent people from speaking up about their concerns and issues they had with government and government legislation.

This freedom prevents the government or any representative of the government from punishing or ostracising people for expressing their concerns with government.

This does not protect people from penalisation they may be subject to at work or in the public from voicing their opinions.

Right to Assemble

The Right to Assemble is integral to America’s History. It was used by abolitionists in the early days of the Republican party who set about to end the Democratic campaign and support of slavery of Blacks.

It was also used by Martin Luther King Jr in his DC march were he later gave his infamous ‘I have a dream’ speech.

The freedom itself gives people the right to gather in groups as long as they are being peaceable. The government must also allow people to gather on public property (Roads, Pavements, Public Parks).

The freedom covers rallies and protests but also allows the government to intervene if a gathering is a threat to public safety and/or is too large which would then require a permit. Permit requirements cannot be too difficult to meet.

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press allows people to publish their opinions and information without government intervention. This may be through any form of media such as;

  • Newspaper/Printed Media
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Online — YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

The freedom does not cover lies and defamatory content which could harm someones reputation and image. Freedom of the press also does not cover stealing someone else’s content, this could be a violation of ‘fair use’ and American copyright law.

Right to Petition the Government

The right to petition government was another check and balance the Founding Fathers put in place to help stop an overruling government. It allows people and special interest groups to sue the government if they feel they have been wronged directly or in directly by the government.


Citations: The US Constitution — First Amendment