The First 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.” This amendment in the U.S. Constitution protects some of the most fundamental rights of our republic, but most importantly, it protects free speech. The right to free speech has been limited slightly through years of Supreme Court interpretation, but for the most part, Americans cannot be censored by the government. Why is free speech so important to our republic?
As Americans, we often take for granted our right to speak our mind. We can rail against the government, policies, politicians, even the most powerful people in the country, and they can do nothing to stop it. They cannot make a law that limits our right to say what we want about our government. Now, there are some minor limits, such as when it comes to public safety, inciting violence, or obscenities. One of the most famous of Supreme Court decisions stated that you cannot yell, “fire” in a public place just to cause a false panic, but you can speak publicly about your disagreements with the government.
Political dissent is vital to our democracy. Without it, we would not be a nation of free people for long. The people in power cannot operate in the dark when the people can speak freely. They cannot take away our rights when we can shout from the rooftops to our fellow citizens to be aware. Free speech is the relief valve on a society that is built on protecting our rights. We must practice our rights to keep those in power from taking them away.