br The First Amendment is pretty straightforward in its treatment of freedom of speech . It is not to be abridged , plain and simple . But is it really so simple ? Is freedom of speech in this country absolute , or does it have its limits ? This has been a question that has been handled by the courts in the United States almost since the amendment was written . It is a question that has become particularly important today when certain laws , such as the Patriot Act , seem to be designed to deny us this basic constitutional [banner_entry_middle]
right . How far does freedom of speech extend in the United States
Freedom of speech is one of the foundations of our democracy in the United States . It is in the first amendment to the constitution , and was considered so important by the Founding Fathers that they mentioned it second in a list of several basic freedoms to which we were to be entitled , behind only freedom of religion in importance . 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 (Bracken , 1994 . Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy however , the question of whether is was intended to be absolute has been a question the courts in the United States have been at work addressing in the centuries since the First Amendment was written . While some judges have held to the notion that no law means no law , most judges have agreed that freedom of speech has its limits , even by the terms of the First Amendment (Bracken , 1994
One of the first challenges to freedom of speech in the United States came early on in its history , with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 These acts , which were passed into law by the Federalist party that was then in power , the acts contained several provisions regarding aliens in the United States . The most controversial part of the acts , however dealt with freedom of speech . This part of the act made it a crime to publish false , scandalous , and malicious ‘ writing against the government and its officials (Levy , 1960 . This essentially meant that anyone who openly criticized the president or members of Congress in writing could be jailed for it . While the acts were in force , people were , in fact , jailed for criticizing President John Adams and others in the government . The Alien and Sedition Acts were so hated and so controversial that they became a major issue in John Adams ‘s re-election campaign , and contributed to his defeat . Thomas Jefferson who won the presidency from Adams , quickly repealed the Alien and Sedition Acts and freed anyone who had been jailed under them . Like most Americans , Jefferson believed the acts to be unconstitutional and a threat to the free society he and others wanted the United… [banner_entry_footer]
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