CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you'd asked me a year ago, I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything about the freedoms we have as Americans or even where to find information on them. However, through my civics course in school this year, I have learned more about the U.S. Constitution than I learned in all my history classes from middle school through last year combined.
Of all the freedoms we have, I personally believe that those granted in the First Amendment are the most important. The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.
Freedom of religion supports the right of a person or group to practice their religion in public or private. It also includes the freedom to change their religion or not follow one at all. This is very important because nobody should ever be told how to practice his or her own religion or what religion to follow. We're all different, and we all see religion differently.
Freedom of speech is the right to communicate one's ideas verbally. There are some limits to this, though, such as libel, slander, obscenity and incitement to commit a crime. Freedom of speech is my favorite right. It lets me state my opinion and know that it's OK as long as I'm not slandering anybody.
Freedom of the press, also known as freedom of the media, is the right to express ideas through written vehicles, such as electronic media and published materials. We can get our point across through many different ways, so that's good, right?
(On May 3, World Press Freedom Day recognizes the importance of this freedom and reminds governments to respect and uphold this right. It was started by the United Nations in 1991.)
Freedom of assembly, sometimes known as freedom of association, is the right to gather and express, promote, pursue or defend a common interest. Don't like something and want to protest? Well, guess what? You can. Want to come together in support of something? You can do that, too. Let your voice be heard!
The right to petition means we have the right to ask government to right a wrong or correct a problem. It means we have the right to sue or lobby the government. This is sometimes taken for granted, but it is essential in a democracy because it protects public participation in government.These rights are all important to us as Americans. We use these rights every day whether we realize it or not.