The words that make up the First Amendment haven’t changed since they were adopted by the United States as part of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. For over 200 years, the First Amendment has been the cornerstone of freedom in the United States. Commonly referred to as the “five freedoms,” the First Amendment has helped people in the U.S. exercise their rights to work for a more free and just society and impacts every aspect of our lives.
The First Amendment guarantees freedoms of speech, religion, the press, association and petition, and was a radical and revolutionary departure from a world in which state-imposed religious persecution, censorship and oppression was the norm. As those living in the U.S., we should be proud to have the liberty to exercise these rights, which are not guaranteed in many other countries. The Constitution set the guiding principles for our nation, and over 200 years later, the freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights distinguish us from other nations.
Every important struggle for social justice has involved the First Amendment in one way or another; abolitionism, suffrage, civil rights movement, women’s movement, child labor movement, environmentalist movement, LGBT movement and those working for disability rights have all relied on the First Amendment.
In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to reflect on what freedom means to them, understand the First Amendment freedoms and their complexities, explore cases brought before the courts that are impacted by the First Amendment freedoms, and create a project that reflects how the First Amendment impacts their daily lives.