The founding fathers of the U.S. gave us many freedoms that citizens of other governments do not enjoy.
Five major staples of these freedoms come from the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and the ability to petition the government. In light of Constitution week, it is important to reflect on these freedoms to understand their importance to us.
The first three freedoms in the amendment get the most attention, while the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government are often overlooked.
Our nation thrives on the fact that we get to elect our leaders and have a say in what they are doing. We can tell the government and the president how we feel they are doing, right or wrong. We can create a petition for everyone to sign, or stand in front of the Supreme Court and protest. A great part of our democracy in America is that our voices matter, both individually and as a group.
In Utah, a primarily republican state, we often feel that our voices do not matter. We are either one of the majority, or in a group too small to make a difference.
However, if you never vote, you will never know what you could change. If individuals are too afraid to speak their minds, nothing will ever get done. If those holding minority views don’t raise their voices, they are forfeiting important rights provided to them in the Constitution.
Freedom of the press has been especially important to us on the staff of The Signpost, because the law provides us the ability to inform the public by asking the hard questions. It has given us the opportunity to not only work toward a career in journalism, but also to keep us better informed individuals. We get to experience the news both as reporters and receivers.
The freedom of speech has been influential in the lives of all Weber State students, because we are able to say what we want, a great power many do not have in other countries. Especially in the university setting, the ability to disagree and learn from our disagreements is crucial.
These freedoms, of course, come with responsibility. Though we are able to speak up and share our knowledge with others, we are accountable to limits the Constitution does not impose: Sometimes our words will hurt others.
All of us have had to come to our own terms with the freedom of religion, especially in Utah, where one religion in dominant. This clause allows many of us to set ourselves apart. How we establish ourselves religiously largely defines us and how we see ourselves as individuals.
Issues have arisen especially in the past few years when religion has played a major role in social issues, such as gay marriage. Though laws are supposed to be determined by the government, religion begins to play a role in this issue when the public debate draws on religious reasonings.
Even though we know the protections in the First Amendment, groups and organizations try to find loopholes around it to further their own agenda while infringing on the basic rights of other citizens.
The First Amendment establishes the separation of church and state, but some political activists will harness religious conviction to push agendas that limit the freedoms of some minorities. This is an abuse of the freedoms in the Constitution.
Reflecting on the freedoms of the First Amendment allows us to understand the system we have set in place for ourselves. We have been granted powers to choose and believe and we must not take that lightly.
To speak your mind is a unique right that you should treasure.