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.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,1 viewed broadly, protects religious liberty and rights related to freedom of speech. Specifically, the Religion Clauses prevent the government from adopting laws “respecting an establishment of religion” —the Establishment Clause—or “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” —the Free Exercise Clause. The First Amendment also expressly protects the freedoms of speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petition to the Government.
The Constitution Annotated essays discussing the First Amendment begin with the Religion Clauses, reviewing the history of these clauses before explaining, in turn, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. The Religion Clause section ends with an essay exploring the relationship between the Religion Clauses and the Free Speech Clause. The Constitution Annotated then turns to this latter clause, discussing interpretations of the Free Speech Clause before describing Supreme Court cases recognizing constitutional protections for freedom of association. Next, the Constitution Annotated explains the Free Press Clause. The First Amendment essays end by discussing the clauses protecting the freedoms of assembly and petition.
- U.S. Const. amend. I.