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The First Amendment



The First Amendment was written in the U.S Constitution under the Bill of Rights to keep the federal Government from infringing on among other things the right to freedom of press. It states that "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." What does the "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" mean? Let’s look at it more in depth. Abridging means to deprive cut off. Originally, you can see our founding fathers thought it necessary that everyone be able to say or print anything they wanted. The founders saw that freedom of speech and press were one in the same, whether you say something out loud or write it down what’s the difference? That is why there wasn't much written specifically for freedom of press. It just fell underneath the freedom of speech category. However over time exceptions to the Bill of Rights began to arise that needed the attention of the Supreme Court. The first Supreme Court case that saw the banning of books within a school was the Pico decision. Steven Pico a seventeen year old high school student sued the school board for infringing on his first amendment rights, by banning books they say were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.” They said the books contained “obscenities, blasphemies, brutality and perversion beyond description,” and concluded that “it is our duty, our moral obligation, to protect the children in our schools from this moral danger as surely as from physical and medical dangers.” The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of the students. This ruling however did not completely take away the right of the school board to ban a text. After the case it was stated by a Supreme Court justice that schools do have the authority of what books can be placed on their library shelves however they do not have the authority to say what books can be read within the curriculum. As you can see most printed material becomes questionable when placed in school libraries.

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