Amendment Number 1

No other democratic society in the world permits personal freedoms to the
degree of the United States of America. Within the last sixty years, American
courts, especially the Supreme Court, have developed a set of legal doctrines
that thoroughly protect all forms of the freedom of expression. When it comes to
evaluating the degree to which we take advantage of the opportunity to express
our opinions, some members of society may be guilty of violating the bounds of
the First Amendment by publicly offending others through obscenity or racism.

Americans have developed a distinct disposition toward the freedom of expression
throughout history. The First Amendment clearly voices a great American respect
toward the freedom of religion. It also prevents the government from
"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." Since the early history of our country, the protection of
basic freedoms has been of the utmost importance to Americans. In Langston

Hughes\' poem, "Freedom," he emphasizes the struggle to enjoy the
freedoms that he knows are rightfully his. He reflects the American desire for
freedom now when he says, "I do not need my freedom when I\'m dead. I cannot
live on tomorrow\'s bread." He recognizes the need for freedom in its
entirety without compromise or fear. I think Langston Hughes captures the
essence of the American immigrants\' quest for freedom in his poem,
"Freedom\'s Plow." He accurately describes American\'s as arriving with
nothing but dreams and building America with the hopes of finding greater
freedom or freedom for the first time. He depicts how people of all backgrounds
worked together for one cause: freedom. I selected Ray Bradbury\'s Fahrenheit 451
as a fictitious example of the evils of censorship in a world that is becoming
illiterate. In this book, the government convinces the public that book reading
is evil because it spreads harmful opinions and agitates people against the
government. The vast majority of people accept this censorship of expression
without question and are content to see and hear only the government\'s
propaganda. I found this disturbing yet realistic. Bradbury\'s hidden opposition
to this form of censorship was apparent throughout the book and finally
prevailed in the end when his main character rebelled against the practice of
burning books. Among the many forms of protests are pickets, strikes, public
speeches and rallies. Recently in New Jersey, more than a thousand community
activists rallied to draft a "human" budget that puts the needs of the
poor and handicapped as a top priority. Rallies are an effective means for
people to use their freedoms effectively to bring about change from the
government. Freedom of speech is constantly being challenged as is evidenced in
a recent court case where a Gloucester County school district censored reviews
of two R-rated movies from a school newspaper. Superior Court Judge, Robert E.

Francis ruled that the student\'s rights were violated under the state

Constitution. I feel this is a major break through for students\' rights because
it limits editorial control of school newspapers by educators and allows
students to print what they feel is important. A newly proposed bill (A-557)
would prevent school officials from controlling the content of student
publications. Critics of the bill feel that "student journalists may be too
young to understand the responsibilities that come with free speech." This
is a valid point; however, it would provide an excellent opportunity for them to
learn about their First Amendment rights that guarantees free speech and freedom
of the press. In his commencement address to Monmouth College graduates,

Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School defended the broad right to free
speech. He stated, "My message to you graduates is to assert your rights,
to use them responsibly and boldly, to oppose racism, to oppose sexism, to
oppose homophobia and bigotry of all kinds and to do so within the spirit of the

First Amendment, not by creating an exception to it." I agree that one
should feel free to speak openly as long as it does not directly or indirectly
lead to the harm of others. One of the more controversial issues was the recent

2 Live Crew incident involving obscenity in rap music. Their record, "As

Nasty as They Wanna Be," was ruled obscene in federal court. They were
acquitted of the charges and quickly became a free speech martyr. Although many
stores pulled the album, over two million copies sold as a result of the
incident. I feel that in this case the principles of free speech have been
abused