The Modern First Amendment

Archive Report

A Crowded Schedule

Record Number of Supreme Court Cases

Like a suit of medieval armor being modified to fit a modern man, the First Amendment has undergone remarkable expansion in recent years. Its language is unchanged since its adoption in 1791. Now, as then, in the days of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares 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.”

A literal reading of the amendment restricts its reach to the national government. But since 1925, when the Supreme Court ...

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