10 Rights the First Amendment Absolutely Does Not Grant

Lots More Information


How American Exceptionalism Works

How American Exceptionalism Works

'American Exceptionalism' is a term that's been used both positively and negatively. Find out the meanings of American Exceptionalism at HowStuffWorks.

Author's Note: 10 Rights the First Amendment Absolutely Does Not Grant

My 6-year-old has a cute habit of asking me what I'm writing about. Sometimes it's easy to explain in kindergarten-level terms: "The world's biggest vehicles!" or "How to make a backyard skate park!" But when my son asked again this morning over bowls of cereal, it took me a minute to figure out how to explain the First Amendment in the simplest way possible. First, I explained how the Constitution is like an instruction manual for how the country works. We have a president and a Congress and elections. We also have a Supreme Court that makes sure that the laws are fair to everyone. The Bill of Rights, I explained, is a list of things the government cannot do. The government can't control what you say or write or where you go to church. We are free to have conflicting opinions. In practice, this means a lot of arguing, but in the end, it also means compromise. "Sounds like a good system," my son replied, slurping up the last of his corn flakes. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Related Articles


  • ACLU. "The Bill of Rights: A Brief History." March 4, 2002. (Jan. 10, 2014) https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice_prisoners-rights_drug-law-reform_immigrants-rights/bill-rights-brief-history
  • ACLU. "Freedom of Expression." Oct. 31, 2005. (Jan. 10, 2014) https://www.aclu.org/free-speech/freedom-expression
  • American Library Association. "Banned & Challenged Classics." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics
  • American Library Association. "Notable First Amendment Court Cases." (Jan, 10, 2014) http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorshipfirstamendmentissues/courtcases
  • Americans United. "Prayer and the Public Schools." (Jan. 10, 2014) https://www.au.org/resources/publications/prayer-and-the-public-schools
  • Bernstein, David. "Freedom of Assembly and Petition." The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/amendments/1/essays/141/freedom-of-assembly-and-petition
  • Doskow, Emily. "Defamation Law Made Simple." NOLO (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/defamation-law-made-simple-29718.html
  • First Amendment Center. "Frequently Asked Questions — Assembly." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faq/frequently-asked-questions-assembly
  • First Amendment Center. "Frequently Asked Questions — Petition." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faq/frequently-asked-questions-petition
  • First Amendment Center. "Frequently Asked Questions — Religion." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faq/frequently-asked-questions-religious-liberty
  • First Amendment Center. "Frequently Asked Questions — Speech." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faq/frequently-asked-questions-speech
  • Frontline. "Freedom of the Press: A Brief Primer." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/newswar/part1/primer.html
  • Goyette, Braden. "Just How Much Can the State Restrict a Peaceful Protest?" ProPublica. Nov. 15, 2011. (Jan. 10, 2014)
  • Leanza, Cheryl A. "Heckler's Veto Case Law as a Resource for Democratic Discourse." Hofstra Law Review. May 15, 2012. (Jan. 10, 2014) http://law.hofstra.edu/pdf/Academics/Journals/LawReview/lrv_issues_v35n03_CC10_Leanza_final.pdf
  • Legal Information Institute. "501 U.S. 560: Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/90-26.ZS.html
  • Legal Information Institute. "Obscenity." Cornell University Law School (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/obscenity
  • The Library of Congress. "Selected Quotations from the Thomas Jefferson Papers." (Jan. 10, 2014) http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/jefferson_papers/mtjquote.html
  • Snyder, John A. "Top Ten Questions Regarding Political Dialogue in the Workplace." Association of Corporate Counsel. (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.acc.com/legalresources/publications/topten/TopTenQuestionsRegardingPoliticalDialogueintheWorkplace.cfm
  • Terry, Sara. "Burnett v. National Enquirer: latest in growing trend to sue press for libel." The Christian Science Monitor. March 30, 1981. http://www.csmonitor.com/1981/0330/033059.html
  • U.S. Department of Education. "Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools." Feb. 7, 2003. (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html
  • Van Natta, Don; Liptak, Adam; and Levy, Clifford J. "The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal." The New York Times. Oct. 16, 2005. (Jan. 10, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/16/national/16leak.html?pagewanted=all

More to Explore