10 Rights the First Amendment Absolutely Does Not Grant

The Right to an Answer From the Government
An illustration of England's King John signing the Magna Carta in 1215. The document was the first ever signed by a king of England to protect the rights of his subjects. © Heritage Images/Corbis

Hidden among the more prominent rights guaranteed by the First Amendment is the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." Despite its low profile, the right to petition has a long and honored pedigree dating back to the Magna Carta in 1215 [source: Bernstein]. The right and ability to complain to government officials is a critical function of a representative democracy. Whether or not that official actually listens, well, that's another story.

To comply with the First Amendment right to petition, government entities and agencies must provide a way to contact them. Every government office, including the White House, has e-mail addresses and phone numbers to submit comments and questions. But nothing in the First Amendment — or anywhere else in the Constitution — requires that the government answer those requests or even read them [source: First Amendment Center]. Instead, a democratic system relies on the voters to remove officials who are unresponsive to public opinion.

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