IBJOpinion

MORRIS: First Amendment protects five freedoms

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MorrisAs we celebrate this July 4 holiday, I thought I would pause from the normal course of business and attempt a “teachable moment.” This is an excellent time to highlight a national awareness campaign called 1 for All. It is designed to remind the public that the First Amendment is the cornerstone of democracy and truly guarantees freedom for all.

The Hoosier State Press Association and its 175-member newspapers, including Indianapolis Business Journal, have joined a national effort to build awareness of the five freedoms protected in the First Amendment, a bedrock section of the U.S. Constitution. I defer to HSPA general counsel, Steve Key, to explain the significance of the First Amendment.


In only 45 words, James Madison outlined the core freedoms now guaranteed citizens of the United States that continue to make our country a beacon to those throughout the world seeking the chance to be all they want to be.

Yet, 39 percent of Americans cannot name one of the freedoms delineated by the First Amendment, according to a survey conducted in 2009 by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

That statistic is evidence that we take for granted the five freedoms we enjoy, even though examples of that freedom are obvious on a daily basis.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”

In 1771, 20 years before the Bill of Rights containing the First Amendment was ratified, the state of Virginia jailed 50 Baptist worshipers for preaching the gospel contrary to the Anglican “Book of Common Prayer.” Today, you can find congregations representing more than 90 organized religious belief systems in Indianapolis simply by browsing the Yellow Pages.

“… or abridging the freedom of speech, …”

In 1735, New York publisher John Peter Zenger was tried for libel after publishing criticism of the royal governor of New York. Today, Seymour-born John Mellencamp has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with biting social commentary found in songs such as “Rain on the Scarecrow” or “Jim Crow.”

“… or of the press; …”

Seven years after the passage of the First Amendment in 1791, newspaper editor Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was arrested under the Sedition Act for “libeling” President John Adams. Today, nearly 200 Indiana newspapers are published each week, containing stories, editorials or letters to the editor critical of local, statewide or national governmental agencies or elected officials.

“ … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, …”

In the 1950s, police in several Southern states used fire hoses, dogs and clubs to break up peaceful civil rights marches. Today, leaders of Indianapolis’ black community hold a press conference with no fear of retribution to request a federal investigation into the injuries a black teen-ager suffered during an arrest by local police.

“… and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In 1919, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Terre Haute-born socialist and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs under the Espionage Act for making speeches opposing World War I. Today, environmentalists are free to seek a halt to the building of Interstate 69 through southern Indiana through protest, press releases or letters and e-mail to Gov. Mitch Daniels or the Legislature.

Students at all levels should be exposed to the 45-word First Amendment, not as an exercise of rote memory, but as a starting point for discussions on topics such as religious tolerance, checks and balances on government power, the impact speech can have at the personal and national level, civic engagement, and the danger inherent when people fail to get involved either at the local, state or national level.

You’ll see a variety of local and national promotional messages in IBJ over the coming weeks highlighting this campaign … starting with this issue on page 5. I hope you enjoy your Independence Day holiday. While you’re celebrating, please remember the blanket of freedoms the First Amendment provides.

__________

Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.

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  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

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