Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

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What is the First Amendment about anyway?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | August 14, 2010

No. 493

Interesting.  Certain politicians and a lot of ordinary people state that they are very insulted by the proposal to build a mosque quite close to Ground Zero.  I’ve heard it explained that Islamic warriors always build a mosque on the site of a great victory.  These Americans are revolted and shocked and want to know why all other right thinking Americans are not so sickened by this spectacle that we do not unanimously rise up and ban the proposed structure.

Well just suppose it is as bad as all that and even worse.  Suppose that a large sign is erected in the mosque declaring that September 11, 2001 was a mortal blow against the American Satan and that the infidel hoard killed the Twin Towers is now roasting in Hell, etc. Suppose the sign called upon all true believers to applaud the destruction of these symbols of Western decadence.  Would that make a difference? Really?

The point of the First Amendment is that the Government cannot interfere with the free practice of religion (and Islam is a religion, one of the world’s largest) no matter how disturbing we may find it.  Moreover, free speech means freedom to speak ideas we hate to hear. Period.

The First Amendment is the embodiment of some of the essential principals that has made America great. It is worth noticing that certain other cultures do not share these values and consider the exercise of unsanctioned religions or the expression of relatively mundane ideas to be capital crimes. Let us be proud of the fact that our country tolerates and protects freedom of worship and expression — even by those who prohibit freedom of expression in their own realm. We can be proud that after two centuries we continue to declare these great principles to the world. After all, what is the First Amendment about anyway?



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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