The First Amendment is the first of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution that are known as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment protects five essential rights or freedoms from governmental interference. It provides that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech and the press, preventing the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting people from peacefully assembling to petition government for redress of grievances. Although the amendment only refers specifically to Congress, the Supreme Court in 1925 extended the provision to the states. Today, the First Amendment applies to all levels of government.

The First Amendment is written in absolute terms, “Congress shall make no law,” but the U.S. Supreme Court has never treated it as an absolute. The Court seeks to balance ...

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