Despite our theoretical protestations to the contrary, the First Amendment to the Constitution is pretty much a "Yeah, but."
Congress (and, through the 14th Amendment, the states), is not supposed to respect "an establishment of religion," but tell that to the House of Representatives' own chaplain.
Congress/the states shouldn't prohibit "the free exercise" of religion, but tell that to the people who want to establish a religious club...in a public school.
Congress/the states shouldn't abridge "freedom of speech," but tell that to the person who wants to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. (A dissenting view.)
And freedom of the press? Not during wartime, and sometimes not during peacetime either.
That just leaves one more part of the amendment:
[Congress shall make no law...abridging] the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In the modern day, there are three ways in which people can peaceably assemble and petition:
- Physically. This is the method of assembly that was familiar to the writers of the Constitution.
- Virtually. Virtual assembly/petition existed in the 18th century, but the technology used (letters) was nowhere near real-time. Today, of course, there are many more opportunities for virtual assembly/petition. Perhaps you're reading this post via FriendFeed or Twitter, and discussing it there. Or maybe you're in a chat room.
- Financially. If you're going to petition the government, you'll probably need some gas money. For these and other reasons, persons often pool their financial resources together to advance a particular cause.
I've already looked at a couple of questions in this regard:
- Do you have the right to peacefully assemble and petition something that occurs in a different part of the country? Did Northerners have the right to go to the South to champion, or to oppose, civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s? Do out-of-state people have the right to support, or to oppose, California's Proposition 8?
- Do religious people have the right to peacefully assemble and petition at all? Do Catholics, or Mormons, or Lutherans, or Baptists, or Unitarians, or Muslims have the right to speak for or against candidates or other ballot measures?
So, which of these organizations get your unqualified support for freedom of assembly (including political assembly)?
Alaskan Independence Party
American Family Association
Aztlan, La Voz de
California Teachers Association
Council on Foreign Relations
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS, the Warren Jeffs polygamous group)
Focus on the Family
Jewish Defense League
Ku Klux Klan and related groups
Latter Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Muslim groups, various Sunni/Shiite
Nation of Islam
National Abortion Rights Action League
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
National Rifle Association
National Right to Life Political Action Committee
North American Man Boy Love Association
National Socialist Party and related parties
Open Society Institute (George Soros)
People for the American Way
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Proctor & Gamble
R. J. Reynolds
Recording Industry Association of America
Scientology, Church of and associated entities
Trinity Broadcasting Network
United Methodist Church
Westboro Baptist Church
And if you can honestly assert that all of these organizations should have unrestricted rights to peaceably assemble and petition...then you're a better person than I. Sphere: Related Content