My First Amendment Right

First Amendment“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – US Constitution, First Amendment

Most people know this sentence. They memorized it in middle school US History class, they have seen it recited by extremist political news stations that purposefully misconstrue facts to build their favor, they hear protesters standing outside of funerals for fallen soldiers using it to defend their heinous comments. Recently it has been used to praise Kim Davis, condemn Barack Obama, and bring many questionable pop stars to the limelight. On social media, it has become a rampant excuse for cyber bullying and hate speech. After all, it is the right of the people to voice their opinion, even if it is terribly, horribly wrong, isn’t it?

The First Amendment was created for a few different reasons. 1) The founders of America were oppressed and prosecuted for beliefs and for speaking freely. In this new country, the founding fathers didn’t want to go through the same harassment as they had received in a place ruled by a potentially strong-handed monarchy. 2) Many states had already created declarations that to establish true liberty, the government would need to be checked by the public. To do this, the press would need to be able to speak freely and inform the public of activities without the threat or imprisonment or death. In reality, the First Amendment was written to check the government and keep us united and free.

Today, however, this amendment is all too often cited to oppress others – the exact opposite of what it was intended for. Thanks to the growth of social media, free speech has become an excuse to harass others for what they believe, how they look, and who they are as a person. This, in turn, has essentially taken away other American’s First Amendment rights. A gay boy may live in fear of torment from peers if he were to tell anyone that he has come out. A Nigerian Muslim just might have to watch his back for posting the phrase “Allah is good.” Even an agnostic woman must be wary of posting “Happy Holidays” lest she receive backlash towards her company for not posting “Merry Christmas!” Sure, they technically have the right to say what they want, but with the attacks from others trying to claim free speech as they attack innocent people really giving others the right to speak freely?

Maybe it is time we revisit Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. We should peek back at the oppression that was placed upon Protestants for simply believing in a different style of church. When you get ready to post “These illegal Mexicans are nothing but trouble” on a funny viral video with Spanish being spoken in the background, you should think “how did my forefathers feel about their lack of rights?” Just because you have the RIGHT to speak doesn’t mean you HAVE to speak. Take a breath, let it go, ignore the hate – you’re better than that. For once, let that person express their First Amendment rights without your backlash. And always remember what Thumper said “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”


Nicole Firebaugh | @nicole_fir

About Tom Harness

Tom Harness is the owner of Harness Digital Marketing, a digital marketing firm that works with businesses and organizations on Social Media, SEO, and Email Marketing. He is an entrepreneur and business owner with 20 years of combined experience in Education, IT, and Business. Tom is a U.S. Army Veteran and a Southern Illinois University alum. He also enjoys craft beers, his beloved Chicago Cubs, and his family.


  1. Tim Nation says

    Wrong again HDM. Simply put – your attempt to suppress speech you don’t care for is exactly what the founding fathers wanted to eliminate. Your Thumper quote is to keep children from getting their feelings hurt…not to be confused with the freedom to speak your ideas, opinion, and feelings. If your examples of Mexicans and homosexuals (terrible examples to say the least) insist on “being heard” on social media then why wouldn’t you encourage all people to be heard. Instead HDM chooses to silence those who differ in opinion or care to voice an opposition. That, Nichole and Harness Digital Marketing, is exactly the speech that needs to stop. There are no safe zones provided by the Bill of Rights.

    It’s hard to imagine a newsletter written about the first amendment actually suggesting to people that they be quiet – say nothing – and go on about their business.

    • Tim, thank you for your reply and interaction on this article. As a US Army Veteran, I fought for such rights as freedom of speech and I believe Nicole took on the article (I challenged her with) with great thought and input. This was a blog idea that she brought to me back in September of last year. I remember having some discussions about it with her and she had valid responses. I 100% respect your view and though we may not agree on a single topic, that’s ok.

      The one thing I have learned as a business owner and working with different generations and sexes is to “LISTEN.” Our team does one thing amazing, we work together, even when we don’t agree. We respect each other’s opinions and views and still find ways to bridge gaps.

      I don’t believe Nicole’s blog suggests giving up or limiting freedom of speech as much as it is saying do we HAVE to argue or ACCUSE about everything. These blog articles, much like any media, are designed to help bridge gaps and have open discussions. That’s how I run my business and that is how I treat people that have different viewpoints. There is no need in the world for more of us to be so ANGRY.

      Again, thanks for sharing your viewpoints. God Bless America.

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