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Know your Five Freedoms

Posted: July 20, 2008 1:33 a.m.
Updated: September 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.
It’s July, which doesn’t immediately bring to mind back to school, but here in the Santa Clarita Valley students will be returning to classes in less than a month.

We think it’s a good time for a refresher course on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Based on conversations with local education and political leaders, as well as with students, evidently many do not remember, or even understand, the “Five Freedoms” protected in the First Amendment.

These five simple guaranteed freedoms are fundamental in defining us as a nation, yet far too few people can identify more than one. We wonder what these uninformed local leaders were doing in that civics or U.S. history class in high school. Weren’t these basic rights covered then?

To understand America is to understand that the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment are foundational to every freedom we as modern Americans enjoy.

For the record, the Five Freedoms in order are: religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, and the right to petition the government.

For those reading this who knew all five, congratulations! Your knowledge makes us all breathe more easily. But today, those who know all five seem to be in the minority. We all need to remember that these are fundamental, inalienable rights that all Americans have a civic responsibility to defend.

If the history of humankind has taught us anything, it is that guarding these rights from threats, both inside and outside our borders, is essential for the continuation of these rights for every citizen today and in the future.

What worries us most is the obvious: What one cannot identify or understand, one can easily lose without even realizing it.

The founders of our nation were brilliant in establishing these guaranteed freedoms in this very first amendment to the Constitution. It was needed then, and it is needed now.

Those serving in our government — whether it be the president, members of the armed forces, or a local representative — are each sworn in by promising to protect and defend our Constitution and these rights.
All five freedoms are interrelated. Each in many ways relies equally on the others. The right to worship freely in times like these, when religious differences and intolerances lead to death in many areas of the world, is a profound statement of tolerance to that same world.

Freedom of speech can be seen as basic to all freedom. To be able to speak out without fear of retribution is a basic foundation of democracy. If we are truly a government of the people, by the people and for the people, being able to speak one’s mind is where it all begins.

Freedom of the press is intertwined with freedom of speech. As a free people, we know that a free and responsible press is what keeps its citizens informed. Knowledge is power, and that power belongs to the masses, not just to any one person or group. We all have a right and responsibility to know what is going on around us.

The right to peaceably assemble is foundational to all democratic participation. This includes our right to express dissent in a group and to discuss important issues among ourselves in public. Too often we forget how important this right is to every American, but it also shows the world how tolerant a society can and should be.

The right of a people to petition their government for a redress of grievances shows the average citizen that he or she has two responsibilities: One is to identify areas that need change, and the second is to come up with answers and ideas to accomplish that change.

We are a newspaper that cherishes our history and the freedoms we have, and we think it is essential for all of us to take seriously the responsibility each of us has to guard these freedoms.

We all have an obligation to make sure that our children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy the freedoms for which so many have sacrificed so much throughout the history of our nation.

Freedom is never free. Most in the world do not have it, but want it. We have it, and we must protect and defend it on every level.

To do that, we must first know our First Amendment rights.


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