This year’s Law Day theme—Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society—challenges us to consider the relationship between the First Amendment and the rule of law. In only 45 words, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. These cherished, uniquely American rights are at the heart of our democratic tradition and underscore our commitment to an open culture that values human expression and conscience.
Freedom of speech and press are the great enablers of democratic participation, providing the means by which our citizenry can debate the issues of the day, evaluate the performance of our elected representatives, cast our votes and help shape the direction of our nation’s policies and laws. As the Supreme Court stated: “There is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of the First Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Landmark Communications v. Virginia, 435 U.S. 829, 838 (1978).
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