Monday, August 29, 2005

The First Amendment

I talk a lot about the Second Amendment on this blog, but not enough about the First. It's because I feel the Second is in more danger than the First. And trust me, if the Second goes, there's nothing to keep the First from going too.

First off, this is utterly important. You must understand the difference between a Right and a Privilege. If you do not understand this, then this is all for naught.

A Right is something you are born with. Government does not give you Rights. They are something that cannot be taken away from you. A privilege is just that, a privilege. When Government starts taking away Rights, it needs to be overthrown. It's that simple.

The first Amendment is simply this:
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.

So let's break this down piece by piece.

Freedom of Religion. This is a Right, and this one gets the most controversy. Keep in mind, people fled their countries to come here so they could worship as they want to worship. People died for this Right, so you can worship as you want to worship. Don't ever take that for granted.

Freedom of Speech. This Right is almost an absolute. You can say things that will offend, despite what politically correct people think. You can say "I hate all Narnians and Narnians are stupid, they're ugly, and the world would be better off if they were all dead." You cannot say, "Aslan, you are a Narnian and I'm going to your house and I'm going to shoot you." If you say that, Aslan has the Right to shoot you the moment you step foot on his property.

You cannot slander. If Aslan is not an alcoholic, you cannot go around telling everyone that Aslan is an alcoholic. That is slander. If he is one, then it's all good.

You cannot give out copyrighted materials freely. I don't think I need to go into details here.

You cannot give out private info. If you get a hold of Aslan's credit card, you can't go around giving that info to your friends and neighbors.

Despite what you've heard, you can yell "fire!" in a crowded theatre. Keep in mind though that no judge or jury is going to be sympathetic to you when some father busts your knees with a baseball bat after the resulting panic crippled his kid.

You can say "President Bush (my President) or Dianne Feinstein/Barbara Boxer (my Senators), or Lois Capps (my Congresswoman) are !@#$%^& idiots and I hate them and wish they'd get an STD." Other people may not like it, but that's just tough.

There are no "free speech zones." Anyone who tries to enforce a free speech zone needs to be tar and feathered. The whole country is a free speech zone.

Freedom of the Press. As annoying as reporters are, I'm glad I live in a country where the media can publish anything they want to publish (save for libel, copyright infringement, etc.)

Freedom of Assembly. This gives you the Right to Assembly peacefully. If you don't like the way something is, by all means, hold up a sign in a public place and tell the world. You may not like what someone's protesting, but it's their Right to do it.

This does not mean throw a brick through a Starbucks window. And if there are any Anarchists reading this, do us all a favor, don't destroy their windows, destroy their stereo system. Geez, Anarchists, at least make yourself useful.

The Right to Petition Your Government. This means you don't need to be scared to send a letter to your Congressman or woman, your Senator, or your President. They're supposed to send you a letter back. So far, of the dozens of letters I've sent, everyone has, although I wonder if they really read them. I bet what they do is simply tally up a for and against.

So this is your First Amendment. It's over two hundred years old, and is set in stone. Your Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they wrote it. Don't take it for granted. Remember, you were born with these Rights. Government does not give these Rights to you.


Blogger Levi Nunnink said...

Good post, Zombie. I like you explanations of the rights.

And yeah, why do anarchists hate windows?

8/29/2005 9:10 AM  
Blogger hutytito said...

What worries me is the Patriot Act, which is chipping every so steadily away at these rights.

8/29/2005 9:28 AM  
Blogger The Zombie Lama said...

Good post. Very informative.

I know more than a few people who need to read it.

8/29/2005 9:37 AM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Levi - There's just something about breaking glass that's in a bad way, cool. For example, watch any action movie ever made. I think it's an unwritten law that at least one window must be smashed. Even Bridget Jones Diary had the two guys in a fist fight over her go through a window.

SG - I should do a separate post dissecting the Patriot Act. There are a few measures that really bother me in it. Been meaning to do it, just haven't gotten around to it.

ZL - I need to memorize it myself. And yes, I know a few folks who think it's okay to silence someone that offends them. A few times, it has been me that is doing the offending. :p

8/29/2005 10:03 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Excellent post. I'll comment more later.

8/29/2005 10:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

"People died for this Right, so you can worship as you want to worship. Don't ever take that for granted."

I must point out the glaring absence from this, and many other comments made about this clause. It also includes the freedom FROM religion as well.

8/29/2005 10:19 AM  
Blogger Sadie Lou said...

You can say "I hate all Narnians and Narnians are stupid, they're ugly, and the world would be better off if they were all dead." You cannot say, "Aslan, you are a Narnian and I'm going to your house and I'm going to shoot you." If you say that, Aslan has the Right to shoot you the moment you step foot on his property.

You're awesome, Zombie. That was funny as all get out.
I can't stand it when people confuse rights and privledges. Levi and I were just talking about people who talk at the movies. It is my RIGHT as someone who is in the movie theater because I purchased a ticket, to enjoy the movie as it is intended to be enjoyed--in peace and quiet and in the dark and in front of a big screen. That is my right and it can be enforced so that I can enjoy that right.
It is a priveledge and a gift to you if I don't club you over the head and throw your butt OUT of the movie theater if you are talking and disrupting my theater enjoyment!
That's the difference.

8/29/2005 10:33 AM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

PC - Looking forward to it.

Laura - Very true. Since Congress cannot decide what religion to make the religion, freedom from religion is implied. So a Christian, a Pagan, an atheist, and a Buddhist should be on equal footing when it comes to the letter of the law.

Sadie - Lol! It's bad enough that people let their kids go nuts in theatres, but I've seen some misbehaved adults as well, like people who will answer their cell phone. I'm tempted to grab the thing out of their hands and throw it. Maybe that will give them a clue for future movies. ;)

8/29/2005 11:15 AM  
Blogger Ben O. said...

Isn't it interesting that the 1st amendment protects the kind of speech nobody wants to hear.

We don't worry about protecting "accepted" speech. Who goes to court over the right to say something that everybody already wants to hear said?

Nice blog - Ben O.

8/29/2005 11:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

" Isn't it interesting that the 1st amendment protects the kind of speech nobody wants to hear. "

If something has been said, Ben, that means someone wants to hear it said. That doesn't mean anyone has to listen.

8/29/2005 12:18 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Speak for yourself, Ben, I'm going to court tomorrow to protect "Puppies are cute."

8/29/2005 12:25 PM  
Blogger exMI said...

Very good. Now if people could just figure out that a right to free speech does not mean a right to make other people pay you while you indulge yourself.
Freedom of religion means that Government cannot mandate a religion. It does not mean religions and government can't work together.
Freedom of the press, government can't shut it down becasue of what it prints. citizens can band together and boycott it though.

And as I uysed to tell my students when I was a teacher and as you so aptly pointed out, There is no amendment protecting you from being offended.

8/29/2005 12:32 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

best breakdown I have seen in a long time, the only thing I would change is emphasizing the freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion

8/29/2005 12:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Ben: why is that? Someone with no religious beliefs can be just as good a citizen as someone with religious beliefs. Religiosity and morals do not neccesarily go hand in hand. If we start defining it as "Freedom OF religion" that is one step closer to defining the the nature of valid worship - which is exactly what the ammendment is designed to avoid.

Sorry - that's a sticking point with me.

8/29/2005 1:14 PM  
Blogger tshsmom said...

Yeah, what is it with this "free speech zone" all of a sudden?
GREAT post; LOVED your definitions!

Good point Laura! The true meaning of this passage is that the gov't can't tell you WHAT to believe. If other people think your beliefs are weird, TOUGH!

8/29/2005 1:39 PM  
Blogger The Zombie Lama said...

WTF is a "Free Speech Zone"?

8/29/2005 2:32 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Weren't those the pens they trapped protestors in during the 2004 conventions? Kinda defeats the purpose, ya know? I also think Bush has one at almost every planned appearence. You know, to keep the terrorists away - it's for your own safety! :-/

8/29/2005 2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing about rights is they are only rights when they are convenient.

Case in point: WTO protests on the east coast, a few years ago. My friend and his organization had permits to protest, peacefully. They were in a permitted zone. Police came down the street, marching side by side in riot gear and pushed them outside of the zone. Now they were "illegally" protesting. Then school buses rounded the corner. They were all arrested.

Granted, protesting at the WTO is probably one of the riskiest things you can do, but what the cops pulled plus the "creative" ways the government is taking our rights away should scare you. They certainly scare me.

8/29/2005 3:15 PM  
Blogger sygyzy said...

Oops, that last comment was mine.

8/29/2005 3:16 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

The OF vs FROM argument I really don't see as a huge deal. It's implied that gov't can't make an official religion, so hypothetically, everyone should be safe, including agnostics and atheists. Religion is something the gov't isn't supposed to cram down anyone's throat.

I really think the US gov't is good at being secular and not choosing one religion over another. The problem really is the prejudice of the voters, seeing that 55% of voters surveyed won't vote for an atheist. I think that's silly. I voted for Ralph Nader before, and I seriously don't see his lack of religion as a threat to my religion.
Nader's one of the few candidates who refuse to get involved in religious or "gonadal" issues, which is a good thing in my book.

As for the protests, yes, this is becoming scary when there's nobody to police the police. You see why I'm for a limited state now?

In Seattle during the WTO protests, the police were gassing everyone, even though 99% of the protesters were peaceful. They blew the whole anarchists thing out of proportion, making it seem like most of the protesters were going around causing trouble.

In actuality, there were about a dozen anarchists total doing all the damage. The police intentionally let them do the damage, so they could have an excuse to gas everyone. I knew both passers-by and peaceful protesters who were gassed. The Chief of Police should have been relieved of his duty.

8/29/2005 3:49 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

good explanations. I might point out that it's not just the government who tries to take away a person's rights...

8/29/2005 4:35 PM  
Blogger Col. Dr. said...

Actually, you can slander whoever you want, unless they are a public official and it can be proven that your slander affects their company's good, or the public morale.

But you still shouldn't go around pointing out the drunken Asians all the same.

8/29/2005 4:43 PM  
Blogger Slade said...

YAY!!! I wish I could direct that student to this post!!! Thanks for this one...also, you can't call a police officer a mo-fo (the explotative of this) because you will get your tail thrown in jail...

also, you can call a co-worker a slut or a bitch if you have the balls to, but you will get fired for harassment in most cases

kisses to you ZS

8/29/2005 4:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

ZS: It's implied sure. But as you pointed out 55% of voters won't vote for an atheist and I always hear the mantra "this is a Christian country" - wrongo. The constitution is clear - people's understanding, or lack thereof is what's dangerous. But that's what you get when you don't value education and history as a society...

8/29/2005 5:15 PM  
Blogger savage said...

This book is about that very thing!  People come out of school with weird ideas about numbers and math and statistics and probability.

It's astonishing.
It's alarming.
Good one, ZS.  When you break down the 'patriot act,' (I know you'll do this, so forget me) put it in perspective:
9/11 then … because it is crystal clear that the thing is DESIGNED to take away rights and has nothing to do with 'homeland' and 'security.'

That book is—
Mathematical Illiteracy
And Its Consequences
by John Allen Paulos


8/29/2005 5:34 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Actually, you can call a police officer a mofo...but don't try that or giving the finger in Germany where it's not allowed.

The biggest danger I see around me isn't terrorists attacking my freedoms, it's my neighbors allowing the government to undermine those freedoms. The attacks on our rights seldom come head on, they are usually very subtle.

I'm reminded of the outcry when Dale Earnhardt died. The fight over whether autopsy photos could be printed in a paper or shown on television became a huge battle over whether it was in bad taste to even consider it instead of whether the press had the right to access them at all.

Now, I happen to agree that it is bad taste, but I also think that in changing the public access rights every citizen has subtly undermines those same rights. The freedom to scrutinize all aspects of our government shouldn't be meted out by a clerk in a county office.

Oh...and the reason anarchists hate windows so much is that they're restrictive while trying to give the appearence of not being restrictive. Also, they're easier to break than walls...

8/29/2005 5:34 PM  
Blogger savage said...

Mr. Paulos, fyi, ZS, would have something to say about the 'statistics' used to justify the construction of the parking lot in downtown.
Keepin' ya abrest of local bs.

8/29/2005 5:35 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Freedom of Religion: I agree with you. I also believe that just because we have the freedom of religion doesn't mean religion can't be taxed. Taxing churches does nothing to hurt the religious organization or the freedom of expression. I also think Rastafarians should be able to smoke pot.

Freedom of Speech: It is often mistaken for the freedom to speak as long as you don't offend anyone. We should be able to say Fuck in public. We should be able to say whatever we want in public no matter who is in our presence. Acting on what we say is something else entirely. We do not always have the freedom to do that. Also, sometimes there are consequences for what we say, especially if what we've said is that someone is a big fat idiot, if, in fact, they are a very skinny idiot.

What I think is missing from the first amendment is the freedom over one's own body. We should have the right to do what we wish with our own bodies, and that freedom should NEVER be disputed.

8/29/2005 5:40 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Laura - Obviously civics needs to be brought back into school. We were made to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution and had the Bill of Rights drilled into our heads.

Slade - I flipped off a cop once. I was delivering pizza and came to a four-way stop, clearly beating the cop. He did a Hollywood stop through the stop sign and cut me off. I flipped him off and he gave me a look like "what did I do?" That dumb jerk. If that had been me, I would have a ticket.

Col - Well, that's a sort of. I know a guy who won a cease and desist court case for slander and he's far from being a public official or a celebrity. But yes, when I heard the official rules for slander, it's supposed to be anyone in the public eye.

Notta - Seeing as we are supposed to be the gov't, I'd readily admit that we're to blame for any mess we're in. What's the old quote - you get the gov't you deserve, or something like that.

8/29/2005 5:48 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

PC - I'll give another example. Native Americans shouldn't be harassed who are members of that one Native American church who do peyote. As long as they do it in ceremony, it should be none of anyone's business but theirs.

Savage - shoot me off an email to let me know what's going on in Chico.

Shawn - Well, I still think Anarchists have seen one too many action movies. ;)

But yes, once again, I'll say we're responsible for the mess we're in by being too apathetic.

8/29/2005 5:54 PM  
Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Excellent post.

It is NOT the same north of the 49th, let me tell you.

8/29/2005 6:01 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Government does not give these Rights to you.


8/29/2005 7:28 PM  
Blogger Miranda said...

Very nicely explained, Slayer. *Grin* Though it's hard to imagine taking a gun between his paws.

8/29/2005 10:54 PM  
Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Indeed I have never understood this subject better. You did yourself proud. You have very interesting comments here … there is so much here that I agree with, especially as it concern women rights and taxing the churches. Religions have become big businesses and should be treated as such.

8/29/2005 11:29 PM  
Blogger tenxinchoden said...

'A Right is something you are born with. Government does not give you Rights.' BUT they do definately Steal em!!
otherwise y do we have all these stupid mandatory rules.....
will definately agree with you on this one!!
Hell ya!!

8/30/2005 12:00 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

I'll be interested in your take on the Patriot Act.

8/30/2005 4:54 AM  
Blogger sygyzy said...

Looks like there are a few people here confused about the definition of slander.

8/30/2005 8:46 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

I thought of adding that. Also, Mushrooms are considered a religious experience by some hippies. Do they count?

8/30/2005 8:56 AM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

PC - Only if they register as a religion.

Sygyzy - I may be one of those. :(
It's been awhile since I studied this stuff. If you want to give the official wording, feel free.

Scott - I'll have to do a separate post on it. There were parts that I found as a gross violation of our Rights. I'll dissect those parts in a post. Don't hold your breath waiting for it though, because I was supposed to write it a month ago.

TC - BUT they do definately Steal em!!

Too true. The problem in America is there are too many whiners and not enough voters.

LP - I'm glad you came. I really liked what you had to write in your blog. It's so brutally honest and blew my mind.

Miranda - Though it's hard to imagine taking a gun between his paws.

That's why I'm so pro-2nd Amendment.

Robert - I love your blog as well, but I'm tired of saying "Right on!" and "I agree with you 100%" every post. So don't worry, I still read everything you write.

Bridget - One day, you'll have to do a post on differences between Canada and the USA. I'm completely ignorant about Canadian politics, not even knowing who the Prime Minister is or what party's in power.

8/30/2005 9:20 AM  
Blogger clothosfate said...

Eminem said it well: "stand up and fight for the right to say something they might not like."

Another awesome post that gives me absolute confidence that you will be an excellent leader in the forthcoming zombie battles.

I have to address the 'Freedom of the Press' part though. You live in a country where the press could publish whatever they wanted... or at least it appears that way on the surface, but ultimatly I do not think that the press is as free as the first amendment intended it to be. It appears to be pretty... well... crafted. The freedom of the press is endangered and must be recognized and faught for.

Just a thought.

8/30/2005 11:08 AM  
Blogger Sagepaper said...

First, the issue of freedom of and freedom from is important. I lived in a small rural town in Oklahoma. It was so Bible Belt that a mixed marriage was when a Baptist married a Methodist. Everyday we started with the Lord's prayer and the Pledge. Moving around so much, my parents taught me, "When in Rome..."

After awhile, I noticed a Choctaw girl behind me. She could sit silently while everyone else stood with their heads bowed during the prayer. She was the only one seated. Being non-religious, I decided to join her. I didn't think it was right that she be alone in sitting that one out.

She enjoyed freedom of religion, but did not fully enjoy freedom from religion. Because of this experience in Oklahoma, I am a vocal opponent of prayer in school. It is not harmless. I do support a period of silence, during which each child may think, pray, daydream, or plan as suits them.

Next, as a Paralegal, I was taught that slander is saying something untrue about someone else which causes them some harm. You can call a person a robber to their face. If others hear it, or you tell someone else that, then you come to the next test: is it true? If they were convicted of robbery seventeen years ago, it doesn't matter if they are the mayor, you may tell the truth. If what you said was false, there is one final test: did it cause harm? If you insist that the mayor is a werewolf, you are unlikely to hurt his reputation. This is NOT just for public figures. You can't get mad at a neighbor and go to every other neighbor saying the one you are mad at is a sex offender if that is not true. That would be likely to harm his reputation.

Finally, remember what my grandfather always said: You can stand on your rights until you don't have a place to sit down. You are free to offend everyone, but don't look to others for help when you need a reference.

8/30/2005 12:55 PM  
Blogger Sagepaper said...

Yikes, I know I just did a long post, but this is a thought-provoking subject, as demonstrated by the number of comments.

I do not like the idea that you must belong to a group of other people who hold the same beliefs you do in order to be able to practice your religious beliefs. I think Rastafarians are nuts, and could not, in honesty, join them. However, marijuana is sacred to me. Different people use the intoxication to different ends. There are many others who find marijuana to be an important aspect of their spiritual life. We can't band together, though. Among other things, many of us are opposed to organized religion. In the alternative, there are many who do profess an established religion, and augment their worship with marijuana.

The peyote law for those who belong to one, and only one, church is unfair. Part of the reason permission was granted to that group is that they are Christian. Those tribesmen who have not converted to Christianity, and whose beliefs are in greater harmony with original peyote use, are not permitted to use peyote. This is wrong.

8/30/2005 1:14 PM  
Blogger Sagepaper said...

Lest I be harassed by a bored DEA officer, I do not use marijuana. When they made it a felony and started seizing assets, I put that on hold until it is legal, or a misdemeanor again.

8/30/2005 1:18 PM  
Anonymous jesse said...


If a Right is something natural, that the government does not give you, how can the government take Rights away? A government can violate Rights as you have defined them, but it can neither grant them nor take them away.

Regarding the First Amendment. Congress shall not establish a state religion, nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. There is no "freedom from religion." This clause was fought for by some Baptists, particularly James Madison, who believed in religious toleration in the sense that the civil authorities should not ally with particular religious authorities to force citizens to join a particular church. You do not convert by the sword. BUT, there is a difference between that and the protection of whatever "religious" practices someone may wish to engage in. Witchcraft (Wicca), paganism, etc. were NOT religion in the sense that they were talking about. And certain religions are difficult to justify in the context of a free and democratic republic. If a devout and well-meaning Muslim puts Islamic law above the Constitution of the land and believes that he must stone his wife for an offense to fulfil his social-religious law, is he protected by his freedom of religion? Can he take part in our society? This is also one of the reasons we did not have a Catholic president until Kennedy. Legitimate or not, there was a fear that the Pope would rule the White House.

Zombie - thanks for the post, and the encouragement to dive into Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government. I hear his Essay on Toleration is a must-read to understand the Founders' ideas as well.

I would also like to exercise my freedom to say that Barbara Boxer is a danger to herself and others. She doesn't know the first thing about firearms. In fact I have a sneaking suspicion she is a zombie masquerading as a Senator in order to eliminate firearms in CA so the zombies have free reign without the danger of being capped in the noggin'.

I hope saying as much is not illegal.

8/30/2005 5:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Sagepaper: THere are many traditional Sioux that are allowed to harvest and use peyote. To my knowledge they haven't converted - though they do refer to themselves as a "church". Have the laws changed?

8/30/2005 6:01 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Laura - The gov't goes back and forth between harassment of them and laying off, depending on who's in charge at the time. They really need to lay off because it is in violation of their Rights.

Jesse - If a Right is something natural, that the government does not give you, how can the government take Rights away? A government can violate Rights as you have defined them, but it can neither grant them nor take them away.

Thanks for the correction. You worded this perfectly. I shouldn't have said taking away, but rather violating. Excellent catch.

Oh, and yes, those wishing to disarm us are in league with the zombies. They don't want to get their zombies shot at when the zombie plague hits.

Sagepepper - If I were running this country, I'd legalize marijuana completely for adults, as long as they're not driving or flying a plane, and they're within their own home. I'm anti-pot because it makes people lazy. However, I have yet to see someone get violent on marijuana like they do on other drugs, and even alcohol.

Under Jerry Brown (Governor of CA) in the 70s, marijuana was a $10 fine. You're growing a dozen pot plants in your house? Naughty naughty. $10 fine. That's fine, but I'd rather legalize it and tax it.

As for the Choctaw girl, I went through periods of religion and atheism in high school. Won't say where I am now, because I'm private about religion, but I will say I enjoyed being different than everyone else, but that's just me though.

Was she persecuted or just abandoned? If she just felt left out during the prayers, I imagine that's how kids felt when they were picked last in sports. It's reality and I don't see it as a big deal.

Now if people mocked her, then it's a big deal.

Clothosfate - Our press is fine. We have everything from the far Left to the far Right in this country and all are easily accessable. The problem is money and charisma will get you more freedom of the press than some boring guy with no money, even if boring guy with no money is right on.

But we do have public access in all major cities. If you want to get on TV and say something, you'll get on TV and say something. I've seen some serious whackos on TV, but sometimes it's entertainment for me so I can't help watching. ;)

In Seattle, we had a 250 pound woman who liked to dance around naked on public access TV. In Northern California, we had a guy who said FEMA will be the end of all American freedom. So if you're really determined to air something out, you'll get your chance in America.

8/31/2005 10:06 AM  

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