First Amendment Library

First Amendment Library

“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.”

—The First Amendment

 

FIRE’s First Amendment Library

The First Amendment Library’s goal is to enhance the public’s understanding of the 45 words of the First Amendment and to do so in an impartial, historical, analytical, practical, and accessible way. FIRE’s First Amendment Library provides visitors core information about the First Amendment’s five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly, & petition.

Explore Supreme Court opinions, historical timelines, overview essays, the glossary, banned and challenged books, academic discussions, and other resources to get the full picture of how the United States’ culture of free speech and First Amendment law has developed over the years. Whether you’re an educator, student, or generally interested in your rights, look to history to learn how to better exercise your rights. Our hope is that the Library will generate more interest in and respect for the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. In that regard, the First Amendment Library is an evolving resource, replete with updates and expansions. 

Browse Freedoms

Freedom of Assembly & Petition

The right to gather peacefully in public to express opinions & to contact the government.

Freedom of Speech & Expression

The right to engage in expression without censorship or interference from the government.

Cases on Campus

Cases regarding higher education and K-12 cases often cited in campus speech decisions.

Freedom of Religion

The Free Exercise Clause blocks the government from interfering with religious practices.

Freedom of the Press

Protections against government meddling in the publication information by journalists.

Freedom of Association

The right to organize and advance particular viewpoints through those associations.

The First Amendment Library was first conceived by the Newseum’s First Amendment Center, with Paul McMasters, Ken Paulson, David L. Hudson, Jr., Sam Chaltain, Brian Buchanan, and Gene Policinski overseeing the growth of the library’s extensive content. Their initial work continues to serve as the backbone of the library. As the new stewards of the First Amendment Library, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is dedicated to building upon their work and fostering a greater understanding of the importance of our First Amendment freedoms.

Within the library, visitors can learn about the historical backdrop that led the Founding Fathers to place freedom of speech at the top of the Bill of Rights and the struggle of everyday Americans to preserve these rights in the generations that followed. The Library’s goal is to educate through elevating the individual stories of activists and concerned citizens who have stood up for their rights, and subsequently the rights of all Americans.

The success of our constitutional system of governance is intrinsically linked to how we exercise our rights and respect others’ rights. The First Amendment is a foundational cornerstone of our constitutional government and civic life in the United States. Take away the First Amendment’s five freedoms and everything else implodes — they are vital to our democratic society. By fostering a greater understanding of First Amendment rights, we hope visitors are reminded that self-governance depends on our individual ability to understand our constitutional freedoms as well as the public’s collective knowledge of these freedoms.