Celebrating the First Amendment

protest

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution includes the right to peacefully assemble.

The ninth annual First Amendment Day at UNC-Chapel Hill is Tuesday, Sept. 26. Here is what it’s all about:

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.

For journalists, that means we can gather news, write an article or blog post, edit it and put a headline on it without fear of going to prison.

The First Amendment is not absolute, however. There are limits.

Journalists can’t commit libel, for example, without legal consequences. And we can face criticism for what we say and write. Even so, journalists (a word that I define broadly) enjoy freedoms in the United States that their counterparts in others do not.

The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression deserves a day of recognition and celebration. The events on campus this year include a debate over religious expression in the military and a panel discussion about free speech on campus. The keynote speaker is Bill Adair, creator of the fact-checking website Politifact.

All sessions are free and open to all. I hope to see you there. You can also follow the fun on social media with the hashtag #uncfree.

Express yourself!

UPDATE: It was another great First Amendment Day. Here’s a recap.

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