First Amendment

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The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

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.

Parsing the First Amendment[edit]


The exact wording of the First Amendment only restricts the lawmaking powers of Congress; as originally implemented, it put no such restrictions on the lawmaking powers of the States. Virginia, for example, still had an official State religion for several years after the First Amendment was ratified. However, modern interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment frequently extend the Constitutional limits on lawmaking power to the States as well. This is called "incorporation."

All of the various clauses of the First Amendment have been incorporated against the states by the Supreme Court. The first to be incorporated was freedom of speech in 1925, in Gitlow v. New York, and the most recent was the right to petition for redress of grievances in 1996, in Romer v. Evans.