The FirstAmendment, Annotated


"Congress" is defined in Article I,Section I of the Constitution as consisting of "a Senate and House ofRepresentatives." Note that the word is "Congress," not "Government"or "States," nor the Executive or Judicial Branches, which have nolawmaking authority.


Not "should"- there is no optionhere.




The word here is "no", not "some." Theword "no" means "not at all" or "not even one". For example, if abaseball player says "I hadno hits last night",this means that he had not even onehit last night - 0 hits.

Law . . .

A "law" is a writing by aConstitutionally-authorized legislative body (whether Federal, State,or municipal) that describes a) conduct to be forbidden or mandated(as precisely as possible), and b) the penalty or reward for engagingin the conduct to be enforced by a Constitutionally-authorizedExecutive branch (with monitoring by a Constitutionally-authorizedJudicial branch). Sometimes the "law" is called by a different name,such as a "statute", "rule", "regulation", "code", or "ordinance". Atthe Federal level, the procedure for making a law is defined by theConstitution, and the output of the legislative process isspecifically referred to as a "law". If a bill has not been signed"into law" by the President, it is not a "law", and therefore has nolegal force. Since Congress is not empowered to legislate in certainareas by the Constitution, "laws" in these areas signed by thePresident are not laws in fact.

Abridging the

"Abridging" means to diminish or limit.The word "abridging" is not preceded by "significantly" or"unreasonably", indicating thatany abridgement isforbidden, no matter how slight or reasonable.

Freedom of

"Freedom" is the power (combined withthe right) of a person to engage in a particular form ofconduct.


See press below.

Or of the

Not "and".

Press . . .

The forms of conduct protected by theFirst Amendment. These terms are not defined in the Constitution, andare, unlike the previous terms, susceptible to interpretation due totheir ambiguous content. If these terms are interpreted too narrowly,the Amendment would basically be useless: for example, Congress couldpass a law allowing you to speak and publish materials on a printingpress, with you in a sealed room and no contact with the outsideworld. Luckily, there is a broad societal consensus that these wordsshould be seenbroadly. The commonlyaccepted meaning of the terms today is communication of informationvia any media, whether book, comic book, newspaper, radio,television, CB radio, walkie talkie, braille, sign language, passingout leaflets, or just talking. "Speech" information may be seen asthat information which is received through the sense of hearing, and"press" information may be seen as that information which is receivedthrough the sense of sight or touch (as in Braille).

At least, that'swhat it's supposed tomean . . .