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1 for All campaign raising First Amendment awareness

July 03, 2010|By JAKE WOMER

Today marks 234 years since our nation declared independence and less than 219 years since our most precious freedoms were secured.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified as part of the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, 1791, promising Americans freedoms that we will exercise today by going to the church of our choice, or not going at all.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" is the first part of the First Amendment.

Can you name the other four freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution?

If you can, you are among select company. Only one in 25 Americans can name all five.

That's according to the State of the First Amendment 2009, a survey commissioned by the nonprofit First Amendment Center.

And that's why The Herald-Mail is joining the First Amendment Center, the American Society of News Editors and more than 1,100 news organizations supporting the 1 for All campaign, which launched Thursday.

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The campaign is designed to educate and raise awareness of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment:

"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."

Those 45 words grant Americans the power and protection to live as we see fit.

If you are reading this newspaper, you are enjoying the freedom of the press.

The freedom of speech is evident all around us.

Freedom of assembly and freedom to petition government allow us to rally the support to have laws changed.

One of these freedoms without the others would stifle the power of the amendment. What good would come of freedom of speech and freedom of the press without the power to effect change by rallying together and supporting a cause?

The nonpartisan 1 for All campaign encourages people to think about this question and many others. You'll see ads supporting it in this newspaper and in other media. There is a 1 for All ad on page C8 today. Television talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and other celebrities are lending their star wattage to the campaign.

Teachers and parents can find lesson plans online at 1forall.us.

Here's how you and I can help:

o Learn more about the First Amendment and stand up for it.

o Stay informed. This gives our speech power.

o Openly discuss our freedoms.

o Express yourself and respect others' expression of their freedoms.

o We're so close to Washington, D.C., we can visit the National Archives and see in person the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And check out the Newseum to see a 74-foot-high marble engraving of the First Amendment.

Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at jakew@herald-mail.com">jakew@herald-mail.com.

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