The freedom of speech is one of the most important rights in the United States Constitution, but where does it come from. As there are very few countries if any that give people the same freedom as the first amendment.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN ANCIENT DEMOCRACY
Freedom of speech is clearly a pinnacle of democracy, as it would be extremely difficult for people to vote on ideas if people were prohibited from discussing those ideas, or even worse from presenting ideas to the people to discuss. People had to have some right to share there ideas for there to be any form of democracy, but a failure to remove restrictions on the freedom of speech has resulted in devastating results.
One of the best examples of this was Socrates in ancient Greek. Freedom of speech was clearly important to the Greeks being a democracy. Never the less Socrates was convicted and sentenced to death for corrupting the youth and introducing strange gods. The greatest philosopher of his times was convicted and sentenced to death solely for expressing his ideas.
WHERE DOES THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH COME FROM
One of our founding fathers Thomas Jefferson called for a separation of church and state. This separation of church from state was likely a cause for an increase in speech rights. For it was Socrates speech about Greek religion which contributed to his execution. In 1777 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was placed into law in 1779. This law gave people the right to practice their religion free from government interference. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is said to be the predecessor for the 1st amendment of the constitution which was adopted over a decade later in 1791.
PROBLEMS WITH ENFORCING THE FIRST AMENDMENT
The problem with enforcing the first amendment is that it was created to protect people for saying and doing unpopular things. Unfortunately the courts have not always agreed that unpopular ideas were protected by the first amendment. New York passed a law that prohibited working on Sunday. Many people saw this as the state acknowledging Sunday as the Sabbath, but the court’s have said that the State was allowed to pass a day of rest for the community, and it wasn’t necessary related to religion. After World War 2 people were often prosecuted for being part of the communist party. Even in modern times people are constantly trying to prevent people from expressing political ideas they don’t agree with. How will the court deal with this kind of speech going into the future.