Conflicting Ideologies and the First Amendment
By Dr. Patti Amsden
Members of Congress are leaving Washington and heading home to the states and districts from which they were elected. At the local level, the citizens are eager to assemble and discuss recently enacted federal laws and pending policies that are destined to have major impact upon the lives of average Americans. Town hall meetings are being called. Citizens are congregating. Questions are covering the gamut from agenda-free inquiry to acrid-laden accusations.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides the platform for lawful assembly and the free exercise and expression of beliefs, whether they are religious, personal, or political. The government may make no law prohibiting this right and must be willing to receive the grievances of the people and make amends if the constitutional liberties of the people are violated.
On the perceived basis of violated rights, people are gathering in large numbers to the town hall meetings. Ideologies are conflicting. The far right and the far left are both attempting to solve the ills of society, procure a brighter future for the disenfranchised, and insure that America remains a viable world leader. Noble goals, however, do not necessarily equate to wise decisions. Ideologies define policy and practice. Policy and practice reveal ideologies. At the town hall meetings, citizens are questioning ideologically-spawned policies through the constitutionally-protected privilege to challenge their government.
Whether or not the majority of the legislative body is liberal or conservative is not taken into consideration within the verbiage of the First Amendment. Congressmen must allow a platform for redress of grievances. If the noble goals and ideological solutions of the legislative body have infringed upon the rights, liberties, and voice of the people, the citizens have a right and duty to assemble and speak. The government has a constitutional obligation to listen and
Conflicting ideologies do not co-exist on an equal basis. One will be dominant; the other will be subservient. The tug of war between the far right and the far left will continue long after the town hall meetings end. Therefore, what can be gained in these convocations? The answer: efficacy of the First Amendment. The wisdom of the framers of our great nation ensured that the people should have the voice and the government should have the ear. Constitutional wisdom dictates that our congressmen listen to the grievances and protect the liberties of the citizens.
Principle: Freedom of the press, religion, and the right of lawful assembly cannot be removed if a nation is to remain prosperous and free.