The United States of America is ranked top globally in almost all sectors of the economy. It is also believed to be the pace setter in matters pertaining to law. Most of the other countries have been emulating the judiciary and legislative functions of the United States of America.
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This is because of the belief that they possess a constitution that is effective and accommodative for each and every person .Despite this constitution being among the oldest constitutions to be written that is in the year 1787, it is applicable to any country in the world.
This is because most nations of the world especially those that do not have their own constitutions use the American constitution. It is for this reason that the constitution of the United States of America is termed as its supreme law. That is, it controls the relationship between the leaders of state and the citizens of the country (Smith, 2010, p.1).
There are three branches of government which make up the constitution. We have the executive, the legislature and finally the judiciary that is manned by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is designated to be the head and governor of the judiciary which is part of the law making committee. All constitutions in the world will usually elaborate on the functions and duties of each branch and the American constitution is no exception.
Provisions of the First Amendment
The Supreme Court is thus responsible for making any amendments on the constitution when it is necessary. The first amendments made on the constitution of the United States of America in the year 1789 concerned the bill of rights.
This entailed the right to peaceful demonstrations, freedom of speech, the press freedom, freedom of expression, the right to dissent and freedom of religion just to mention but a few.
Since the original constitution did not have provisions for these bills of rights, amendment was thus necessary to allow these provisions. These provisions had to be made so as to accommodate all the citizens into one peaceful nation. This was done because of the mere reason that as human beings the American citizens needed to have the freedom and rights they required.
Examples of the Supreme Court cases
The Supreme Court handled so many cases during the first amendment. The cases that the Supreme Court heard and interpreted were categorized into various groups according to the clauses of the bill of rights. Some of the cases include the following;
Case concerning freedom of press
The Supreme Court handled so many cases during and after the first amendment of the original constitution (Stewards, 2010, p.2). One of the cases involved the New York Times Company versus the United States of America concerning the freedom of press. The United States restricted the New York Times Company from publishing information about the war in Vietnam at that time. The Supreme Court applied the doctrine of prior restraint to make a ruling on the case (Owen, 2000, p.1). This could not have been the situation after the first amendments as the bill of rights had a clause on the freedom of press whereby one can publish whatever information.
Case concerning freedom of expression
An example under this category of cases was that of Whitney versus California in the year 1927. In this case Whitney was accused and found guilty of launching a party which the nation had fears that it could overthrow the government. This was one of the greatest cases ever heard as it was ruled by the famous Justice Louis D. Brandeis who wrote the greatest defense of freedom of speech.
In his ruling, he argued that people are bound to be set free to express their own opinions. This was due to the mere reason that the citizens who had struggled hard to achieve the independence of the country were not cowards. They were strong willed and were not afraid of any changes in the political climate.
Case concerning the right to dissent
The citizens of a nation are allowed to protest in a bid to fight their rights. The case of West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette falls under this category (Smith, 2010, p.1). This was a very exciting case as it involved school children who had failed to give a flag sauté. Flag salutation in the United States of America was a requirement of the law.
However, the children of the Barnette School could participate in the flag salutation as their religion did not allow such. The ruling was thus made in favor of the school and therefore allowed to dissent and make their issues known publicly without any fears.
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Rights that the Constitution provides you as an American citizen
Each and every citizen of a nation has their own rights under the constitution of the same country. That is the same reason that the before any constitution is applicable, it has to be voted and analyzed by the citizens so as to ensure its acceptance.
After the analysis, the constitution can now be put in place since it has been accepted by the majority if not all the citizens of that country. When the American constitution was first put in place, it had omitted the bill of rights and so had o be amended so that the citizens could have their rights and freedom.
The original constitution only had three provisions concerning the rights of the citizens (Lutz, 1994, p.72). Among these was the clause that one had to prove in a court of law before the authority so as to hold and detain someone. After the first amendment, we the American citizens attained so much freedom and rights granted by the law.
Some of these include; the freedom of speech whereby one has the ability to speak out their minds on any issue. This is of great importance especially when one is being oppressed or in detention.
The right to the freedom of religion is also important as there are a variety of denominations and religious sects. This right gives every citizen to join whatever group they wish and worship as well as practice their sect’s practices freely.
The other right is that of the freedom to petition the government, this happens in case where an individual or a group of people think that the government is not taking the right cause of direction. As citizens of America we are allowed to make a petition against the government so as to get full explanation of whatever actions and decisions made.
The other one is the freedom of assemblage whereby the people are allowed to assemble in whatever forums as well as make their own decisions in such meetings without restrictions or interference. All the aforementioned rights greatly changed the situation of America from what is was before the current position. As a matter of fact it greatly improved and changed the living conditions of the American citizens.
Responsibilities that the Constitution provides you as an American citizen
On the other hand, the constitution provides responsibilities to the American citizens (Alley, 2008, p.2). The constitution of a country should be responsible for its citizens. This is the same way the American constitution has a number of responsibilities on its citizens.
Among these is that the American citizens have the responsibility of managing their own matters either civil or local. Through this, the citizens are not to be intruded in whatever they do in their private life.
In the same way, the citizens are bound to pay taxes and duties to the government as a way of providing income to the government. Citizens who are patriotic will openly disclose their income for taxation in the role of responsible for their own country. The citizens also have the responsibility of protecting their own constitution.
This means that they are ready to fight for any process of interfering with the constitution. This is a civic duty as before a new citizen is nationalized he or she recites an oath in which they promise to protect and defend the American Constitution. A civic duty literally means that the citizens obey the laid down rules and laws of the land.
Apart from the mentioned responsibilities, the citizens are bound to be active in the democratic process of the state. Each citizen is therefore entitled to be aware of any campaign processes and the campaigning candidates. The citizens should also be familiar with the set election day of the country.
The knowledge of this information by the citizens encourages most of them to be present during such sessions and functions. By participating in these, the results obtained are usually largely represented hence being able to make decisions that are suitable for the larger part of the population of the country.
Why did each case need to be heard and interpreted by the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court is a major court that handles only the sensitive and the more serious cases especially those that relate to the government or constitution of the nation. In short, the Supreme Court is an original jurisdiction as well as a court of appeal.
The constitution clearly defines the two classes of cases that can be heard in the Supreme Court (Lutz, 1994, p.74).The classes are the cases concerning ambassadors or other dignitaries in the government and cases affecting the state.
Therefore the cases during the first amendment had to be heard and interpreted by the Supreme Court as they all related to matters relating to the constitution of the United States of America thus the whole state. The hearing and handling of each of the cases was an obligation by law.
How the Supreme Court’s decision in each case continue to affect the rights of American citizens today
The Supreme Court was the only court where cases relating to the matters of the constitution were heard and ruled. So when these cases on the first amendment were presented for hearing in this court the end result was bound to have several effects both in the long run and short run.
In the short run, effects were mostly felt by either the defendant or the accused. The effects have in the long run affected the current citizens of America. Depending on the ruling made, the resulting effects may either be positive or negative. Negative effect may come about when the provisions for the bill of rights are not followed up to date and thus oppressing the citizens of America.
Such ruling on cases meant that the American citizens do not posses any rights as per the constitution which is against the law. On the other hand, ruling on cases where the provisions of the first amendments were followed meant that the law was observed to the last point. This therefore meant that the American citizens were given their rights as per the constitution.
Since the Supreme Court handled an endless list of cases during the first amendment the decision made on each case led to different types of effects on the current citizens of America.
This is because some of the Judges today use some of these cases as examples during their course of study. It is for the same reason that they may at times apply these in their daily practice hence leading to a repeat of the same.
This repetition is what now leads to the effect being felt by the current citizens of the United States of America. A clear justification is from the aforementioned examples of cases whereby justice did not seem to be applied in some of the cases. So in circumstances where a repeat of the same is done, then there has to be some cry from the oppressed party in the case.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the Supreme Court is of great importance in any country. This can be seen in the role it played during the first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America. The amendments had to be made so as to fulfill the citizens’ desire and wish to live in a nation of freedom and rights.
The provisions of the first amendments which circled around the bill of rights for example the right to dissent, freedom of speech, expression and the freedom of press were also of great importance (Owen, 2000, p.1). This was because it gave the citizens a sense of belonging in their own country as their issues were attended to.
Another advantage of the first amendments was that of interpretation of the citizens’ rights and responsibilities. The hearing and interpretation of the first amendment cases also had its effects on the lives of the current Americans.
It has always been said that the past is able to predict the future; this statement is practical when it comes to the constitution of the United States of America. This is because it is from the past that they were able to realize their rights and responsibilities as citizens of America as per the constitution.
A reflection of how the United States of America conducted the first amendment is a good lesson to the other nations of the world from which they follow suit. The process was democratic yet peaceful and in the end successful as it gave the country an improved version of the constitution which accommodated all the citizens.
Alley, R. (2008). Thomas Jefferson. James Madison and the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Web.
Lutz, D. (1994). Toward a theory of constitutional amendment. Journal pp.67-78.
Owen, D. (2000). The First Amendment, Annotated. Web.
Smith, C. (2010). First Amendment Center. Web.
Stewards, E. (2010). Notable First Amendment cases. Web.