Nebraska media outlets are providing a good public service with a new campaign to educate Nebraskans about the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
The campaign, featured at thinkfirstamendment.org, highlights the freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. TV ads for the campaign start airing on Independence Day and will run through September, which is also the month Constitution Day is observed.
Organizations like the Platte Institute depend on First Amendment freedoms to be part of the policymaking process and the marketplace of ideas in Nebraska. Because of the freedom of speech, the Platte Institute and other nonprofit public policy organizations are free to find areas within our government that could be improved and speak openly with criticisms and ideas for reform.
The freedom of petition allows these organizations and Nebraskans to engage with state legislators in order to advocate for policy changes, and when they meet like-minded people, they can join together with the freedom to assemble peaceably. Without widespread respect for these First Amendment freedoms, the public might have no other lawful recourse when government acts against what they believe to be in their interest.
Media companies also rely on the protections of the First Amendment. Journalists are often tasked with investigating and exposing corruption or wrongdoing within the government or other institutions. The freedom of press allows journalists to publish their findings without fear of reprisals from the government and enables the public to make informed choices about their own involvement in exercising their rights.
However, in recent years, polling has found that 37 percent of Americans cannot name any of the five rights secured in our Constitution by the First Amendment. Another 31 percent believe the freedoms go too far. In our increasingly volatile political environment, it is important to educate Americans on the principles contained within the First Amendment.