The group sponsors the contest and corresponding $500 scholarship each year.
Students are given a subject each year, with this year’s being “Of the 10 Amendments of the Constitution, which do you consider the most important and why?’
This year there were 13 essays submitted, and after each member reviews each essay, they submit their choices.
Here is Fryre’s essay:
By Shelby Fryre
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” This quote can be found at the very beginning of the Declaration of Independence, a document that outlines the many grievances the citizens had against the King which in turn led to independence from Great Britain. The Founding Fathers utilized the Declaration of Independence as a baseline for what they desired to be written into the Constitution, or the Supreme Law of the Land. By the ruling of the King, they were stripped of all freedoms in which they believed were “God-given.” As a result, James Madison constructed the Bill of Rights, which outline the civil rights and liberties of the people, as well as the set rules and regulations for the new government. The First Amendment guarantees American citizens freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. Although one may argue for one of the other nine amendments to be the most impactful, the colossal significance of the First Amendment’s ability to protect the very foundation of what America stands for elevates it above the rest.
American has the freedom of speech because of the First Amendment, which is something that only 150 of the 195 nations in the world have. While this may seem like a large quantity of nations that do have this right, China – which has a population of approximately 1,448,081,520 people (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/) – is one of the 45 that does not. Considering their population is well over four times more that the United States, we must not take what we have been given for granted. Without the First Amendment, we would be stripped of our right to speak freely.
Because of the First Amendment, we have also been provided with the freedom of religion. According to Pewresearch.org, “A study found that only 53 governments (27-percent) fully respected the religious rights written onto their laws.” Since 1791, however, the United States citizens have had the capability to practice whatever religion they please without punishment from the government. For example, 70.6-percent are multiple different forms of Christians, 5.9-percent are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or other world faiths, and many others affiliate themselves with other beliefs. Under the general freedom of religion, US citizens have the benefit of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion within America. The Free Exercise Clause protects the rights of citizens to practice whatever religion they please. Without the First Amendment, and more specifically the Establishment Clause, the Engel v. Vitale case would have been the beginning of a slippery slope down the wrong path. Within this case, the question was “Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment?” Authored by Hugo L. Black, the court ruled that the “policy breached the constitutional wall of separation between church and state” (https://www.oyez.org/cases/1961/468). Without this ruling, there would be nothing in the way of stopping certain regions of our country from enforcing religion among the people.
Another crucial aspect of the First Amendment is the freedom of press. A famous quote from US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black during The Times Co. v. The United States describes that “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors” (https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/freedom-press/media-protection-laws). Freedom of press ultimately protects citizen’s rights to not only gain knowledge on government activities, but also distribute ideas throughout the county.
The last two given freedoms within the First Amendment are the freedom of assembly and to petition, and on most occasions, these two coincide with one another. Assembly is the ability to gather, and petition is the ability to protest in a location the government is obligated to provide after 100,000 signatures. A significant example of the exercise of these rights is the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech among 300,000 citizens at Washington, DC. This organized protest rally and his speech are widely considered the turning point of the civil rights movement. According to study.com, “This massive protest was arranged to draw attention to civil rights, unemployment, poverty, and other issues affecting minority communities. “Without the protection of assembly outlined in the First Amendment, this event – and countless others – would have never been able to occur. Most, if not all, of America’s progress would not have been possible without the freedom of assembly and petition.
Within the first ten amendments, the first most clearly represents what America was founded on, therefore making it the most significant. The freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition is what sets the United States apart from other countries. Without the First Amendment, we would have never been able to make the progress we’ve seen since it’s creation.