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First Amendment is all about freedom

Dale ShrullGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Some people have wondered why we decided to take our little First Amendment scuffle to the courtroom.Compared to the history of the First Amendment it’s as insignificant as a mayfly on a collision course with a windshield.However, as small and seemingly trivial as asking to have a court file unsealed is, it still reinforces what our forefathers envisioned when they penned the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (Amendments to the Constitution).Sometimes, a newspaper has the obligation to stand up for the First Amendment. If the press doesn’t make a stand, there’s a good chance the issue simply drifts away.It is important that both the press and the public have the ability to gain information from our public officials, including the courts.Even small cases like ours have serious implications when it comes to the First Amendment.It’s hard to believe that the Constitution – basically the owner’s manual for freedom in our country – was written more than 200 years ago.As a country in its infancy, our forefathers were careful to craft documents that would make sure that freedom would be the lifeblood of the United States.As a new country, giving freedom to its citizens is one thing – ensuring that it endures is another.The First Amendment isn’t exclusively about the media or just about free speech. The five areas protected are freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.The First Amendment is about having an open society and protecting our basic freedoms.That’s what our forefathers needed to consider as they developed the blueprint for the United States.Over the years, the First Amendment has been at the center of all kinds of battles.Citizens’ appreciation of the First Amendment has shifted from Rocky Mountain high peaks to Death Valley lows throughout history.Whenever the First Amendment falls out of public favor, there can be comfort in knowing that people will eventually realize how important our basic freedoms really are.A 2001 poll conducted by The First Amendment Center found that 29 percent of people thought the First Amendment went too far in the rights it guarantees.The political landscape will often influence public opinion of the First Amendment. In the same poll in 2006 the number of people who thought the First Amendment went too far dropped to 8 percent.Public opinion over the freedom of the press can be extremely turbulent.In a 1997 poll, 38 percent agreed that the press has too much freedom. In 2006, that number grew to 40 percent.The press should never view the First Amendment as the ultimate hall pass to go wherever and do whatever it pleases. Not only is it the obligation for the press to fight for the First Amendment, but it also has a responsibility to not take it lightly or to flaunt it.The First Amendment can be a double-edged sword, giving, in some people’s minds, too much freedom in areas such as pornography, racist gatherings and even the world of comedy. When gray areas of the First Amendment come to light, the courts and judges are asked to decide.The history of the First Amendment is dotted with court cases and decisions that have helped shape it throughout the centuries. People have been jailed and even killed fighting for the First Amendment.The purity and message of the First Amendment remains powerful long after the first 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights were ratified on Dec. 15, 1791. There’s a reason why the First Amendment was the first amendment written – that’s the one that ensures our basic freedoms.The Post Independent’s court hearing to have a file unsealed is minuscule on the grand scale. Of course we thought it was important and we felt this was a time we needed to stand up and wave the First Amendment flag. Win or lose, the repercussions won’t be devastating. Just another tiny footnote in history of the First Amendment.It will always amaze me that the Constitution for the United States was signed 220 years ago and the first 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights were created 216 years ago. And still today, those splendid documents guide us, challenge us and should humble us all. Without the First Amendment, we don’t have freedom.With the First Amendment, we have the greatest country in the world.Dale Shrull is the managing editor of the Post Independent. Contact him at dshrull@postindependent.com.


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