Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on the First Amendment

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on the First Amendment

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on the First Amendment

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on the First Amendment

Synopsis

We Americans have enshrined our most cherished rights in the First Amendment to our Constitution, including the freedom of religion, speech and press; the right to assemble; and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Since the formation of the republic, Congress has been actively engaged in enacting laws that have a direct and significant bearing on First Amendment rights. This ideal student resource provides the carefully edited and explained text of 31 landmark Congressional laws in all areas of First Amendment rights- from internal security to symbolic speech, campaign financing, obscenity, intellectual property, and freedom of religion. Organized topically for ease of use, this resource allows students to examine and compare the landmark laws on a particular topic across the breadth of American history through the year 2000. For instance, students can compare changes in the laws on obscenity from the Comstock Act of 1873, to the Anti-Dial-a-Porn Act of 1989 and the Child Online Protection Act of 1998.

The landmark laws are organized into nine categories: internal security, symbolic speech, election campaign activities, obscenity, intellectual property, labor-management relations, federally funded programs, and freedom of religion. Each category opens with a general overview of the laws covered in that section and a brief summary of how they relate to each other. The entry on each landmark law features a discussion of the historical background of the law, the intent and purpose of the law, an examination of the substance and impact of the law, and a carefully edited actual text of key passages of the law. Each entry concludes with a bibliography of recommended print sources and Web sites for students. An introductory overview of Congressional legislation on the First Amendment, followed by a detailed timeline of milestones in the history of Congressional legislation on First Amendment issues, put the topic in historical context for students. An appendix of tables of the statutes and cases with complete citations will aid student researchers.

Excerpt

Most of the Founding Fathers who met at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 probably anticipated that the legislative branch would be the most powerful of the three branches of the national government that they created. For all practical purposes, this was the only branch of government with which the onetime colonists had experience under the Articles of Confederation. Moreover, the delegates discussed this branch first and at greatest length at the convention, the dispute over representation in this body was one of the convention’s most contentious issues, and the Founding Fathers made it the subject of the first and longest article of the new Constitution.

With the president elected indirectly through an electoral college and the members of the Supreme Court appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate and serving for life terms, the framers of the Constitution had little doubt that Congress— and especially the House of Representatives, whose members were directly elected by the people for short two-year terms—would be closest to the people. As a consequence, they invested Congress with the awesome “power of the purse” that had been at issue in the revolutionary dispute with Great Britain, where the colonists’ position had been encapsulated in the phrase “no taxation without representation.” the framers also entrusted Congress with the more general right to adopt laws to carry out a variety of enumerated powers and other laws “necessary and proper” to the implementation of these powers—the basis for the doctrine of implied powers.

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