Many Americans know about Second Amendment gun rights, but how many understand citizens’ First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution? The Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 37% of Americans couldn’t name any of the five rights protected by the First Amendment, which protects citizens from any government-established religion and prohibits a ban on any particular religion. No one can legally be forced to become a Christian or be prevented from being a Muslim.

The First Amendment also gives people the right to free speech, a free press, the right to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The president may not legally stop people from gathering in protest groups against his policies, “taking a knee” as a protest, criticizing him on television, or mocking him on late-night shows. He has no legal right to stop newspapers from publishing factual articles which make him look bad; and he cannot legally block any Americans from his Twitter account.

U.S. Reps. llhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and President Trump all have the exact same free-speech rights.

Leaders of enemy countries, such as Russia and North Korea, prohibit free speech and heavily censor their press. President Trump also apparently wants to silence everyone who disagrees with him. But the U.S. Constitution forbids it.

People who wave the Constitution while trying to silence the free speech of those on the political “other side” should re-read the First Amendment to that same Constitution.

Ellen Field, New Gloucester

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