Tip Sheet

Tip sheet on how to practice and protect your First Amendment rights

If you use a screen reader, you can get the First Amendment text-only tip sheet here.

The First Amendment offers a blanket of protection to people in the United States. Here are some important tips that everyone should know.

Freedom of speech: 

  • Know it: The government cannot restrict your right to speak, regardless of what you have to say.
  • Practice it: Political speech is considered highly protected, and even hate speech is covered. However, other types of speech remain unprotected, such as obscenity, fraud, defamation, and incitement to violence.
  • Protect it: While it’s true that the First Amendment protects your speech from government restrictions, private organizations can make up their own rules.

Freedom of religion

  • Know it: You can have whatever religious or non-religious beliefs you like and practice accordingly, so long as it doesn’t break the law or interfere with someone else’s liberties. 
  • Practice it: Praying in public schools is A-OK. Under the First Amendment, students have the right to pray as long as they aren’t being disruptive.
  • Protect it: The government is not allowed to persecute you over your exercise of religion. 

Freedom of assembly:

  • Know it: Also known as the freedom of association, it protects people’s right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue, and defend common interests. 
  • Practice it: You’re allowed to join the association of your choosing.
  • Protect it: Know that you can gather in public places free from government interference. 

Freedom of the press:

  • Know it: Journalists can report on the news without government control.
  • Practice it: Student journalists are also covered by this First Amendment freedom. 
  • Protect it: Fight back against government censorship. You’re allowed to publish stories that are critical of government institutions, including your own university. 

Freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances: 

  • Know it: The right to petition lets you appeal to the government to change its policies without reprisal or punishment. 
  • Practice it: Thanks to this freedom, you can peacefully protest, picket, lobby, write letters, publicly testify, file lawsuits, collect signatures, launch email campaigns, and support referenda. 
  • Protect it: Understand that you’re free to speak up for legislation you support or speak out against something you think is wrong.