I feel there needs to be some clarification when it comes to discussing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which is as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
One might take notice that this restriction of power applies to Congress (and thus the federal government) but does not apply to the states.
So people should not only look to the United States Constitution when it comes to freedom of speech, the press, assembly, petitioning the government, and religion, but they should also examine each states’ constitution.
For the most part, each of the state constitutions guarantees these rights listed in the First Amendment. Some of these constitutions also guarantee other rights mentioned in the Constitution, e.g. trial by jury, ex post facto laws, habeas corpus, excessive bail, cruel & unusual punishments, and search & seizure.
The Kentucky State Constitution is a case in point, and states the following in regards to such rights:
- The right of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences.
- The right of freely communicating their thoughts and opinions.
- The right of assembling together in a peaceable manner for their common good, and of applying to those invested with the power of government for redress of grievances or other proper purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.
In addition, the Kentucky State Constitution further discusses some of these rights, e.g. religious freedom, freedom of the speech, and of the press. It also guarantees the rights mentioned in the United States Constitution, e.g. search & seizure, the right to a trial by jury, cruel & unusual punishment, ex post facto laws, habeas corpus, double jeopardy.
Meanwhile, the right to bear arms is not only guaranteed in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, but also in nearly every state constitution. The Virginia State Constitution is a case in point, with wording similar to that of the Second Amendment.
So when a state and/or local official decides to infringe upon the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assembly, the right to petition the government, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, etc., don’t just rely on the United States Constitution to point out that his or her actions are unconstitutional. You should also read the constitution of your respective state, and point out the rights that are guaranteed by it to your state and/or local official(s).