5 Ways Nonprofits Are Helping Protect the First Amendment
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
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.
This amendment gives anyone in the United States the right to report news and say their opinions without censorship from the government. This seems quite simple, but it can be interpreted many different ways. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has heard hundreds of cases and had to interpret this part of the Constitution over and over again as it applies to different situations.
Especially with the evolution of media and new technology, it’s more important than ever that organizations are working hard to ensure that our freedoms are protected. In order to protect our democracy, American people need to be able to get information and share information freely.
We are highlighting five different ways nonprofits are working on censorship and the freedom of speech and press. You will see examples of organizations doing this important work as well.
Working on Net Neutrality:
With media and technology so much a part of our daily lives now, this organization works hard to sound the alarm if people’s right to connect and communicate are in jeopardy. Net neutrality is one of their main focuses right now. They work to make sure all content and communication is treated equally on the Internet. The ways they are involved include lobbying the government and the FCC, educating the public, and organizing people to advocate themselves.
Incredibly hardworking staff, with a clear mission to defend and preserve important issues that are under more threat than ever before. Whether it is net neutrality, freedom of press, or equitable access to technology for all, the brilliant people at Free Press work tirelessly to help make the world a better place for all of us, one day at a time.
Keeping the Church and State Separate:
Freedom from Religion Foundation
This organization is committed to the principle of separation of state and church. They take legal actions challenging any entanglements of religion and government. They also publish the only freethought newspaper in the U.S. and conduct annual national conventions to get the word out. They have recently gotten into the podcast movement as well, helping amplify different voices and perspectives.
Here is a recent review from one of their board members:
The FFRF (Freedom from Religion Foundation) is an awesome organization. This nonprofit corrects church/state separation problems across the United States, responding to citizens who complain about violations in their own communities. This organization is the height of efficiency. What impresses me the most is how much work they get done and the speed at which they work. They respond almost immediately to any request that is submitted regarding a state/church separation issue. The lawyers get right to work and many times the issue is corrected immediately with just a friendly letter, but if needed the FFRF is ready to take legal action in court. All this is done while keeping costs of running the organization low. They are also involved in charitable giving around the world. I really appreciate all the work and effort put forth by the staff and volunteers of this great organization.
Strengthening Individual Rights & Freedoms Online:
Center for Democracy and Technology
This organization works to define, promote, and influence technology policy. They fight to preserve the unique nature of the Internet and ensure the freedom of expression. Government censorship needs to remain curtailed. The Center for Democracy & Technology fights to allow all people access and the ability to share information of their choosing without harassment. It’s incredibly important work to protect the freedoms of Americans. From speaking to the Senate to educating citizens in many different formats, they are constantly working to protect our rights.
Here is a recent review from someone that has seen them in action:
The Center for Democracy & Technology is one of the very best consumer/citizen advocacy organizations that works to preserve our digital freedoms, from privacy and data protection to fighting for an open Internet. Nuala O’Connor’s recent testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee is an excellent example of the values they are working so hard to uphold. If you care about secure elections, net neutrality, and freedom from government surveillance, they are worth your attention and support.
Protecting the Rights of People Speaking Out About Workplace Wrongdoings:
National Whistleblower Center
Being able to speak out about corruption in the workplace without fear of retaliation is a right that this organization helps protect. For the last 22 years, it has helped advocate for all kinds of people who have come forward. It is not always easy to speak up against a business or corporation, and the NWC knows how to best protect and help. It is able to help find legal assistance as well as offer resources and education for those who speak out.
Here is a review from someone who has worked with them in the past:
I first encountered the National Whistleblower Center in the 1990s as I was exposing issues within the FBI crime laboratory. I have associated with the center ever since that time, serving as a volunteer as well as on the board of directors. The center has an intake service that handles thousands of requests for assistance every year, referring such requests out to attorneys who may be able to help the whistleblowers. When requests cannot be handled whistleblowers are referred to the Whistleblowers Handbook, which can guide them through their next steps in attempting to address the corruption that they wish to address. Whistleblowing can be a successful path but there are many pitfalls unless the whistleblower is assisted by counsel or at the very least has studied the path forward. My case involved my suing President William Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI director Louis Freeh, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. government. One can easily imagine that the task would have been impossible without the assistance of competent counsel. However my lawsuits were all ultimately successful, resulting in admissions by the FBI that there were serious problems in the crime lab that the FBI went on to fix. Today the FBI lab is again one of the premier crime laboratories in the world and is leading the profession on the right path. As time passes individuals falsely accused of crimes based upon FBI crime lab failures are seeing their convictions overturned and are being freed from incarceration. Due to the efforts of counsel and the National Whistleblower Center my family and I were able to move on with our lives without losing everything. Today I practice law in North Carolina and work cases all over the United States as a forensic consultant. Over the years I have seen many whistleblowers who have initially gone to the National Whistleblower Center for assistance successfully make significant changes in our nation while addressing corruption in government as well as private industry.
Teaching Journalists Their Rights:
Student Press Law Center
The SPLC is a nonpartisan organization that works with student journalists in both high school and college and their advisors to ensure their First Amendment rights are protected. They offer tools and resources on their website as well as multiple programs for these students to be prepared and knowledgeable about their rights. There are so many ways that censorship can happen and all journalists need to be aware and help protect their contributions to society.
Here is a story from a high school journalist who benefited from the SPLC’s work:
When my high school newspaper was prevented from publishing an important story, the Student Press Law Center was critical in helping us take action. Without the help of the amazing people at SPLC my staff and I would have been completely lost. With the assistance of the SPLC we were able to take the necessary steps to make sure our story was heard. The SPLC assisted us in filing public record requests and informed us of our legal rights as student journalists, all for free. All of our questions were quickly answered and with extreme detail. The support we received went way beyond our expectations and the SPLC is always my first recommendation to any fellow student journalist struggling with censorship or other legal concerns. I can’t stress enough how amazing the SPLC is and I will always be extremely thankful for the many services they provided me and my staff.
We appreciate the work these nonprofits and many others are doing to make sure that our First Amendment is upheld.