Vol. 13, No. 7, April 2011
First Amendment Jurisprudence
The First Amendment Center, sponsored by the Freedom Forum and Vanderbilt University, houses both news and analysis regarding First Amendment issues. The Center breaks the First Amendment's freedoms into five categories: speech; press, including freedom of information; religious liberty, combining the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment; assembly and petition. Its First Amendment Library compiles the last ten years of Supreme Court rulings on all First Amendment subjects, as well as listing recent books, news, essays and articles. They publish a yearly "State of the First Amendment" report as well.
The Ellen K. Solender Institute in Free Speech and Mass Media Law is based at Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law. This site provides a wide range of links to First Amendment resources on freedom of the press and freedom of speech, including links to free annotated copies of the First Amendment and summaries of selected cases. There is also a section dedicated to the Freedom of Information Act, an act which allows people to more fully exercise their First Amendment rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the nation’s preeminent non-profit organizations for defending First Amendment rights. They almost invite controversy by intervening for people regardless of political belief, supporting persons from high school students to conservative non-profit corporations. On their website, they identify major issue areas such as “Free Speech” and “Religion and Belief.” Each issue area includes links to news, current cases and court documents filed by the ACLU, blogs from its experts, and more. The issue areas have links to other, similar issue areas, which is very useful for a topic as broad as First Amendment rights.
Thomas More Law Center
On the other end of the “liberal-conservative” spectrum is the Thomas More Law Center, which considers itself a “Christian response to the ACLU.” Focusing on religious, and more specifically Christian, issues, the Thomas More Law Center often supports parties claiming religious discrimination and other claims under the First Amendment. While the Law Center’s scope goes beyond First Amendment concerns, it does consider “Religious Freedom” a key issue. Its documents page is a good source of court filings in the cases which it has taken an interest, including the majority of religion exercise cases today.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) supports the efforts of journalists to exercise their First Amendment rights. One of their greatest contributions is the First Amendment Handbook, now in its seventh edition. The Handbook goes over many of the situations where journalists’ voices may be stifled, such as libel and prior restraint, and succinctly defines what is allowed under current law by citing authoritative cases. The Reading Room has many other guides for reporters in various venues. As there is no clear line between “reporter” and “blogger,” these guides can assist anyone who publishes on the internet.
The Law Library presents these websites not as an endorsement of these organizations or their causes, but as an informational resource.