Freethought Day is October 12, the annual observance by freethinkers and secularists of the anniversary of the effective end of the Salem Witch Trials. The seminal event connected to Freethought Day is a letter written by then Massachusetts Governor William Phips in which he wrote to the Privy Council of the British monarchs, William and Mary, on this day in 1692. In this correspondence he outlined the quagmire that the trials had degenerated into, in part by a reliance on "evidence" of a non-objective nature and especially "spectral evidence" in which the accusers claimed to see devils and other phantasms consorting with the accused. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance-
unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the
prevailing climate of opinion, have the full protection of the
guarantees (of the First Amendment).
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
America is a country with a First Amendment, and you're allowed to
publish just about anything you want, as long as it's not real secret
information. Of course, nobody really does that except for, you know,
you guys in the media.
An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is
what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment.
First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to
control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The
right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected
from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.
For the First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and
government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left
free from the other within its respective sphere.
I can only assume that your editorial writer tripped over the First
Amendment and thought it was the office cat.
If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no
business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may
read or what films he may watch.
If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the
government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because
society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
If you're not going to offend somebody you don't need the First
In Cyberspace, the First Amendment is a local ordinance.
-John Perry Barlow
In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the
protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy.
The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's
power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain
forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that
it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a
free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in
It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile,
contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. Ma'am, trying to have a
conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table: I
have no interest in doing it.
It is true that many Americans find the (Ten) Commandments in accord
with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing
the First Amendment.
-Sandra Day O'Connor
People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey
schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not
scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about
the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate
ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Privacy is not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution as freedom of
speech is in the First Amendment.
Surely they knew that the very idea of the future came in an American
box- complete with instructions for assembling a Constitution, a
MacDonald's hamburger franchise, a row of Marriot hotels and a First
-Lewis H. Lapham
The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That
wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the
The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the
point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation
to tolerate speech.
The First Amendment is truly the heart of the Bill of Rights. The
Framers balanced its freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and
petition against the needs of a powerful central government, and decided
that in those freedoms lies this nation's only true security. They were
not afraid for men to be free. We should not be.
The First Amendment says nothing about your getting paid for saying
anything. It just says you can say it. I don't believe that if a
corporation pulls all the money out of you or a network pulls their
money away or you get fired, you're being censored.
The First Amendment was designed to protect offensive speech, because
nobody ever tries to ban the other kind.
The word 'security' is a broad, vague generality whose contours should
not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First
Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the
expense of informed representative government provides no real
We must remember the First Amendment which protects any shrill jackass
no matter how self-seeking.
When they took the fourth amendment, I was silent because I don't deal
drugs. When they took the sixth amendment, I kept quiet because I know
I'm innocent. When they took the second amendment, I said nothing
because I don't own a gun. Now they've come for the first amendment, and
I can't say anything at all.
(October 12 is also the birthday of Dick Gregory.)