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Modification of the 1st Amendment

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/23/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,117 times Debate No: 20605
Debate Rounds (5)
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Recently, The First amendment has come to my attention as a right that is frequently abused. There are many religious, political, and environmental groups that have overstepped their boundaries and have gone from advocating "better" lifestyles to taking drastic measures and almost attacking other groups of people who seem to disagree with their view on the world, politics, religion, etc. It is one thing to express a view based on ones judgement but it is another to mentally abuse and demean people who disagree with your view. A recent BBC Documentary I viewed supplied fuel for my debate and I believe it is also an important topic for discussion, the documentary is called "The Most Hated Family In America" and I will reference it in my argument. Many issues involving the amendments are often ignored or overlooked because many abhor the fact of possibly limiting the civil liberties of the people. However, I believe there can be a way to restrict this amendment without taking away the rights we all reserve. I have done much research on this topic and am interested in debating and discussing the pros and cons of this and hearing what all have to say in regards to this topic!

First round acceptance, five rounds total. - this is the link for the documentary if you'd like to get an idea of what I am referring to.


This is a very interesting topic and I accept. I will debate that the 1st Amendment should not be modified.
Debate Round No. 1


Here goes- When I was required to view this BBC news report on the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, I was disgusted by the extremist actions against homosexuals and those who fought for our country and continue to fight. Members of the congregation constantly picket funerals of the fallen heroes holding signs such as "Pray for more dead soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11". As members of the military processed out, the picketers yelled demeaning things to them. This is only one example of how Freedom of Speech and the right to protest is abused, and it is my personal opinion that there should be certain laws passed that restrict people not from expressing their beliefs, but from projecting their views on others using almost inhumane approaches.

Like anything else, there are boundaries and limitations that one would expect to go unsaid and never overstepped- however, often times people tend to challenge these invisible lines in order to get their points across. Although we reserve the right to assemble and petition the government, I still believe that this can all be done without targeting people and displaying hateful messages. Petitioning has become a popular way to show disapproval and disagreement with someone or something, and, if we can't do so rationally, then how is it fair to expect the government to give us what we petition for? That being said, I believe that by setting restrictions, the right will still remain- however, people will be directed by the new limits to act out in a rational way. I cannot stand there and watch them picket a fallen soldiers funeral with signs such as "Thank God for IED's" (improvised explosive device's)- they may reserve the right to believe, preach and protest the government- but they should NOT reserve the right to attack a certain person who has been associated with helping the country and government. Although this is a specific example, I do believe there should generally be a limit set as to regulate this issue. I feel as though if it is not addressed in the near future, it will only get worse and become more difficult to control.

That being said, how can one limit the first amendment without taking away a person's rights? For one, the law does state that there are limitations, however, they are rarely implemented in situations involving ones freedoms. This would include, slander, libel and obscenities. Through the example of the Westboro Baptist Church, it is clear that although these limitations have been "set" they have yet to be put into action. In one instance, the leader of this church recorded a video where he called upon a man he knew and condemned him to hell, saying "at 88 graham will soon die and split hell wide open. And Westboro Baptist Church will picket your funeral." - and then posted this on the internet. If there are laws against nudity on websites and certain restrictions set on that, then there should also be laws against condemning others and professing the belief that they do not deserve to live. If the world has come to arguments that consist of hatred and ignorance, then how can anything be achieved? I do think that people achieve more when they are rational and understanding. Therefore, the first amendment should be restricted not to prevent people from expression- but to prevent them from the when, the where and the how. By doing this, appropriate actions will be taken to help better society and the country as a whole.

By gathering some information from the source above, it is clear that freedom of speech is very valuable, yet, like anything else, there needs to be rules set.


Petitioning has become a popular way to show disapproval and disagreement with someone or something, and, if we can't do so rationally, then how is it fair to expect the government to give us what we petition for?

I fail to see where Pro showed any evidence of anyone doing anything irrationally.

Here goes- When I was required to view this BBC news report on the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, I was disgusted by the extremist actions against homosexuals and those who fought for our country and continue to fight. Members of the congregation constantly picket funerals of the fallen heroes holding signs such as "Pray for more dead soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11".

Just because you were disgusted doesn’t mean that 1. Your view is morally superior or 2. Writing a law would have the desired effect.

There is no way to modify the constitution and only affect the WBC

A constitutional amendment would have consequences far beyond silencing the WBC.

State laws already restrict funeral protesting

Numerous states have enacted laws that protect grieving families. Illinois passed the “Let them Rest in Peace” act, which makes it illegal to protest a funeral within 300 feet.

Concerned Citizens defend grieving families without the laws

Patriotic Motorcycle clubs are invited to the funerals, they then form a line and each hold huge American flags which block the WBC protestors from the sight of the grieving families. This action is of the highest moral order because it a decision made without any laws, whereas a law uses violence and the threat of violence to accomplish the same goal.

Debate Round No. 2


I failed to see any depth in your argument. If one is disgusted with the way something is going then, yes, it does make sense for them to seek some sort of action to better it. So how few states have passed that law? If it was an imminent issue it should be addressed within each state. I used the Westboro Baptist church as an example, this is not to say they are the only example out there. Do we have to keep going back and forth between protesting and the protectors, as you listed in your example, fighting to be seen and unseen, until it is made right? How does that solve anything?

There may be people who are making a conscious effort to do the best they can to prevent such a hateful action, however, it is still occurring. The patriot guards are secondary. The only logical way to end anything is to go to the source. Nothing will be solved if we deal with the secondary symptoms of the actions of the Westboro Baptist protesters and others.

Nothing is ever completely "settled" however, I am not proposing a threat to anyone's personal rights- I am only suggesting that steps are made. One can pass laws and make rules and restrictions, but what good do they perform for society if they are not implemented?

Also "a law uses violence and the threat of violence to accomplish the same goal." That of restrain more so then violence, if they have to restrain a person who resists, then they will. The way you stated that makes it seem as though laws advocate violence.. is that really so? No. Laws are put in place to structure society. You don't need to be violent to enforce a law. I fail to see any real evidence on that. Has violence occurred in the past? Of course- but this is not to say that laws are about violence. If that is the perception then it is very skewed. Laws protect our rights- but we must also exercise our rights in a humane way. We cannot expect things to go as stated- we are given these sources, these laws- and how we choose to act on them, if we choose to obey or disobey, that is our choice.

Look what occupied wall street turned into. It started as a protest and became a complete mess. Women were raped, beaten- people had their money and items stolen. I even viewed a news report that mentioned a doctor called in to treat someone within the confines of this "camp" was beaten. This is a perfect example of how out of control things become- extremes like this- diseases, illness ("zuccoti" lung- a serious cough and respiratory virus that many protesters developed) - are not necessary.

Furthermore, I'm not about just affecting the WBC- there are obviously other groups and people who act out in the same manner, and, therefore it would be directly affecting society as a whole. However, this doesn't have to be a negative affect. We have a say in this as a society. Collectively we cause and experience these issues, but we also can solve them. It is not about one person, one group, one people- it is about us, and the ripple effect of ones actions, and how society will began to change based on the leniency of the amendment.


Thank you Pro for your strong spirited anger against the WBC. I think we both disagree with their perversion of Christian doctrine. However, we are debating whether or not the 1st amendment should be modified to prevent them from bothering grieving families. In what world do you thinkyou can prevent hateful action? The problem is not hateful action, the problem is protecting the families from the 1st amendment rights of the WBC without watering down the 1st Amendment.

Many states have already solved the problem with State Laws making them protest at a considerable distance. Nothing is ever settled? Debates get settled here at DDO all the time!What I mean by laws using violence and the threat of violence is simply that to be enforced against someone who does not sanction them requires violence. The FBI, Police, Swat Teams kick in doors for a reason. I contend that the actions of the Patriot Guard are of a higher moral caliber because their actions do not use violence.To rephrase: I think the Patriot Guard's actions to protect grieving families are better than the police throwing the WBC protesters, especially the younger children, in jail.

The 1st Amendmentlimits the power of Congress to infringe on rights, so we should not amend it just because we don't like the actions of a few.

The Supreme Court has already agreed with me:

-- Snyder VS. Phelps --
The "content" of Westboro’s signs plainly relates to public, rather than private, matters. The placards highlighted issues of public import—the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens, the fate of the Nation, homosexuality in the military, and scandals involving the Catholic clergy—and Westboro conveyed its views on those issues in a manner designed to reach as broad a public audience as possible. Even if a few of the signs were viewed as containing messages related to a particular individual, that would notchange the fact that the dominant theme of Westboro’s demonstration spoke to broader public issues...
That is because "speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it isthe essence of self-government." Accordingly, "speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection."

The "leniency" of the 1st Amendment is specific as possible because of the Wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Government is a necessary evil, not a solution to every little problem. A few headcases with signs does not warrant changing the 1st Amendment. I am sad for the people that have to live through the WBC's chicanery, but I would not change the constitution in an effort to prevent it. I would solve it with State Laws, just like State Governments already did. It is interesting that the WBC has more violence inflicted on them than from them. This reinforces the view of the hateful world, but from the Video, many of their members are educated, well adjusted, well spoken, and non-violent.

Debate Round No. 3


Shananas forfeited this round.


Since PRO did not post, in the interests of learning, I am going to paste this from the WBC's official FAQ on their web site.

What would you do if a homosexual attended your church?

Regardless of any person's private conduct, we would do unto them as we would have them do unto us. By a fear of God, we would declare the whole counsel of God to them, lest their blood should be on our hands. We would share the Gospel (good news) with them, and we would treat them like we would treat any other person on this earth. We would treat them with kindness, and follow those scriptural injunctions that require that we preach the gospel to every creature.

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15.

"So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also." Romans 1:15.

"Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel." Romans 15:20.

"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." I Corinthians 1:17.

"For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" I Corinthians 9:16.

There are many more such passages. Knowing always that it is only by the foolishness of preaching that any man is saved, preaching a pure, complete, unvarnished gospel, is our duty, and it is the only hope for salvation. See Galatians 1:9 - "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." and Romans 10:17 - "So, then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Debate Round No. 4


Shananas forfeited this round.


Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 5
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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF