First Amendment Definition

An amendment to the U.S. Constitution that:

  • prohibits the federal and state governments from establishing an official religion (called the "Establishment Clause"), and
  • guarantees:
    • freedom to exercise religion (called the "Free Exercise Clause")
    • the freedom of speech, which encompasses the rights to speak and listen, to form and maintain a system of beliefs, and to associate with others of like mind
    • freedom of the press
    • freedom of assembly, and
    • freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The freedoms of speech, press, and assembly are sometimes more generally referred to as the "freedom of expression."

First Amendment (Congressional Research Service)