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Sunshine Week — the time set aside to celebrate freedom, openness and transparency in our democracy — is a wonderful time to pause for a brief reminder about our rights as Americans.

How brief?

Just 45 words.

It’s called the First Amendment.

Congress passed the measure on Sept. 25, 1789, and it was ratified on Dec. 15, 1791. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution form the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment 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.”

The wording is sweeping, inclusive and straightforward, and it protects each of us.

It doesn’t differentiate by nation of origin, gender or color of skin.

It doesn’t differentiate by political party.

It guarantees freedom for all, and is a basic tenet of the democracy that makes America truly exceptional.

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At a time when the president of the United States insists on framing journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” the framers of the Constitution had a different view of a free press.

The same constitutional right that the president exercises when he speaks — or Tweets — his mind protects all of us when it comes to faith, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Freedom depends on openness — a concept too often attacked by legislators who would prefer the public didn’t know what government is up to.

The First Amendment has been a bedrock of our nation for 225 years.

But we dare not take it for granted. We need to guard it and celebrate it — not just during Sunshine Week, but every day.


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