In Amendment I of the Bill of Rights, we read:
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.
This is the oft misinterpreted part of the U.S. Constitution in regards to the separation of church and state. At this time, I will not address the misapplication of this amendment to prevent any public demonstration of Christianity. The part I want to focus on now is the freedom of the press.
The freedom of the press has been wrongly applied in today’s society as well. Today, people think the newspaper reporters and TV crews should be granted unrestricted access to just about everything. This was not the intent of the First Amendment. In fact, it probably wasn’t even a consideration. Our founding fathers passed the First Amendment because of religious concerns. They did not want to establish a federal church like the Church of England (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion). As part of this concern, Baptist preachers wanted to be able to preach the gospel without being arrested as they frequently were during colonial times (…or abridging the freedom of speech). They also wanted freedom to print Bibles and Gospel tracts – which is what “freedom of the press” was intended to protect. Freedom of the press was not meant as a protection to newspapers, magazines, radio, or television. Baptists wanted protection from the government so they could print the Bible and print Gospel tracts.
We need to understand the U.S. Constitution based on what the writers intended – not based on what it means to us today.