First Amendment: The Right To Petition The Government
U.S. citizens can appeal directly to the government for change.
By: Jeff Charles | November 14, 2019 | Tags: First Amendment, Right to Petition 354 Words
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 final right protected by the First Amendment is the freedom to petition the government. The Founding Fathers believed it was necessary for people to have the right to make requests of the government directly.
Freedom Of Petition Overview
By Adam Newton, Contributing Writer
The right of petition is expressly set out in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. from the First Amendment
The petition clause concludes the First Amendments ringing enumeration of expressive rights and, in many ways, supports them all. Petition is the right to ask government at any level to right a wrong or correct a problem.
Although a petition is only as meaningful as its response, the petitioning right allows blocs of public interests to form, harnessing voting power in ways that effect change. The right to petition allows citizens to focus government attention on unresolved ills provide information to elected leaders about unpopular policies expose misconduct, waste, corruption, and incompetence and vent popular frustrations without endangering the public order.
Yet the petition clause seems to strike most courts and legal commentators as obvious and uninteresting. While citizens and litigants invoke the First Amendment to secure Internet freedom, undisturbed worship, or a robust press, petitioning rights dont seem to attract much controversy any more.
Some historyOn July 4, 1776, the countrys Founders adopted a famous statement of principles and list of grievances, declaring that:
But the 200 years since belie Henrys mocking denigration of the petition clause.
Petitioning The Government Is Incredibly Important
It is incredibly important that citizens have their voices heard. Oftentimes, elected representatives and other officials ignore the issues most important to us. By petitioning the government, citizens can bring these important issues into the spotlight for voters to decide on. The ability to petition the government is a crucial part of our democracy and no one should infringe upon this right.
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Biden Disables Online Petitions
On January 20, 2021, the day President Joe Biden took office, the We the People web pages address started redirecting to the White House’s website home address. First reported by the anti-imperialist website antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute, the circumstances of the online petitioning system were investigated by Newsweek, reporter Mary Ellen Cagnassola, who received no comment from the White House when seeking comment for a fact-checking article on the Ron Paul Institutes claims on the removal. Newsweek states that the We the People system is no longer to be found on the White House website, noting that, The reason behind its removal has not been released.
In reality, the We the People petition system had very little substantive effect during the ten years of its off-and-on operation. Many federal processes and all criminal proceedings were off-limits to prospective petitioners, leaving the system functioning mainly as a public relations tool for citizens to express themselves and communicate their concerns to the White House. Few, if any petitions were acted on, and many frivolous petitions were created, such as the playful 2012 petition calling on the federal government to create a Death Star as an economy-stimulating enterprise.
Whether the Biden Administration will respond to calls to reactivate the online petitioning system remains in question.
Freedom Of Petition And The Nonprofit And Philanthropic Sector
In relation to the connotation that numerous voices are always better than one, it is definitely understandable in the point of view of citizens concerned that they should greatly consider, adapting an approach and methodology that is effective in utilizing a petition.
As an effect, this approach and methodology is more feasible in terms of encouraging individuals to unite for a similar cause, and in return, garnering more signatories that will allow the cause to reach the direction of realization.
As a means of emphasis, the nonprofit community plays a dynamic role in rendering a petition to the national government by direct means and provision of an organized medium that will enjoin citizens together, in order to render support to certain causes and on the contrary, may petition practices that are in violation to their supported cause, respectively.
On a larger scale and on a later part, if a concerned individual alone has that innate capability of garnering a hundred or more individuals to join him or her in a petition that is in response or against a specific government practice, it will definitely benefit and catapult him or her to a position wherein he or she has a trademark of influencing people.
On the basis of building a specific perspective, a change and transformation will be noticed vividly, should the individual participate and become a duly authorized member of a nonprofit organization, wherein its members are in full support of a similar cause.
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A Brief History Of The First Amendment Right To Petition Government
Imagine rebuilding Congress’ interactions with the American people in ways that:
- Embrace and facilitate First Amendment rights
- Support and enhance Congress’ Article I role in our democracy
- Inform the legislative process without overwhelming Congress with volume
- Prioritize substance over quantity
- Increase the visibility, transparency, and accountability of advocacy and
- Allow for different channels of communication, with clear purpose and instructions for each.
Congress can build such a system. In fact, it had a robust system that accomplished most of these things during its early years. It was the process guaranteed by the First Amendment right to petition government for a redress of grievances, and managing it was originally Congress’ primary activity. The petition laid the foundation for seminal legislation such as the abolition of slavery and the granting of women’s suffrage. It is also part of the reason Congress has committees and the reason many government entities, including the Patent and Trademark Office, Bureau of Pensions, Board of Patents, and Interstate Commerce Commission exist.
The New Zealand House of Representatives offers a helpful example of what the petition, as it was facilitated in early America, might look like in modern practice. Commonwealth country parliaments still process petitions much the way Congress used to, but the New Zealand House offers the clearest and most user-friendly example online.
The Bill Of Rights: A Transcription
Note: The following text is a transcription of the enrolled original of the Joint Resolution of Congress proposing the Bill of Rights, which is on permanent display in the Rotunda at the National Archives Museum. The spelling and punctuation reflects the original.
On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution. The 1789 Joint Resolution of Congress proposing the amendments is on display in the Rotunda in the National Archives Museum. Ten of the proposed 12 amendments were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures on December 15, 1791. The ratified Articles constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, or the U.S. Bill of Rights. In 1992, 203 years after it was proposed, Article 2 was ratified as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 1 was never ratified.
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How Is It Done
At The Sanders Firm, P.C., we work with those in the New York City area who want to exercise their right to petition to redress for grievances. There are various ways to utilize this basic right. Here are some examples of how citizens work towards instituting change.
The right to petition is often done today by organizations, individual citizens, and professional lobbyists. It takes many forms, including the introduction of bills into state and government legislatures that have first been created through the efforts of private citizens, organizations and others meetings in which people speak with representatives of the various branches of the government to address social, political, and other such issues and causes, and through the courts through various cases such as those focusing on substantive due process.
The right to petition may also be undertaken, as it has at different times in the past, to redress grievances related to civil rights. In our recent history, this has included rights related to same sex marriage and health benefits for same sex couples. Environmental, health, hunger, and many other issues have also been brought to the forefront through this process. In essence, this right to petition is related to freedom of speech.
Debating An Abolition Petition
Southerners in Congress during the 1830s were determined not to allow debate over the possible abolition of slavery. In both the Senate and House of Representatives, they blocked efforts to receive petitions from constituents or voted to table them immediately upon their introduction. The 1836 Senate debate between James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, later the fifteenth President, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, Vice President from 1829 to 1832, reveals the different positions of North and South regarding the meaning of the right to petition.
Mr. Buchanan. The proposition is almost too plain for argument, that, if the people have a constitutional right to petition, a corresponding duty is imposed upon us to receive the petitions. From the very nature of things, rights and duties are reciprocal. The human mind cannot conceive of the one without the other. They are relative terms. If the people have a right to command, it is the duty of their servants to obey. If I have a right to a sum of money, it is the duty of my debtor to pay it to me. If the people have the right to petition their representatives, it is our duty to receive their petition.
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The Constitutional Basis Of The Freedom Of Petition
The Freedom of Petitions section, as legally manifested in the first amendment, which is largely referred as the Petition Clause, states the following three premises:
1. The people of the United States of America have the right to appeal to the American government, either the concerned individuals are duly in favor or against the specific policies that may greatly affect them or in the contrary, may have felt strongly with, personally.
2. The freedom of petition legally states as an inclusion the right to garner signatures which will be in great support to a certain cause and in the longer run, will serve as a lobby that will pave the way for legislative bodies or may hinder due to being against the legislation, respectively.
3. In a simpler meaning, the right to petition provides every American citizen concerned the very right to present their personal or group requests to the American government, without the fear of being led to punishment or reprisal.
This right is absolutely a guarantee as constitutionally stipulated in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Utilizing Your Right To Grieve
At The Sanders Firm, P.C., we work with those who want to exercise their right to petition. If you or your group has a civil rights issue that you feel a need to redress, contact us. Also, if you believe you are in any way being pressured to forego this right by an employer, group, or other entity, we will address this issue too. It is your right, granted by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to petition and seek redress. Contact The Sanders Firm, P.C., we are your voice for justice.
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The Origin Of Petition
The word petition is highly related both to the freedom of petition, as well as with the First Amendment in an in-depth sense, for the reason that the word itself is described as follows:
Any method and approach that is ladened on the dimensional tenet of being non-violent, which legally means encouragement or disapproval of any action performed and initiated by the government, as a direct and immediate response to any of the three branches concerned which are the legislative branch, judicial branch and executive branch.
In addition, the petition clause is heavily provided with the following provisions wherein the freedom of petition can be performed, executed and availed by the change maker and purposefully-driven with the following methodologies, approaches and strategies as follows: letter-writing, filing lawsuits, lobbying, supporting the referendum, testifying before tribunals, email campaigns, peaceful protests and picketing, and most importantly, collecting signatures for ballot initiatives.
Furthermore, the entirety of public articulation should revolve around the presentation of complaints, issues and interests as a specified design that will lead to the direction of spurring any action initiated and performed by the government in terms of being qualified greatly, under the constitutional standards and requirements of the petition clause.
Right To Assemble Right To Petition
The First Amendment protects the freedom to peacefully assemble or gather together or associate with a group of people for social, economic, political or religious purposes. It also protects the right to protest the government.
The right to petition can mean signing a petition or even filing a lawsuit against the government.
Here are landmark Supreme Court decisions related to the First Amendment.
Free Speech & Freedom of the Press:
Schenck v. United States, 1919: In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Socialist Party activist Charles Schenck after he distributed fliers urging young men to dodge the draft during World War I.
The Schenck decision helped define limits of freedom of speech, creating the clear and present danger standard, explaining when the government is allowed to limit free speech. In this case, the Supreme Court viewed draft resistance as dangerous to national security.
New York Times Co. v. United States, 1971: This landmark Supreme Court case made it possible for The New York Times and Washington Post newspapers to publish the contents of the Pentagon Papers without risk of government censorship.
Freedom of Religion:
Right to Assemble & Right to Petition:
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Who Was Petitioning Before Confederation
According to Steven Watt, the majority of petitions were from adult males of European descent, revealing the privileged position they had in society. White men, regardless of their class,could petition these came from the educated, illiterate, poor, wealthy, Loyalist and Reformers. According to historian J.K. Johnson, even illiteracy was not an insuperable barrier since petitions often came from people who could not sign their names.
Black people in British North America also petitioned. For instance, a group of that were deported from Jamaica to in 1796 petitioned authoritiesfor passage to a warmer climate. They even sent petitions to London pleading their case. Four years after their arrival, in August 1800, they finally got their way the Maroons left Nova Scotia for their new home in Sierra Leone. Likewise, in Upper Canada,Richard Pierpoint, a former slave who settled in the colony after the American Revolution, also petitioned colonial authorities. In 1794, he and 18 other Black settlerssent a petition to John Graves Simcoe, pleading that they be allowed to settle land that was next to one another and was also isolated from white communities. They alsoasked to settle an area that was isolated from white communities. Though the petition was rejected, Pierpoint continued to petition colonial authorities first, during the War of 1812for the creation of an all-Black militia and then following the war for passage to his native West Africa .
A Nation Born Of Petition
Our nation exists because of petition. The British crown had repeatedly ignored the American colonies petitions. For many colonists, this was not acceptable. The founders declared independence, saying:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.
Later, the First Amendment specifically protected this freedom the former colonists did not have.
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Petitioning is one of the most common tools of political protest accessible to the local population. Limited during the era of New France, the practice of collectively petitioning political authorities became much more frequent in the years following the Conquest by the British. Sanctioned in the 1689 Bill of Rights, petitioning had been a common practice in Britain for centuries, and ever since 1763, Canadians have been sending petitions to their governments for a variety of reasons. With the recent introduction of e-petition, Canadians, more than ever, can have their voices heard in government.
Karen Williams Refuses To Resign
Two petitions calling for Redland Mayor Karen Williams to be sacked after she crashed her car while under the influence have been signed by more than 4500 people.
Williams – a campaigner against drink driving – admits having several glasses of wine before crashing her car into a tree east of Brisbane on Thursday night.
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Police are investigating the incident and no charges have been laid.
The mayor is resisting growing calls from constituents and state and federal politicians for her to resign.
Local mother Judy Lindsay, whose daughter Hayley was killed in a crash involving a drink-driver in 2009, has started a petition calling for Williams dismissal.
About 1300 people had signed the petition on the state parliament website by Tuesday afternoon.
Queensland residents draw to the attention of the House that the people of Redlands have lost confidence in the Mayor, the petition said.
Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to call upon the Minister for Local Government to dismiss Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams.
A second petition has also been started on Change.Org calling for the mayor to resign or be sacked.
I cannot see how the community can accept this and allow Karen to remain in her position of Mayor, said organiser Rick Young.
If you believe Karen Williams should resign or be stood down. Sign this petition.
AAP has sought comment from Williams.
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