“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.”
In sum, this means that you have the right to speak out, to express yourself, to associate, and to assemble. There are also freedoms read into the First Amendment, and the greater Constitution, that are not explicitly found in the document. On that subject, Justice McReynolds once wrote that ‘liberty’, “…denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
For instance, you are generally not protected from arrest, prosecution, and/or potential civil liability, if you:
But these are often fact intensive determinations. The Government has a long history of attempting to intimidate, bully, and silence those who wish to speak out. This is particularly true when the dissenting speech is political in nature. Protecting dissenting opinions and ideas about the political system is exactly what the framers of the Constitution wrote the First Amendment to protect. As Justice Holmes so eloquently stated almost a century ago “[t]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”
The key is to understand both the broad protections provided by the First Amendment, and its limitations. If in your lawful exercise of those rights you find yourself afoul of the law, it is imperative, and ironic, that you immediately assert your rights to remain silent, and then for an attorney well versed in Free Speech litigation.