The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified by Congress on Dec. 15, 1791.
The amendments limit the power of the federal government and provide protection for such freedoms as free speech, religion and the right to bear arms.
In observance of Independence Day, The Herald-Mail asked local residents to share their feelings on the meaning and importance of the amendments.
Here are their responses, which were compiled by Herald-Mail reporter Maegan Clearwood.
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
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.
Rabbi Fred Raskind
Congregation B’nai Abraham, Hagerstown
Member of Interfaith Coalition
“In my denomination, even in freedom of speech, we have a strong tradition of freedom of the pulpit. Freedom is a two-way street. None are absolute.
“One of the things I like to emphasize with all these rights is there’s responsibility with it. It’s not a license for anything goes. I’m more of a moderate.
“The people’s civil rights must be protected. It’s the foundation of the whole basis of American politics. They have the rights as individuals to practice religion. A lot of countries don’t have that; the government controls elections, for example. We have power of the ballot. It’s important to remember that.
“In Europe in the past, and to some degree the present, they have a lot of state religion. In England, for example, they have the Anglican church. That’s the official church of the country. Chaplains in Germany, I know, are paid by the government.
“That flies in the face of our beliefs of church and state. Autonomy is important. I want people to come to my congregation and my sermons because they choose to, not because it’s politically expedient or the government makes them.”
The Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor
Pastor, Veritas United Church of Christ, Hagerstown
“As an ordained minister, having the freedom of religion is of great importance. Freedom of speech and religion are paramount in a pastor’s role as a spiritual leader in his or her faith community, and as a prophetic leader in the community.
“Are there things we are called to address in our society as we see injustice and oppression? Certainly. There are places where people of faith have been silenced and the church has not been able to speak with the freedom it needed to impact culture.
Remembering the Bill of Rights on Independence Day
Bill of Rights (By Chad Trovinger/Graphic Artist)