First Amendment remains vital after 219 years

What sprang to life from a quill pen but helps ensure that people can explore cyberspace?

What thoroughly secular instrument nevertheless ranks as one of organized religion’s greatest allies?

What’s old and wrinkled yet still relevant well into its third century?

It’s the First Amendment, contradictions and all, and today it celebrates a birthday of sorts.

On Dec. 15, 1791, the state of Virginia ratified the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Virginia’s ratification meant that a majority of states had endorsed the Amendment’s protection of essential rights, including the freedom to express oneself, the freedom to worship, the freedom to disseminate news and the freedom to seek redress from the government.

It’s hard for us to imagine, but there was a time when a guarantee of such basic human rights was actually a novelty.

More than 200 years later, this inspired document continues to play a vital role in how we live. Every time you speak your mind, attend church or read a newspaper (or scan a blog), remember that the First Amendment stands guard over your ability to do these things without government interference.

For that reason and more, we offer a tip of the cap to the 1 For All campaign supported by the First Amendment Center, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and other organizations. It’s a continuous effort to remind people why the First Amendment deserves our appreciation as well as our protection.

And don’t let those 219 birthdays fool you. With every new day, the First Amendment is just getting started.