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About First Amendment Center Online

Welcome to the First Amendment Center’s Web site, featuring comprehensive research coverage of key First Amendment issues and topics, daily First Amendment news, a unique First Amendment Library and guest analyses by respected legal specialists.

Who operates this site
The First Amendment Center, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and in Arlington, Va. (see About the First Amendment Center), operates this Web site. See FAQs about the First Amendment Center.

Copyright the First Amendment Center. The text and images on this Web site are copyrighted and may not be reposted, republished, copied or reproduced without permission. Where an Associated Press byline appears, copyright is held by The Associated Press. First Amendment Center Online cannot give permission to reproduce Associated Press material. Nat Hentoff, likewise, holds the copyright to his bylined articles. Although you cannot copy the text and repost or reproduce it elsewhere, you may link to any page on this site without asking permission.

See more information below on using material from this site.

Regarding legal advice
This site offers news and information on how the courts understand and apply the First Amendment in various types of situations. It offers general information on First Amendment issues with the understanding that the authors are not providing legal advice or other professional services. The First Amendment Center and its Web site cannot provide legal advice, representation or funding for litigation. For answers to specific legal questions or concerns about a legal incident or issue, consult a qualified, licensed attorney in your community. Martindale, Findlaw and other online legal services offer ways to find specialized lawyers by locale.

How to use this site

Research information
The research materials on this site are organized by topic under the five freedoms of the First Amendment: speech, press, religious liberty, assembly and petition.

For a list of all of our topics, see the red "First Amendment topics" graphic on the home page. From there you can reach either the entire list or just those topics under one of the freedoms.

Within each topic you will generally find several subtopics. For example, if you are interested in student expression in the public schools, you’ll see an overview of that issue in general along with a number of important aspects — dress codes, student newspapers, yearbooks, clubs and more.

The information in the topics and subtopics is updated as needed. Topics will grow in number as news and legal developments warrant.

Keep in mind that many First Amendment issues overlap. To return to the example of public school free expression, you’ll find information about student religious expression in the religious-liberty section.

The First Amendment research material on this site is written by First Amendment Center staff and guest analysts.

Each subtopic includes one or more Frequently Asked Questions, available through a button so labeled. All of the subtopic FAQs are gathered in the main topic FAQ area.

FAQs will be added as needed. If you have an idea for an FAQ, please send it to the editors.

Cases & resources
First Amendment-related Supreme Court and lower court cases are mentioned throughout the site. They appear within individual research articles and news stories, as well as in lists found at the buttons labeled Cases & resources. As with the FAQs, the smaller lists of Cases & resources in the subtopics are combined in the topic page Cases & resources area.

Whenever possible, cases are linked within articles and lists to more information contained within the site’s First Amendment Library. Available information about any case may be a link to a case summary on another site, a case summary within the First Amendment Library itself, links to related analyses and/or other articles, and other information.

"Resources" may include traditional bibliographic information along with links to other Web sites and online materials.

First Amendment Library
This online library aspires to become the preeminent clearinghouse for information concerning the five First Amendment freedoms — speech, press, assembly, petition and religion. A vast array of judicial, legislative, historical, analytical, journalistic, editorial and other material has been collected and organized, including, for the first time, all of the First Amendment opinions of the Supreme Court.

A directory for the two main categories of materials (Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion) in the online library will help the user identify subjects of interest and thereby navigate accordingly. The library search engine can also assist users.

The First Amendment Docket Sheet, which is updated regularly and archived yearly, provides current information related to the Supreme Court’s work concerning freedom of expression and religion.

The First Amendment Center posts daily news stories by the Associated Press on a variety of First Amendment issues. First Amendment Center staff edit the AP stories, at times amplifying explanations of First Amendment topics.

After posted news items disappear from the home page, they can still be seen for a time at the "More news" link. Even when they are no longer visible on that page, however, they can be found through the site’s search engine. (See the More link near the search bar for information on getting the best search results.) To look for news stories that pertain only to speech, press or one of the other five freedoms, use the "Browse" feature on the "More news" page.

News-story updates
Depending on the nature of the later development, Associated Press and First Amendment Center Online staff-written news stories may be updated either with completely new stories or with editor's notes in italics at the top. When a new story updates a previous item, you will see an "Update" header toward the bottom of the older story. The newer story will link back to the older under a "Previous" header.

Related stories
At the bottom of news stories, you’ll often see headline links labeled "Related." A "Related" story is not an update (see above) but rather a story about a similar subject that may interest you.

Analysis and commentary
The First Amendment Center’s columnists, Gene Policinski and Charles C. Haynes, alternately write a weekly commentary called Inside the First Amendment. David L. Hudson Jr. and Ronald K.L. Collins frequently write analyses and commentaries. Douglas Lee also writes commentaries.

Regular analyses of First Amendment-related Supreme Court rulings are provided by Tony Mauro, a legal correspondent for the First Amendment Center. Mauro’s articles are generally posted on the site within a day of a Supreme Court decision, in addition to an AP news story about the case.

The Associated Press also offers occasional analyses of First Amendment developments.

Using material from
The First Amendment Center Online presents news stories by the Associated Press concerning First Amendment issues by paid permission. We do not hold the rights to Associated Press material. We do hold the rights to material under other bylines. We do not post unsolicited material. The contents of this Web site are copyrighted but are available for use under certain conditions:

  1. Articles carrying an Associated Press byline may not be reproduced electronically or copied in quantities. You may link to them or quote brief passages from them, crediting the Associated Press. The First Amendment Center has purchased the right to publish Associated Press material, but cannot give permission for others to do so. See the Associated Press for all information and inquiries concerning AP material, including photos.
  2. Articles with bylines (or that have no byline) may be printed out and copied in quantity for educational use. Please do not electronically copy articles onto another Web site, as the material may change in subsequent updating.
  3. If you wish to reprint an article in a publication, or use an image, please get in touch with the First Amendment Center using this e-mail form and specify the material you are interested in.

Send us your thoughts
We will continually update, add and improve material and functions on this site. If you have any questions, suggestions or problems, please contact us.


Brian J. Buchanan, managing editor/online

For press inquiries:
Contact Gene Policinski, vice president/executive director, First Amendment Center

Nashville, Tenn., offices
Nikki Troia, news editor
Eugenia Harris, assistant news editor
Tiffany Villager, director/First Amendment studies
David L. Hudson Jr., First Amendment scholar

Washington, D.C., offices
Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar
Ronald K.L. Collins, First Amendment scholar
Brian Nishimura Lee, Web developer/senior programmer
Brian Frickert, programmer


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