First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center

To reach a First Amendment Center staffer, call 615/727-1600.

First Amendment Center fact sheet

First Amendment Center
at Vanderbilt University
1207 18th Ave. S.
Nashville, TN 37212
Tel: 615/727-1600
Fax: 615/727-1319

First Amendment Center/Washington
555 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: 202/292-6288
Fax: 202/292-6295

The First Amendment Center works to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government.

The First Amendment Center, with offices at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., is an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute. Its affiliation with Vanderbilt University is through the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. Its offices on the Vanderbilt campus are located in the John Seigenthaler Center.

The center’s programs provide education and information to the public and groups including First Amendment scholars and experts, educators, government policy makers, legal experts and students. The center is nonpartisan and does not lobby or litigate.

The center’s Web site,, is one of the most authoritative sources of news, information and commentary in the nation on First Amendment issues. It features daily updates on news about First Amendment-related developments, as well as information and detailed reports about U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the First Amendment, and commentary, analysis and special reports involving free expression, press freedom and religious-liberty issues.

Charles Overby is Freedom Forum chairman and chief executive officer. Gene Policinski is vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center.

The First Amendment Center, founded by John Seigenthaler, was created on Dec. 15, 1991, the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The center has had three executive directors: From 1992 to 1997, Paul K. McMasters, later First Amendment ombudsman for the Freedom Forum and now retired; from 1997 to 2004, Ken Paulson, now editor of USA Today and a Freedom Forum trustee; and Policinski, appointed in 2004.

The center’s Vanderbilt campus offices opened in 1993 in a new building funded by a $2 million grant from the Freedom Forum. The building, which also houses VIPPS, incorporated the former residence of the president of Peabody College, now a part of Vanderbilt University. Work was completed in November 2001 on an $8 million building expansion, which is home to offices and classrooms of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute and administrative offices of the Freedom Forum.

In remarks on Dec. 15, 1991, announcing the creation of the First Amendment Center, Seigenthaler said it would be “a catalyst for study … of the values of free expression and religious liberty protected by the First Amendment.”

See FAQs about the First Amendment Center.

For more information: See First Amendment Center programs.

  • Map to First Amendment Center, Nashville, Tenn.

    Executive staff & contacts
    Vice president and executive director: Gene Policinski
    Founder: John Seigenthaler
    Freedom Forum chairman and chief executive officer: Charles L. Overby
    Press contact: Office of the executive director, 615/727-1600

    Other staff

    Religious liberty
    Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar

    Legal research
    Tiffany Villager, director/First Amendment studies

    David L. Hudson Jr., First Amendment scholar, 615/727-1600

    The First Amendment Library
    Ronald K.L. Collins, First Amendment scholar

    Web site
    Brian J. Buchanan, managing editor

    (Note to First Amendment attorneys: The Newseum is looking for actual items that were at the center of First Amendment legal cases, such as T-shirts, protest posters, censored newspapers/magazines, records, etc. If you have an artifact that you think might be suitable, please contact Carrie Christofferson.)

  • print this   Print

    Last system update: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 16:51:00
    About this site
    About the First Amendment
    About the First Amendment Center
    First Amendment programs
    State of the First Amendment

    First Reports
    Supreme Court
    First Amendment publications
    First Amendment Center history
    Freedom Sings™
    First Amendment

    Congressional Research Service reports
    Guest editorials
    FOI material
    The First Amendment

    Lesson plans
    Contact us
    Privacy statement
    Related links