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Once more it is appropriate to thank The Times for daily giving us a handy opportunity to read the First Amendment: Check out the upper right-hand corner of the daily Opinion page.

Through our letters, we're in the continuing swirl of the place of Muslims and other religions in America; local politics; alcohol; the president; the governor; and the knowledge of those of us who live in the Southeast. But then, we're always in a swirl of some sort.

Today, as always, our public debate could use more civility, thoughtfulness and tolerance. But thankfully, The Times — more tolerant than some of its readers — allows letters that are and clichéd, self-righteous, ill-informed and downright nasty.

And a good thing, too. Someone is always trying to shut up some one else, someone they disagree with. Some try to shut up the paper on an issue dear to their heart or dear to the money they make. Or maybe they ask the paper to shut out opinions they don't like.

This page gives all of us the opportunity to stir the pot of public opinion, an essential thing in this republic of ours.

For anyone who wants to learn more about why the Founders believed speech and press, along with religion, petition and assembly, should be protected in the First Amendment, the Founder's Constitution offers an excellent website.

The link on the speech and press pieces of the First Amendment contains 33 other links, among them writings from the commentaries of William Blackstone and Joseph Story, and from Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, David Hume, Henry Lee and James Wilson.

The site also includes the full Founder's Constitution, which in its book form runs to five volumes. Every section and clause of all seven articles contains links to writings, commentaries, letters, speeches, resolutions, legislation, court cases and so on.

The U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights are not, of course, the full story on constitutional law and practice, though many of us wish it were a much greater part than what it has become. But the text and the background at this site are good places to begin learning in more detail about the foundations of our liberty and our Federal Republic.

Tack Cornelius

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