First Amendment Information
"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."
Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the National Park Service still retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent conflict among park visitors. Therefore, the National Park Service establishes guidelines for setting the time, place and manner (number of participants, use of facilities and type of equipment) for the events to occur.
Types of First Amendment Activities
By law, the National Park Service has established places in parks where First Amendment activities can be accommodated. These areas are visible to the general visiting public without interfering with the public's enjoyment of the park. These areas are identified in the Superintendent's Compendium
. While the National Park Service regulates aspects of the activity to protect park resources, it never regulates the content of the message.
- Permits are issued for First Amendment activities, but there are no fees or costs, and no insurance is required for the activities.
- All requests for similar activities are treated equally. As long as permit criteria and requirements are met, no group wishing to assemble lawfully will be discriminated against or denied the right of assembly.
Type of Activities that are NOT covered by the First Amendment
- Religious services or ceremonies
- Press conference
- Press coverage of breaking news
- Voter registration
- Collecting signatures on petitions or voter initiatives
- Public demonstration, picketing, assembly or rally for expressing opinion and views
- Sale or distribution of printed material related to free expression of opinion
- Church picnic or social gathering
- Wedding ceremonies or receptions
- Political fund raiser or other invitation-only political activity or event
- Solicitation of donations
- Community parades, athletics, or sporting events
- Sale of message-bearing clothing, arts and crafts, or similar merchandise
Many of these activities can be accommodated through the Special Use Permit system
for which a fee may be charged. Liability insurance is required. Call the Park's Permit Office for assistance and additional information at (301)745-5815.