“Defending the First Amendment” is the final program in the June series of DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY. Our moderator, CNN's John Avlon, will be joined by: David Cole, National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who has argued many Supreme Court cases; Ross Douthat, an American conservative political analyst and author who writes a regular column for the New York Times; and Theodore R. Johnson, III, a senior fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Program topic details: Crafted by the First Congress at Federal Hall, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights ensured a range of freedoms that some founders felt were inadequately protected by the language of the Constitution. While the other rights were framed as absolute, the right of the people to assemble was specifically modified by the word "peaceably." The freedom of assembly has perhaps never been the subject of so urgent a debate as during a pandemic in a time of mass protests. Our discussion will tackle such questions as whether local state or federal authorities should drive the decision making, what exceptions should be made for religious liberty – a provision also mandated in the First Amendment, the use of police and the national guard in the context of the right of assembly, and finally the sometimes difficult balance between individual freedom and the common good during a public health crisis. DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY is presented by Federal Hall Conservancy in partnership with New York University and the National Park Service. For more details on DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY, and to see video of the first two programs, visit Federalhall.org.