About the Encyclopedia

About the Encyclopedia

In 2009, CQ Press published a two-volume Encyclopedia of the First Amendment. The reference included more than 1,400 essays and entries covering court decisions and doctrines; people, laws and events; and issues and organizations. Totaling more than 700,000 words, the set contained more entries on the First Amendment than any other work of its kind. As its preface says, no other encyclopedia devotes such exhaustive attention to First Amendment freedoms.

In October 2016, Middle Tennessee State University, on behalf of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, purchased the exclusive license to publish and display the work on a new website developed at MTSU. In addition to creating a searchable database of the 1,400 entries, the chair worked with two of the scholars who edited the original work, John R. Vile and David L. Hudson Jr., to update entries and produce new ones to bring the encyclopedia up to date. Dr. Vile is a professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College at MTSU, and Hudson is a former scholar at the First Amendment Center in Nashville who now teaches at the Nashville School of Law and Vanderbilt Law School.

The encyclopedia now has nearly 1,700 entries and is continually growing. 


We are indebted to the original editors of the encyclopedia. In addition to Dr. Vile and Hudson, David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University, also served as editor on the original volumes. We are also indebted to the more than 200 contributors who wrote the original essays and articles. This includes the foreword, "The First Forty-Five Words," by John Seigenthaler, the founder of the First Amendment Center and longtime publisher and editor of The Tennessean. It is fitting that it is Mr. Seigenthaler's Chair at MTSU that has powered this new free digital version of the encyclopedia. Mr. Seigenthaler died in July 2014. We hope that his commitment to the values of free expression is honored and live on through this project.

- Deborah Fisher, Director, John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies

All content original to the Encyclopedia of the First Amendment copyright 2009 by CQ Press, an imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc. Republished by permission of SAGE Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.