First Amendment: Freedom of Speech • Congress shall make no law… “abridging the FREEDOM OF SPEECH” • In the United States we each have the right to speak our mind (within some broad limits). A Balance • In their attempt to draw the line separating permissible from impermissible speech, judges have had to balance freedom of expression against competing values like – Public order – National security – and the right to a fair trial Principles of Free Speech • Types of Speech – Pure speech: only spoken words • Ex. Debates and public meetings • Given greatest protection – Speech-plus: speech combined with action • Ex. Demonstrations and picketing • speech is generally protected, action may be regulated – Symbolic speech: conduct that conveys a message in itself, without spoken word • Ex. Displaying a communist flag, wearing an armband • Some is protected, some isn’t Flag Burning • Burning the American flag is a form of protected symbolic speech. • The Supreme Court upheld that right in a 5-4 decision in Texas v. Johnson (1989). Limits on Free Speech • Obscenity – anything that depicts sex or nudity in a way that violates society’s standards of decency – Difficult to define because public standards vary from time to time, place to place, and person to person • Defamation – damaging another person’s reputation through false information – Libel is a written statement that defames the character of a person. – Slander is spoken words that defame the character of a person. – In the United States, it is often difficult to prove libel or slander, particularly if “public persons” or “public officials” are involved. • Fighting Words – abusive or insulting language that “have a direct tendency to cause acts of violence” – Hate speech – should it be protected or not? • Imminent Lawless Action – speech cannot be punished, even when it advocates illegal action, unless it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and is likely to do so • Public Forums – Places such as a street or park that is traditionally used for freedom of speech – Time, place, and manner: government can regulate where, when, and how freedom of speech may be exercised • Speech in Schools – Teachers and students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” – Free speech can be limited if students’ actions would “materially or substantially disrupt” the school’s educational purpose – Free speech can be limited if it is vulgar and lewd and undermines the school’s basic educational mission – Schools can control expression that people might believe the school has endorsed • Prior Restraint – a government action that prevents material from being published. • The Supreme Court has generally struck down prior restraint of speech and press (Near v. Minnesota, 1931). • In NYT v. United States (1971) the Court ruled that the publication of the top-secret Pentagon Papers could not be blocked.