Freedom of Speech?

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Randa Nakib
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Essay 1

Freedom Of Speech?

Living in America means that we as citizens of the country have many rights according to the laws stated in the United States Constitution, which stands for our principles and make up the rights that American's deserve. One major freedom we have is stated in The First Amendment: "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." This amendment shows that our government should not be allowed to put limitations on the people's right to express themselves through free speech and religion. We as citizens have the right to voice our opinions as long as we do not cause harm while doing so. This is a reason why many people from around the world choose to come to America, for their right to freedom. The first amendment should apply to everyone who lives in the United States, but in some cases it does not. In a recent case, a teenage boy's right to exercise his freedom of speech was challenged by his high school. He wore an "anti-gay" t-shirt to school on the day of, and also on the day after, the Gay-Straight Alliance group organized a "day of silence". The boy, Tyler Chase Harper, was asked to remove his t-shirt, which he handwrote on the front: "I will not accept what God has condemned," and "homosexuality is a sin", on the back (Soto). Because Harper refused to remove his t-shirt, he was sent to the office by his teacher and had to speak to the principal. He again refused to remove the shirt after meeting with the principal, which resulted in being detained in the front office all day. Also, the year before this, Poway High School had a problem with the "Day of Silence"; this led the students to react by getting into arguments and even some physical confrontations throughout the day. The school district still allowed the Gay-Straight Alliance to have this event the following year, knowing that it could lead to more trouble or more confrontations between the students. Because Harper decided to wear his "anti-gay" t-shirt, it caused another problem for the school once again, but he and his family decided to take it a step further. He then sued the school district on behalf of his right to freedom of speech and also, freedom of religion; the case is still pending after a long, strenuous process.

When people read about this case, they might be torn between two opinions. These readers may be unsure of whether they believe that Harper had a right to wear a t-shirt with these statements written on it. But with further reading and learning about the case, they may decide that Harper's decision to sue the school district was fair and equal. There was only one judge of three that ruled with Harper on the matter. Judge Kozinski said: "that the high school had in effect authorized a heated debate over sexual orientation when it allowed the "Day of Silence" (Soto). The Gay-Straight Alliance had organized a day that can be very controversial and would definitely cause a rise out of some students, as shown from the year before at Poway High School. And because Poway allowed for this event to happen, they had opened the doors for others students to express their concerns on the same matter. According to the First Amendment, we as American citizens have the right to speak our mind, as long as we do not cause harm to any person. Judge Kozinski, one of the three judges who ruled for Harper stated: The Day of Silence equated to the school giving a license to one side of the sexual orientation debate, and prohibiting the student's T-shirt denied expression of an opposing view in a ‘political give-and-take.' Referring to the idea that ‘silence gives consent,' he argued that not allowing students to express viewpoints that opposed those presented by the Day of...
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