Freedom of Speech

Topics: Freedom of speech, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Censorship Pages: 7 (2442 words) Published: January 29, 2014
The Freedom of Speech
In the United States, citizens have several rights that are protected by the United States Constitution. In the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Freedom of Expression (speech) is recognized. The Freedom of Speech is the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint. The right to Freedom of Speech is not absolute and is common subject to limitations such as libel, slander, copyright violation, and revelation of information that is classified. While some believe Freedom of Speech violates the rights of others, it is one of the most fundamental rights that citizens of the United States exercise. I. Freedom of Speech

Censorship is defined as "the control of information and ideas circulated within a society" ("What is Censorship?"). Many citizens of the United States believe that the Freedom of Speech should be restricted. These people think that speech should be limited to protect the feelings of others. As said by Arman J. Britton, "Words are just words until they are put in a certain context. However, even words taken out of context are just words and cannot be subjected to a banning every time it offends someone. The First Amendment doesn’t [SIC] take sides. Putting limits on freedom of speech only creates a slippery slope where more and more beliefs and stances become censored, edited or never heard" (Britton). The Freedom of Speech is a principle that the United States was built upon. Everybody has his or her own opinions, thoughts and beliefs that do not necessarily agree with another person's. One person's beliefs should not be discounted or prohibited because it offends someone else. That goes against the First Amendment of the Constitution (Britton).

Freedom of Speech is not limited to just words. This amendment includes the following rights: not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag), to use certain offensive words to convey political messages, to contribute money to political campaigns, to advertise commercial products, and to engage in symbolic speech ("What does free..."). All of these things are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Some citizens in America may not agree with people that choose not to salute the flag, but it is the right of each person to choose. A few rights that are not included under Freedom of Speech are: to incite actions that would harm others, make or distribute obscene materials, burn draft cards as anti-war protest, permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration, of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event, of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event ("What does free...").

Although the rights stated above are included under the First Amendment of the Constitution, they were not always recognized. Many supreme court cases have been fought to protect First Amendment rights. One example is Texas vs. Johnson. In this case Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag in front of the Dallas City Hall as a protest against Reagan. During the protest no one was physically injured or threatened with injury, although several witnesses were seriously offended by the flag burning. After being sentenced to one year in jail and charged a $2,000 fine, the case was appealed. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction and the case moved on to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court found that Johnson's actions fell into the category of expressive conduct and had a political nature. This action was protected under the First Amendment and has been acknowledged as a right since the case ended in 1989 ("Texas v. Johnson").

The Constitution's protection of speech is a central concept of the American political system. There is a direct link between Freedom of Expression and democracy. The freedom to express one's self enables people to obtain information from a variety of...
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