REFUSED TO BE SILENT!
Freedom of speech in the United States
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
In the United States, freedom of speech and expression is strongly protected from government restrictions by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, many state constitutions, and state and federal laws. Freedom of speech, also called free speech, means the free and public expression of opinions without censorship, interference and restraint by the government. The term "freedom of speech" embedded in the First Amendment encompasses the decision what to say as well as what not to say. The Supreme Court of the United States has recognized several categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment and has recognized that governments may enact reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on speech. The First Amendment's constitutional right of free speech, which is applicable to state and local governments under the incorporation doctrine, prevents only government restrictions on speech, not restrictions imposed by private individuals or businesses unless they are acting on behalf of the government. However, laws may restrict the ability of private businesses and individuals from restricting the speech of others, such as employment laws that restrict employers' ability to prevent employees from disclosing their salary with coworkers or attempting to organize a labor union.]
The First Amendment's freedom of speech right not only proscribes most government restrictions on the content of speech and ability to speak, but also protects the right to receive information, prohibits most government restrictions or burdens that discriminate between speakers, restricts the tort liability of individuals for certain speech, and prevents the government from requiring individuals and corporations to speak or finance certain types of speech with which they do not
Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment include obscenity (as determined by the Miller test), fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising. Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors over their works (copyright), protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons, restrictions on the use of untruths to harm others (slander and libel), and communications while a person is in prison. When a speech restriction is challenged in court, it is presumed invalid and the government bears the burden of convincing the court that the restriction is constitutional.
During and after the Constitution ratification process, Anti-Federalists and state legislatures expressed concern that the new Constitution placed too much emphasis on the power of the federal government. The drafting and eventual adoption of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, was, in large part, a result of these concerns, as
In 1798, Congress, which contained several of the ratifiers of the First Amendment at the time, adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts. The laws prohibited the publication of "false, scandalous, and malicious writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame ... or to bring them ... into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them ... hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States".
The law did allow truth as a defense and required proof of malicious intent. The 1798 Act nevertheless made ascertainment of the intent of the framers regarding the First Amendment somewhat difficult, as some of the members of Congress that supported the adoption of the First Amendment also voted to adopt the 1798 Act. The Federalists under President John Adams aggressively used the law against their rivals, the Democratic-Republicans. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a major political issue in the 1800 election, and after he was elected President, Thomas Jefferson pardoned those who had been convicted under the Act. The Act expired and the Supreme Court never ruled on its constitutionality.
Examples include creating or destroying an object when performed as a statement (such as flag burning in a political protest), silent marches and parades intended to convey a message, clothing bearing meaningful symbols (such as anti-war armbands), body language, messages written in code, ideas and structures embodied as computer code ("software"), mathematical and scientific formulae, and illocutionary acts that convey by implication an attitude, request, or opinion.
Expressive conduct is recognized as being protected under the First Amendment as a form of speech, although this is not expressly written as such in the document.
For example, seen in light of the First Amendment, computer code is a way to speak about how a problem is solved, using the precise terms a computer might be given as directions, and flag burning is a way to speak or express forcefully of one's views opposing the acts or political position of the relevant country. Significantly, the possibility exists for a single speech act to be protected or not depending upon context and intention. For example, there may be a First Amendment distinction between
communication. The goal of time, place and manner restrictions is to regulate speech in a way that still protects freedom of speech.
While freedom of speech is a fundamental right, it is not absolute, and therefore subject to restrictions. Time, place, and manner restrictions are relatively self-explanatory. Time restrictions regulate when expression can take place; place restrictions regulate where expression can take place; and manner restrictions regulate how expression can take place. A restriction may occur if someone is protesting loudly in front of someone's house in a neighborhood in the middle of the night, or if someone was sitting in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour, for example. These actions would cause problems for other people, so restricting speech in terms of time, place, and manner addresses a legitimate societal concern. Restricting this speech would be constitutional because the restrictions are content neutral, meaning they would restrict anyone from saying anything in these situations, no matter what their message is; they are narrowly drawn, meaning the restriction was examined specifically for the case in question to determine how to serve the governmental interest at stake; the restrictions serve a significant governmental interest, meaning other fundamental rights are important to citizens, such as sleeping peacefully at night or people getting to work or home from work; and there are plenty of alternative methods of communicating their message, such as writing an editorial in the paper or moving to the sidewalk at a different time in the day.
Expression is basically compatible with the normal activity of a particular place at a particular time. The power of restriction has been seen in many cases, such as in The City of Chicago v. Alexander (2014) case when the Occupy movement was restricted because the park was closed and they were not allowed to protest there during that time. Nevertheless, speech cannot be discriminated against because of the views of the speaker, or the content of their speech. These are generally called View-Point and Content-Based Limitations. Some people argue that time, place, and manner restrictions are relied on too heavily by free speech doctrine, resulting in less free speech allowed in public forums. This view is highly contested. Other people, such as Justice Pierce, who delivered the opinion in The City of Chicago v. Alexander (2014), argue restrictions are only meant to defer speech, in order to limit problems that are put on society.
A designated forum is usually public property the government opens for public expression, such as theatres and state schools. The difference between traditional public forums and designated public forums is in a designated public forum the government may limit access to the area to only certain groups, speakers, or subjects, so long as their rules are consistent. Designated public forums are subject to the same restrictions as traditional public forums, meaning the time, place, and manner restrictions must be content-neutral, serve a governmental interest, and allow ample alternatives. Restrictions in a designated forum can be seen in cases such as Widmar v. Vincent (1981) and City of Madison Joint School District v. Wisconsin PERC (1976).
Nonpublic forums include airport terminals and internal mail systems. In these areas the government has significant control over the speech they allow in these forums because the government acts like a private owner here. This means the government may restrict any speech, as long as the restrictions are reasonable, and do not come in to play because a public official wants the speech restricted. Therefore, content may be restricted because of the subject or the speaker. However, the restrictions must align with the purpose of the area and be viewpoint neutral. This doctrine has been applied to cases such as Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association (1983) and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988).]
Time, Place, and Manner in the Supreme Court
Time, place, and manner restrictions are intended to allow convenience and order to prevail..Some examples of time, place, and manner cases include: Grayned v. Rockford (1972), Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. (1981), Madsen v. Women's Health Center (1994), and recently Hill v. Colorado (2000).] As you can see, most time, place, and manner cases involve the government as one of the parties in the case.
Because time, place, and manner restrictions put value on convenience and order, there is certain behavior that is not permitted. For example, you cannot yell "fire" in a crowded place when there is no fire. This action would cause an uproar of chaos, and has the potential to cause immediate harm to others. For those reasons, this action would not qualify as a protected right under the First Amendment. As Justice Holmes put it in Schenck v. United States (1918), "Even the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing panic." While free speech is important in our society, there are other values in our society that are equally important, such as public order and public peace. The role of time, place, and manner restrictions must be balanced with conflicting values in our society.
It is important to understand how judges and other governmental entities decide what speech to limit in regard to time, place, and manner. As previously stated, in order for the Supreme Court and other governmental entities to impose time, place, and manner restrictions, they must decide that the restrictions are content neutral, narrowly tailored, serve a significant governmental interest, and allow other alternative methods of communication. If the restrictions can pass these four requirements, they will align with the First Amendment restriction provisions. Of course, these restrictions will vary from case to case. Ideally, suppressing speech is considered wrong, but in some cases, it is necessary to restrict speech for the greater good of society. It must be decided that the speech is a nuisance in regard to its time, place, or manner of delivery, such as creating a clear and present danger. If there is a problem with the time, place, or manner of delivery of the speech, Congress has the right to limit such speech.
If the government tries to restrain speech before it is spoken, as opposed to punishing it afterwards, it must be able to show that punishment after the fact is not a sufficient remedy, and show that allowing the speech would "surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to our Nation and its people" (New York Times Co. v. United States). U.S. courts have not permitted most prior restraints since the case of Near v. Minnesota in 1931. However, the 1988 case of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier was argued to be a means of prior restraint due to a school principal eliminating content and topics from the school newspaper that was written by students at Hazelwood East High School in St. Louis, Missouri. The U.S. Supreme Court deemed the school was not in violation of students' first amendment rights because the paper was sponsored by the school that upheld rules and regulations about inappropriate articles.
Despite this strong position against prior restraint, numerous laws have been enacted at the state level that restrict a doctor's speech on politically charged issues such as abortion, gun safety and industrial chemicals. The First Amendment protection, whereas a person whose speech is an actual part of their duties and is not merely related to their duties may have no such protection.