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First Amendment - Essay Example

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The First Amendment Protects Free Speech Name Instructor Class Date The First Amendment does protect free speech. More precisely, it protects a person’s legal right to express their opinions freely without fear of government intervention. The Constitutional right extends solely to government attempts of suppressing speech not corporations, organizations or individuals…
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First Amendment
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First Amendment

Speech, as defined by the Constitution is not limited to the spoken word. It can be an expression or idea. Symbolic speech, as it is often referred to, includes various types of nonverbal communications such as peaceful protests, campaign signs in the front yard and burning the American flag. Yes, burning the flag is a legal expression of free speech. The Supreme Court, through years of rulings, has clearly defined the parameters of free speech. For example in 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio case the Court ruled that government could not forbid speech that encourages subversive or illegal activity unless that “advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” (Brandenburg v. Ohio, 1969) Using Brandenburg as precedent the Supreme Court ruled the government could not prosecute a Vietnam draft dodger who said “if they ever make me carry a rifle, the first man I want in my sights is L.B.J.” in Watts v. U.S. (1969). ...
A person risks their life in many other countries for much less flagrant self expressive speech than that. The right to free speech is not all-inclusive however. The Court has ruled speech which damages another person’s reputation or defamation including both slander and libel is actionable in court. (Cohen, 2009). “Defamation law attempts to balance the freedom of speech and open exchange of ideas without giving someone permission to run around spreading lies about another that may harm his or her reputation, ability to earn a living, etc.” (Fabio, 2009). Merely expressing an opinion, however, is not regarded as defamation. Factual statements can only be considered defamatory. Public figures such as celebrities and government officials have not enjoyed the same level of protection under defamation laws. For those in the “public eye” actual malice toward that person by the speaker must be demonstrated in order to prevail on a defamation claim. (Cohen, 2009). This is the reason we see so many celebrity tabloids with outrageous headlines in he checkout lanes in grocery stores. It’s much tougher for celebrities to win a lawsuit than the general public. Most forms of speech are covered by the First Amendment but besides defamation other types of speech may be legally restricted and civil litigation initiated based on these restrictions. The Supreme Court has set guidlelines for these other types of speech such as obscenity, causing panic, incitement to crime, sedition, fighting words and hate speech. The test for obscene speech established by the Court is (a) whether that spoken word or expression of speech such as artwork is regarded by the average person as being erotic, (b) whether the words or art depicts acts that are obviously offensive, and (c) ... Read More
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