1776 — Independence Declared.
1787 — Constitutional Convention begins revision of the Articles of Confederation.
1790 — Last of the original 13 states ratifies the Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common deference, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. …
1791 — Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) is ratified.
Amendment I : 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, …
1968: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
Ku Klux Klaner Clarence Brandenburg was convicted and jailed after calling for “revengeance” [sic] against Jews and African Americans in a Hamilton County, Ohio, speech. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously interpreted the First Amendment as meaning government cannot punish speech unless it meets two criteria: first, if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action,” and second, if it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”
1977: National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie [Illinois] (1977)
Neo-Nazis intended to march through a neighborhood of predominantly Jewish Holocaust survivors. Suit was brought. An injunction issued. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the injunction was wrong, the Neo-Nazis were sanctioned — under the First Amendment — to march. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the swastika was afforded First Amendment protection as a symbolic form of free speech, the swastika itself not constituting “fighting words.”
1983-1988: Larry Flynt, Hustler Magazine, and Rev. Jerry Falwell
In October 1983 Larry Flynt’s Hustler Magazine “ad parody” of a Campari ad (“interviewees” describing “their first time” sipping Campari) showed the Reverend Jerry Falwell describing his “first time” as being with his mother in an outhouse.
Farwell sued for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
1984 Lower court found in Farwell’s favor.
1986 Fourth Circuit Court found in Falwell’s favor.
1988 United States Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine stating, “[T]he fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it.”
2010, May 5: Five California high school students were sent home after they refused to remove or turn their American flag t-shirts/bandannas inside-out in deference to students celebrating Cinco de Mayo (an observation of Mexican heritage and pride).
2014, February 27: California Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, in Dariano v. Morgan Hill United School District, the school’s action.
A few First Amendment and Right of Free Speech thoughts to consider:
~”If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all,” Noam Chomsky.
~If the First Amendment prevents majorities from silencing views with which they do not agree — even views the majority finds offensive to their very core — so individuals are protected in their expression of unpopular opinions, should not the opposite apply?
~Everybody knows American isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free, then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.” Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free. … We’re a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men [and women!] to solve them. ~ President Andrew Shepard in the movie An American President. Script by Aaron Sorkin.
Would love to hear/read your thoughts on the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling, as well as any you want to share about what the First Amendment Freedom of Speech means to you.
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