“The First Amendment is not without limits” –Jerry Falwell. This view of the first amendment is an accurate one. Individuals seem to believe that the first amendment protects all speech, all assemblies, and every action where one voices their own opinion. Yet like most things in life, the first amendment has its limits. Limits are set in place not to take away all the rights, but to ensure that people feel safe while still being allowed to share their voice. This introduces the question of, is gathering and speaking your opinion outside public buildings protected by the peaceable assemblies clause of the First Amendment or does this to have its limits?
The limits on the first amendment have been a cause of debate for many years. At the University of Wisconsin Madison, students demanded that the chancellor condemn hate speech after a student tried to start a chapter of a white nationalist group on campus. Brea City in California tried to pass a proposal for permits on public assemblies. Under the proposal, the city would require permits for public assemblies of 30 people or more in Brea Downtown and 75 people or more in other parts of the city. This permit would need to be submitted at least four days in advance. In both of these cases, the communities felt the need to limit the first amendment to help enforce the safety of others. Brea City Mayor, Glenn Parker stated, “the proposal is based on ‘good intent’ to find a balance between the right to demonstrate and the right for businesses, shoppers, and residents to have peace and public safety. We all respect the right, but we also feel there needs to be a balance and respect for those people that maybe aren’t involved in the process.” Because assembly involves free expression, the first amendment guarantees that as long as people peaceably convent to picket or protest the state may not penalize. However, this protection does not immunize the gathering from general safety and welfare laws designed to protect private property, facilitate traffic or minimize congestion. The peaceable assemblies have its limits to add to the law and to protect individuals while still trying to protect your voice.
Some people may see these limits as taking away their rights given to them, but imagine trying to attend the dentist and a small gathering stands in your way telling you that the dentist is scary and needs to be banned. The fear of being hurt while trying to live your life is deafening. The limit of getting a permit or getting consent before approaching an individual ensures both parties can live their life, still be protected under the first amendment, and can speak their voice to be heard. Gathering and speaking your opinion outside public buildings is protected by the peaceable assemblies clause of the First Amendment, but it comes with limits.
- Puente, Kelly. “Brea City Council to Consider Requiring Permits for Public Assemblies.” Orange County Register, the (Santa Ana, CA), 20 Dec. 2017. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=2W62999676949&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Newton, Adam. “The Freedom of Assembly Supports the Freedom of Association.” Freedom of Assembly and Association, edited by Noël Merino, Greenhaven Press, 2012, pp. 12-25. Teen Rights and Freedoms. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2006000009/GVRL?u=mono131514&sid=GVRL&xid=6907716e. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.
- “First Amendment Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, http://www.brainyquote.com/topics/first_amendment.
- Schneider, Pat. “Scott Walker Wants Law Requiring UW Officials to Protect Offensive Speech.” Madison.com, 13 Feb. 2017, host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/university/scott-walker-wants-law-requiring-uw-officials-to-protect-offensive/article_fae53172-118b-5ae1-96dd-dd26e3de5bd3.html.
- “University of Pennsylvania.” The Importance of Free Speech on College Campuses, http://www.upenn.edu/spotlights/importance-free-speech-college-campuses.