Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

Does a bomb threat violate the protections of the First Amendment?

There have been countless examples of bomb threats in airports or other public places around the United States. Now, we must ask ourselves if saying “bomb” or using bomb threats in a public place violates the clear and present danger action set in place with the First Amendment. Our government considers this to be a violation of free speech because these words are used to pose potential danger and also to threaten national security especially to people in a public place like a mall or more commonly in an airport. For example, Dunedin airport in Florida had to be evacuated on December 8th, 2011 because a written bomb threat was found on a note in a women’s bathroom. The police took care of the situation, and they evacuated the passengers from the plane and airport in order for searching to be done. Here’s another example involving a bomb threat in a note. More publicly, Trevor Davis, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, was arrested for falsely claiming that he was carrying explosives in his luggage to an airline employee at the Los Angeles International Airport. Even though these claims are almost always made on false pretenses, they are taken very seriously by local and federal securities. To note, there was also a court case in St. Paul, Minnesota where Dana Williams Ashey pleaded guilty on July 19th, 2013 for making verbal bomb threats at both the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. As you can see, law enforcement handles these incidents seriously by initially evacuating the people in potential harm, and then prosecuting the person who made the threats.

In my opinion, a bomb threat does violate the First Amendment through the clear and present danger action. These types of threats can be a small act of terrorism within our country and endanger innocent people. I think there should rightfully be a legal punishment for saying or writing false bomb threats in public places especially airports and malls because it then becomes a security issue. In summary, saying “bomb” in a public venue is definitely a limit of our freedom of speech in the United States.

Works Cited:

“Bomb Scare Closes Airport.” Timaru Herald, The, 8 Dec. 2011, p. 03. EBSCOhost.

“Man Pleads Guilty To Making Bomb Threats At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport And MOA.”
Justice.Gov, 2015.

“Trevor Davis, Green Bay Packers Receiver, Accused Of Making False Bomb Threat.” Cbsnews.Com,
2019.

 

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“Honey, did you pack the explosives?”

From a young age, the media and various political figures have reinforced the importance of freedom of speech, an idea which is said to be protected by the First Amendment. Although everyone has the right to express themselves, there are a few limits that hinder one’s full speech. These include slander/libel, clear and present danger/imminent lawless action, fighting words, commercial speech, obscenity, and prior restraint. In this piece, the focus will be on the clear and present danger/imminent lawless action part of these restrictions. In layman’s terms, this limitation is speech which poses a danger to national security or to individuals. A prime example is falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. This saying was coined by Justice Holmes Jr. in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919. During World War I, socialites Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer declared that the draft violated the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited involuntary servitude. Schenck was charged with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act of 1917 by attempting to cause disobedience in the military and to deter recruitment. After both were convicted of violating this law, they appealed that this act disobeyed the First Amendment. In the end, the Court refused to falter and stated that the Espionage Act of 1917 did not breach the First Amendment and supported Congress’ wartime authority. Holmes concluded that the First Amendment does not protect speech that aims at creating clear and present danger and could be punished. Similarly to falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, people have pushed the boundaries of the protection guaranteed by the First Amendment by deceitfully proclaiming “bomb” in an airport or on an airplane. In a case close to the hearts of Wisconsinites, the Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver Trevor Davis was arrested in early April of 2018 at the Los Angeles International Airport for making a bomb threat. He turned to his companion while checking in at the Hawaiian Airlines ticket counter and stated, “Yeah, did you pack the explosives?” after being asked if they were carrying any unapproved items. The authorities arrested Davis on a misdemeanor charge of making a bomb threat, and he was put in the Los Angeles jail with a $15,000 bail. For similar cases, check out these stories: the first story and second story. Analogous cases are occurring across America at a frequent rate. Since these statements technically fall into the freedom of speech category, should the First Amendment protect these specific declarations?

To that question, I can confidently assert that the limitations on clear and present danger/imminent lawless action should stand in situations similar to falsely yelling bomb on an airplane or in an airport. A large opposition to this opinion stems from the fact that each case differs from the next. In just the examples used in this paper, one clearly stated “bomb” while the other “joked” about explosives. Some may proclaim that it is sometimes an obvious joke and should not be taken seriously. Things like “honey, did you pack the explosives?” are “obviously” meant to be taken lightly and should not receive such fierce punishment. My response is the following: in order to maintain full public safety, authorities should air on the side of caution and treat each event as if it were an actual threat. There needs to be a set program in place in the event of a true attack. After the multiple terrorist attacks that the United States has unfortunately suffered- namely 9/11- the states can never be too cautious. If the protocols become unregulated, a “silly” threat can turn into the death of dozens of people. If you are knowingly using resources, time, and the effort of professional personnel for a “joke”, you should have to pay the repercussions of it. So, why do people do it? Are they trying to crack a smile from passersby or is there a deeper explanation? As Edgar Allen Poe affectionally called it, “the imp of the perverse” is the human urge to do exactly the thing that you should not do: jump off a bridge, scream in a quiet lecture, and -shocker- falsely yell “bomb” in an airport. A handful of psychologists suspect that the urge may exist to help us rehearse how we deal with fear. In fact, it is quite common. Research confirms that up to 90 percent of people without a diagnosed mental illness experience these “intrusive thoughts”. In a study conducted by a team from Florida State University’s psychology department, psychological doctoral students surveyed 431 college students and asked them about the urge to jump from high places and thoughts of suicide. To read more about this study and its findings, visit this link. The conclusions were similar to those expressed previously. Although this explains the urge to slip in an illegal statement while conversing, it does not excuse it. The fact is, hundreds of thousands of people can attest to such thoughts, but you do not see hundreds of thousands of people acting on those urges. In conclusion, the First Amendment should continue to not protect clear and present danger/imminent lawless action assertions similar to falsely yelling “bomb” in an airport.

Works Cited

Asp, David. “The First Amendment Encyclopedia.” Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1045/espionage-act-of-1917.

Burkeman, Oliver. “Here’s Some Dynamite Advice: Don’t Make Bomb Jokes in Airports | Oliver Burkeman.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 Nov. 2012, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/oliver-burkemans-blog/2012/nov/27/dynamite-advice-bomb-jokes-airports.

Ikem, Chinelo Nkechi. “There’s a Name for That: The Imp of the Perverse.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 6 June 2018, psmag.com/magazine/imp-of-the-perverse.

News, ABC, director. Caught on Tape: Passenger Screams Bomb on Plane. YouTube, YouTube, 23 Nov. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=psBjBYDbWfI.

Schad, Tom. “Packers WR Trevor Davis Arrested for Making Bomb Joke at Los Angeles Airport.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 9 Apr. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2018/04/09/packers-trevor-davis-arrested-making-bomb-joke-los-angeles-airport/498896002/.

“Schenck v. United States.” Oyez, 22 Feb. 2019, www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/249us47.

“That Weird Urge to Jump off a Bridge, Explained.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Mar. 2012, bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/13/10657767-that-weird-urge-to-jump-off-a-bridge-explained?lite.

The Associated Press. “Miami Airport Bomb Threat Nets Man 3 Years’ Probation, Fine.” AP Regional State Report – Florida, Associated Press DBA Press Association, 17 Mar. 2015. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=AP29a4e90764154b7896cf482edffcaf43&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Volokh, Eugene. “‘Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater.’” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 May 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/11/shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.57cd86bb11dc.


A Student’s Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech, according to the first amendment, guarantees everyone the right to speak their mind–almost. There are several restrictions to free speech, such as threatening to kill the president or obscenity that apply to all citizens, including students. In recent years, there has been debate over additional restrictions being applied to students’ rights to free speech. What restrictions, if any, can be applied to students’ right to free speech in schools?

In the case of Morse v. Frederick, a student held up a sign that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” during a parade, and the sign was confiscated by the principal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that free speech “as it relates to politics or beliefs” should be allowed, but any speech “regarding illegal activity or that could lead to the danger of students” should be monitored and controlled. Schools are ultimately responsible for student safety.  It gave discretion to teachers and administrators to determine whether certain speech is dangerous to students or suggests illegal activity.

Another restriction surfaced in the case of Tinker vs. Des Moines in 1969, where several students planned to wear black armbands in silent protest of the Vietnam War. These students were later suspended for wearing the armbands, but later sued the school district for violating their freedom of speech. The Supreme Court argued that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression” when entering school. In a 7-2 vote, the court voted that students could NOT prohibit free speech on the suspicion alone that it might disrupt learning.

In 2006, a student in California wore a shirt that read “Homosexuality is shameful” and “Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned” on his school’s LGBTQ day of silence. The school barred him from wearing this shirt due to “concern about the protection of students in a minority group” that have been previously subjected to harassment. This has been an extremely controversial case with very good arguments on both sides. Was the school in the right for protecting their LGBTQ students from potential harassment, one of the leading causes of depression or self-harm? Was the student’s freedom of speech diminished because he held a controversial opinion? There is no clear answer for some of these controversies.

As future voters and involved citizens, we have to be careful about placing restrictions on their right to free speech. The ultimate purpose of schools is to educate children, so it makes sense that any speech distracting from the learning process can be prohibited. Similarly, schools are responsible for the safety of their students and teachers so speech that could elicit danger should also be controlled. It is important, however, to discriminate between protecting the students and the learning environment and disagreeing with a student’s opinion. If there is a genuine concern for the safety of students and staff or a disruption to the learning process, student speech can be prohibited.

“Student’s Speech: Speech, Walkouts, and Other Protests.” ACLU, http://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/student-speech-and-privacy/students-rights-speech-walkouts-and-other-protests. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.

Trotter, Andrew. “U.S. Court Backs School’s Decision to Bar Student’s Anti-Gay T-Shirt.” Education Week, 2019 Editorial Projects in Education, 28 Apr. 2006, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/05/03/34t-shirts.h25.html. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.

United States, Supreme Court. Morse v. Frederick. United States Reports, vol. 551, 25 June 2007. United States Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-morse-v-frederick. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019. Unpublished opinion.

United States, Supreme Court. Tinker v. Des Moines. United States Reports, vol. 563, 28 Feb. 1969. United States Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-tinker-v-des-moines. Accessed 26 Feb. 2019. Unpublished opinion.

Should burning the flag be protected under the first amendment?

The United States of America is the land of the free and home of the brave. With that said, we as Americans should be able to freely express our rights. Under the first amendment, our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression are protected, even if the majority of citizens disagree with one’s way of executing their rights. Under freedom of expression there is a subcategory of symbolic expression, which protects the ideas and actions that do not use words. Symbolic expression is very controversial because it can protect acts that seem treasonous and even unconstitutional. Which leads to the main point, does flag burning exceed the limits of the first amendment? The most popular example of this was the Texas vs. Johnson case. Gregory Lee Johnson was expressing his rights by burning the flag because he disagreed with the laws being passed by politicians. Texan authorities arrested and fined Johnson for a criminal act, but while Johnson was serving his sentence, the case went to the supreme court where Johnson was found not guilty. The supreme court found that even though some citizens found the act offensive, he could not be punished because then the state officials would be violating his rights and freedoms.

Burning the flag is a little extreme because there are many other ways you can express your opinion on politics. However, at the end of the day it was his right and the government did the right thing by stepping up and protecting his rights. Even though I do not agree with the act, an American should not be punished under any circumstances for executing our rights in the way we see fit. Burning the flag seems to me as an act of rebellion against the United States, but there was no threat that went along with the act and was overall a peaceful display of his rights. This act should be protected under freedom of speech and freedom of expression as long as there are no threats to our country made while burning the flag.


Is hate speech protected by the freedom of speech and peaceable assemblies clauses in the First Amendment?

As a U.S citizen you are privileged with rights that are declared in the Constitution. Recently and in past years the foundation of the First Amendment has been tested by many groups and individuals expressing themselves in ways that are considered hate speech. Skokie, Illinois is home to  40,500 Jewish people that make up more than half the population. Nazi sympathizers wanted a permit to demonstrate in front of the town hall. The leader of the Nazi protesters, Frank Collin, voiced they would be wearing the Nazi symbol to represent their beliefs in the march, and there would be no derogatory statements. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Skokie ban was unconstitutional and the Supreme Court later declined the case agreeing that the group was protected by the constitution. The protest Is protected by the First Amendment because their protest would not have included slander speech. Freedom to hold peaceable assemblies is a significant clause in the First Amendment and no group of people should be denied the right to protest peacefully. The First Amendment gives you the right to freedom of speech but there is limits to what you can say. In 1946, Arthur Terminiello, broadcasted his anti Semitic views over media platforms like the radio and newspaper. His remarks and beliefs caused a scuffle between audience members and protesters in Chicago. He was arrested for riotous speech but the Supreme Court overturned his conviction ruling that his arrest was unconstitutional in a 5-4 majority vote. Most people would classify his articles and radio station as slander/ libel because it has defamatory statements that are written and orally said. Justice William O. Douglas stated, ¨protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to reduce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest … There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view¨. This means that because he was not the one starting or participating in the violent scuffle that the First Amendment protected him and his words because he has the right to express his beliefs through press and speech. The first amendment states, ¨congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble¨. Even though people may not agree with the written and oral statements expressed by some other they have to respect their beliefs. Everyone has the right to say what they want as long as it is not slander or libel and the right to peacefully assemble without any violence because they are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. 

Works Cited:

Head, Tom. “6 Major U.S. Supreme Court Hate Speech Cases.” Thoughtco., Dotdash, 6 Jan. 2019, http://www.thoughtco.com/hate-speech-cases-721215.

Bubar, Joe. “Is Social Media Fueling Hate? The recent mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh has brought public attention to hate speech on social media.” New York Times Upfront, 10 Dec. 2018, p. 10+. Global Issues in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A564604753/GPS?u=mono131514&sid=GPS&xid=d8c3cd96.

“Terminiello v. City of Chicago.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminiello_v._City_of_Chicago.

“Oyez” National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1976/76-1786.

There’s a Time and Place

Throughout history, nudity in art has been depicted from the time of Ancient Egypt to the Renessaisce. As the human race moves forward and leaves the past in the past, art keeps evolving. In today’s time, humans enjoy more freedoms than ever before, which brings us to the question, when does nudity in art violate the obscenity laws, and therefore, become unprotected under the First Amendment? Obscenity laws had already been established by the court, yet the obscenity test was about to change after the Miller vs California Supreme court case in 1973. This case came about when Marvin Miller went around distributing large quantities of advertisement sale flyers about “adult” content material. The residents who received the advertisement did not take it lightly and they ended up reporting it to the state which convicted Miller of mailing unsolicited sexually explicit material in violation of a California statute that involved the obscenity test established in the case of Memoirs vs Massachusetts. At the end of the trial, the Supreme court ruled in favor of the state of California, and Miller was found guilty because the material wasn’t suitable for the general population.

I’m in favor of the obscenity laws because it protects the general public from sexual content that might end up at the disposal of our children. I believe that there is a time and place for everything, but I also admire the lengths that artist go to create magnificent paintings and sculptures. In the Supreme court case of The United States of America vs Ten Erotic Paintings, in 1969, ten paintings and drawings were confiscated by U.S. agents in Baltimore. The artworks that were been sent to the U.S. from Europe to be presented in a museum were part of a much larger collection of erotic art. Federal law prohibits the importation of obscene materials which was the authorities justification for seizing them. Even though Miller vs California still had 4 years to go, the court placed the same three-part standard as to what constituted obscenity. Despite that, the artwork contained man and woman genitals and sexual content, the trial court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appels agreed that all the erotic artworks have artistic value and therefore not meeting with the third legal criterion of obscenity. This only shows how nudity in art should be protected because, at the end of the day, all art has artistic values and shouldn’t be considered obscene from the public, well at least for those 18 and above.

Citation:

“Miller v. California.” Oyez, 28 Feb. 2019, www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-73.

Esmaili, Tala. “Obscenity.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 8 June 2017, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/obscenity.
“Untitled (Pencil Drawing) by Hans Bellmer.” Art on Trial: Art in Publicly Owned Spaces, www.tjcenter.org/ArtOnTrial/obscenity.html.

Confederate Flags in schools

Topic: Wearing a Confederate flag at school

Essential Question: Does wearing a Confederate flag at school violate the obscenity limits to the First Amendment?

As many people know the First Amendment of the US COnstitution is a huge part of the United States and its history. The First Amendment is to prevent the government from discriminating against religion, and the freedom of speech, and the press. There are seven First Amendment-limits of speech, the one I will be focusing on is the possible obscenity of wearing a Confederate flag at school.

So, does wearing a Confederate flag at school violate the obscenity limits to the First Amendment? I believe that wearing a Confederate flag anywhere let alone a school is extremely rude and unacceptable. There have been multiple cases where students have flown Confederate flags around in the school parking lots or worn them on clothes into class. Some schools have ended up banning the flag because it was extremely offensive and put a student in danger.