Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

Censorship In Schools: The Confederate Flag

 

Since the beginning, education has been about exchanging ideas and understanding different views on events, even ones we don’t necessarily enjoy. Schools across the country are becoming more “politically correct”, as some would say, but is that really the right thing to do? Not only does this censorship inhibit the learning of students, but it may be infringing upon their 1st Amendment rights to free speech.

A prime example of this censorship is the banning of the Confederate Flag from schools, and any apparel that sports this symbol. While some people may see it as a sign of racial prejudice or hatred, its supporters have a different view of it entirely. Supporters of the Confederate Flag view it as a symbol of their heritage, and paying homage to those who fought in the Civil War. A timeless expression of family pride and an embrace of history. The main reason it has been banned is because districts argue that it distracts from the learning environment, but banning it might infringe upon the students 1st Amendment rights. People who don’t support the flag argue that the it is a symbol of “hate speech”, it is seen as a banner of white supremacy and racial discrimination, and understandably so. Banning it could protect these students from uncomfortable situations, or racism. However unless the Confederate Flag is used specifically to harm others is it that bad? What we should do is turn the flag into a topic of conversation, and learning. We should investigate what it means to each person, and bring forth our own views on it, such is the purpose of education. Controversy breeds thought, and we should share such thoughts with each other to spark a civil exchange of ideas, schools could benefit from students engaging in educated debates about controversial topics

 

Sources:

 

Rosen, Ben. &quot;Is the Confederate Flag Constitutionally Protected?&quot;<i> Christian Science Monitor</i>, 30 Oct 2016,<i> SIRS Issues Researcher</i>, <a href=”http://sks.sirs.com&#8221; target=”_blank”>http://sks.sirs.com</a>.

 

Rampell, Catherine. &quot;Silencing Free Speech Isn’t the Way to Debate it.&quot;<i> Washington Post</i>, 16 Dec 2016, pp. A.19.<i> SIRS Issues Researcher</i>, <a href=”http://sks.sirs.com&#8221; target=”_blank”>http://sks.sirs.com</a&gt;.

Praying Before Football Games- Against the Law or Not?

In a lot of places, they pray before football and other games. It has been going on for a long time. Now, people are challenging if this is going against the law. The 1st Amendment gives people freedom of speech and religion. How people interpret that leads to conflict on this issue.

The football team in Dumore has prayed before games for a long time (read more here). They are now told they can’t and are not happy about it. They can’t pray before the game anymore because they were told it’s against the law as public teacher and coaches should not be involved in leading religious acts. The 1st Amendment says freedom of religion. Some people think that means that people should be free to pray if they want. The other side thinks that means students can choose to pray, but it can’t be led by staff because it goes against the separation of church and state. If people from a different religion or belief were there, they could feel pressured to just follow along or be treated differently.

In conclusion, students can still pray if they want, but the 1st amendment makes it so people can be free to practice their own religions how they want to and not how the school tells them to.(read more here)

Works Cited:

“PRO/CON…Should sports teams be allowed to pray before games?” October 18, 2012 by Amy Ayala from King’s Courier

http://www.ecrjournalism.com/opinioneditorial/2012/10/18/procon-should-sports-teams-be-allowed-to-pray-before-games/

 

“When Faith and Football Don’t Mix” by Ken Paulson October 23, 2012

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2012/10/23/football-texas-religion-prayer/1653057/

 

“Prayer Before Football Game Ruled Against The Law” by Stacy Lange 11/4/2016

wnep.com/2016/11/04/prayer-before-football-game-rule-against-the-law/

 

 

Twitter on an alt-right banning spree

Essential Q: Is Twitter violating free speech by banning alt-right members?
Twitter, a worldwide social network, connecting, and sharing messages and words with people globally, is also controversial in the sense that as members are exercising their first amendment rights by tweeting whatever they want.
According to an article by the Washington Post, one cannot actually say whatever they want on twitter, thus showing that freedom of speech is not a viable excuse for tweeting out anything. Since the election of our new president, the level of discriminatory and hate speech has risen higher than it has been in a while. Many different alt-right and white supremacy groups are making their voices heard over many different platforms, especially twitter. Many believe what these groups are preaching is just them exercising their rights, but is is really? Twitter definitely doesn’t think so. They have banned numerous accounts associated with the alt-right movement, including the leader, Richard Spencer.
Spencer, doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He believed that he is being treated unfairly and twitter is violating his rights. While his account has been banned Other like Trump are continually preaching similar rhetoric and not being banned. Not yet at least. As for twitter violating some users free speech, they may be going overboard in some cases,but in the case of banning members of the alt-right, they just might be doing right thing. This power that twitter has also may be bad for them in the long run,for people might feel that the have no rights on twitter, and no longer use it.

Pierson, David, and Paresh Dave. “Twitter’s Alt-right Banning Spree.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

Ohlheiser, Abby. “Banned from Twitter? This Site Promises You Can Say Whatever You Want.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

Universities Limit the Right to Freedom of Expression

The first amendment is one of the most important and debated facets of our democracy.  It allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in different forms including the right to freedom of  expression, speech, assembly, and petition.  Despite that all of these are protected under the law there a lot of grey areas that create controversy.  Recently there has been debate over whether or not universities should be allow to limit students’ rights to free speech.  Many students feel like their rights are being stripped away from them in a place where they are supposed to be encouraged to embrace their ideals and independence.  With new laws being put in place, allowing universities to restrict rights protected under the first amendment,  there is more controversy than ever.

On October 29th of 2016 a fan at University of Wisconsin-vs.-Nebraska game wore an Obama costume with a noose tied around its neck.  The fan was asked to remove the offensive parts of the costume and agreed.  The debate comes into play if the man had not complied with the university’s request.  Would they have had the right to further pursue the issue?  Although the costume was extremely offensive and could be considered violent and racist, the man was technically exercising his right to freedom of expression.  He was not making any threats nor putting anyone in danger.  Just because the costume is deemed offensive does not mean it is violating the rights protected under the first amendment.  In another case, the University of Missouri expelled a student who published an article in an underground newspaper that contained offensive language.  When the case was brought to court it was ruled, “the mere dissemination of ideas-no matter how offensive to good taste- on a state university campus may not be shut off in the same alone of ‘conventions of decency'”.

Despite the offensive and racist nature of the fan’s costume, it is protected under the first amendment and he is allowed to wear it.  An important thing to remember when it comes to cases like this is that they are all different and need to be handled that way.  Universities need to keep in mind that their institutions are a crucial place for students to express themselves and their belief without restrict by what is deemed offensive.

Works Cited

Nowicki, Jenn. “Can Universities Restrict Free Speech On Campus?” Generation Progress. N.p., 15 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

“State of the Law: Speech Codes.” FIRE. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

Is Satire in the Media Actually Protected by the First Amendment?

I believe that satire and parodies used in the media are protected by the first amendment in the freedom of press clause as long as there is a disclaimer stating that what is being said is not accurate. A case in the 1980’s proves this because a minister went to court because of an advertisement that portrayed him having relations with his mother while they were intoxicated. Which this advertisement had a disclaimer saying that the ad was “a parody and not to be taken seriously”. When this was taken to court the court sided with the company that created the ad because “no reasonable person would believe the situation depicted in the ad to be true.” The court did, although, award compensation in damages for emotional distress. This is just one example of how parodies and satire both are protected.

The Ethics of Freedom of Speech and Political Campaigns

In a republic,  it is important for one to voice their opinion, because we are the ones who elect officials to represent us. If you watch TV or listen to the radio during election season, the channels are flooded with political advertisements. On average in one day on one channel you will see 62 advertisements regarding the political election. “In some of these (swing) states, there’s literally going to be no available advertising space left on television,” said Kip Cassino, Executive Vice President at a market research company Borrell Associates. In the last election, each candidate spent over two billion dollars on the election, with about half of that being spent on commercials. Symbolic speech is one expressing their idea or emotion without words. In this case it is donating money towards campaigns versus using words.  Does money equal speech?  Should the government limit the amount of money an individual or corporation can donate to a political candidate?

As we dive deeper into the subject of political elections and commercials, it is important to understand both sides of the argument. An individual or corporation can donate to a political campaign or PAC to assist with the heavy costs. With the high costs of an election, it is important for individuals or corporations to voice their opinion. By donating money you are simply just supporting your preferred candidate. In the past presidential election, Hillary Clinton had $799.5 million donated to her campaign VS Donald Trump had $639.1 million. In the 2010 Citizens United decision, the court struck down the idea of limiting the money spent on political advertisements. They believe an individual can spend their money on advertisements if they so choose. On the other side during the during the 1981 case of Buckley VS Valeo case, one believed that they should limit the amount of money spent on a political campaign. As you can see in the statistics about the amount of money spent on campaigns, it does not determine the winner of the election. The republican candidate, Donald Trump, won with less money donated to his campaign. People are voicing their opinion with money that has no impact on the results. Money does not equal speech.

All in all, money is just simple donations to support your preferred candidate. The last presidential election proves the amount of money spent on a campaign does not voice who is going to win the election. Is money speech? The answer can be undecided, but next time you think about donating money towards a political campaign think about the impact it will have on the election and what your money is going towards. Do commercials really have an impact on your opinion?

Freedom of Speech in Public Schools

There are many examples of cases that involve students at public schools who believed that their freedom of speech rights were violated when they were suspended for wearing certain clothes, symbols, or saying inappropriate things over social media. The greatest example is the Supreme Court case of Tinder vs. Des Moines that took place in Iowa in 1969. Various students planned a silent protest against the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school. The principal found out and warned the students that if they went through with the protest they would be suspended. The students ignored the warning and were suspended. The parents of the students sued and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students and their rights to freedom of speech.

Some people believe that students and employees at public places should be punished for wearing offensive clothing or making statements that school officials consider slander or fighting words. This would mean that school officials set boundaries and decide when the line is crossed. For example, if a student wears an item of clothing with the Confederate flag on it, then school officials have the right to tell the student to change or suspend the student if the student does not comply. School officials want to create an environment that is a safe place where students do not feel threatened. A student wearing a Confederate flag is very offensive to some people. However, many other people agree with the ruling of Tinder vs. Des Moines that stated, “Students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates.” People on this side of the argument believe that schools should not be allowed to limit a student’s freedom of speech because that is unconstitutional. Students have freedom of speech no matter where they are in public.

There are some situations where freedom of speech is already limited. For example, if a person walked into a crowded building and yelled, “FIRE!” that person could be charged because that person’s speech caused panic and posed a clear and present danger to others. Also in schools, a student could be suspended or  expelled for pulling the fire alarm when there is no fire or threat of a fire.

Currently, school officials have the power to limit student’s actions when it comes to dress codes, social media, school newspapers and many other things. I agree with this because the school officials have the responsibility to make sure that all students feel respected and safe at school.  Students who wear vulgar-language clothing, Confederate flags, Nazi swastikas, or communicating offensive words about teachers or students over social media can be very offensive towards others in the school. It could make students feel like their opinions do not matter or that everyone hates them.  I believe that each school official should have the right to prohibit clothing or words that they deem offensive and that students should be required to respect those rules so that other students and teachers at their school feel comfortable and safe.