Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

Should any book be banned from access in libraries just for the fact that the ideas behind them are controversial?

Within our society and as people with many different points of view often times we want our own thought to be understood by everyone else. Although, at times debate and discussion are less emphasized and more focused on the simple desire to force others to conform to the same ideas as our own. This can be seen in instances like schools where they are deciding if they should listen to the angry parents and ban Harry Potter, a notable book, for being related to wizardry and satanism. So, we have to wonder, should we ban any books that might have some controversy with how we want to raise our children?
Is silencing the voice of the writer and practically stripping them of their first amendment right? Nytimes raises one question to the issue. How do the students feel about books being banned? After All, the students are the ones that will be reading the books not the parents, so shouldn’t the students be able to decide what they want to read? For the most part, students answered the question like Erin, an 18 year old in highschool, did by stating “The world is huge, and diverse. Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, open a little part of that world to us. …I think the books helped me to grow up, to learn about the world”. On the other hand how are we to know if the kids are ready to read some books that might require a little bit more maturity or context. We can’t just throw 4th graders into a translated version of Mein Kampf. Thoughtco thnks the answer is just providing a supporting hand if the students need it, like the introduction to the use of the N word in older literature. PBS sees every book as a learning experience and any book that is banned for sensitive material is simply avoiding the problem. Learning new information along with the context in which it is delivered will help us grow as individuals and come to better ideas. Justice Louis D. Brandeis would agree with the fact of having no books banned as seen by a famous case of Whitney vs. California Justice where he stated
*377 “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
In essence stating that free speech should be protected and if some things may not sound right, then we can talk to change it. In the end, books are meant for spreading ideas in a way that can sometimes be easier than speeches or other sources. Why not use them as tools for learning and enlightenment?

 

Works Cites:
“What To Teach Students About Censorship And Book Banning In America.” ThoughtCo. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Whitney v. California [1927] 274 U.S. 357 No. 3 (Supreme Court of United States)
Schulten, Katherine. “Are There Books That Should Be Banned From Your School Library?.” The Learning Network. N. p., 1285. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Strum, Lora, and Lora Strum. “Banning Books Like ’13 Reasons Why’ Makes It Harder For Teens To Open Up To Adults, Author Says.” PBS NewsHour. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

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How should schools decide when and if praying is appropriate?

In 1962, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Engel vs. Vitale banned official school prayers (3). Today, many people, like Newt Gingrich, are fighting to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow such voluntary school prayer (1). According to the free exercise clause under the first amendment, all Americans have the right to whatever religious beliefs they choose. This idea comes into play when deciding whether schools should allow prayers. Since the people have the right to their own religious beliefs, praying should be strictly voluntary. If a student was forced into such activities, it would go against the freedom of religion under the Constitution. Praying being present in schools shouldn’t make students feel uncomfortable or forced to participate. In order to make praying an option, schools must consider when the time would be most appropriate to pray. For example, schools could have set times where students may pray if they wish to do so. For those who don’t wish to participate, they should be given freedom to use this downtime as they please. Having a schedule that works in this manner can prevent students from taking advantage of praying. Some students may use it as an excuse to get out of class or an assignment. Praying is a spiritual value that some students may practice at home, and it should be respected while at school. Also, it wouldn’t be very respectful for a student to up and leave during a lecture to go and pray. Praying shouldn’t interrupt the lesson plan or their learning. There has to be some restriction on when praying can occur, but fully taking away prayers strips students of their rights as Americans. Besides, more good than harm can come from praying in school. “Americans agree that our children have been hurt by violence, gangs, drugs, and teen sex and pregnancy. Prayer in school would not have any negative effects on the children of America” (1). The only time prayer could be a problem is when it starts to affect a student’s own academic performance, as well as their peers. Over the past few decades, polls have shown that the majority of Americans are in favor of allowing prayer in schools (1). Our government is based on majority rules, and the people have spoken, so they must be heard.

 

Works Cited

  1. Helms, Jesse A. and Ernest J. Istook Jr. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? PRO.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252933&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  2. Helms, Jesse A. and Bary W. Lynn. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? CON.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 19. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252935&site=ehost-live&scope=site
  3. “Highlights of Pending Senate “School Prayer” Proposals.” Congressional Digest, vol. 53, no. 1, Jan. 1974, p. 4. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=10576975&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

PRAYERS BEFORE FOOTBALL GAMES CROSSING THE LINE OR NOT?

Praying before sporting events is nothing new in our country, especially for football teams. Others and organizations, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, are saying that these coaches are breaking the law. The First Amendment allows everyone to freely exercise their religion and also allows everyone the right to freely express themselves. So the controversy is where the line is drawn, and to the extent that these freedoms go.

The line between what should and shouldn’t be allowed in freedom of religion and speech can sometimes be a confusing one. Teams and more specifically coaches, typically like to pray before games. Often asking for strength, courage, and that players remain healthy throughout the game. But coaches and schools are coming under fire for it, saying that they are violating the First Amendment for imposing their religion on students. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has not only gone after Dunmore High School, but another high school in Birmingham, Alabama, for praying before football games. They say that, “Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.” In their letter however, they fail to ask if any students have had any complaints about it, considering they are the ones who would be effected. Unless a student has told their coach, teacher, or school that they are offended by this prayer and asked that it be stopped, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any harm. Sen. Lankford says, “Gratitude to God is certainly not a crime in America.” The only problem that could come from praying before a game would be if a student feels peer pressured to join in and not speak out against it. Although they always have the choice to not participate in the prayer as well.

The line for freedom of religion and speech for praying before games is definitely on the border. I don’t believe that it should be banned however, unless a student asks for it to be. Although since they have the option to not participate, I believe that others should be allowed to pray and practice their religion for the brief time before a football game.

Sources:

Wertheimer, Linda K. “Opinion | Why You Shouldn’t Defend a High School Coach Praying on His Football Field.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Oct. 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/29/why-you-shouldnt-defend-a-high-school-coach-praying-on-his-football-field/?utm_term=.64aa0bb5a937.

“Alabama High School Told to Halt Prayers before Football Games.” Fox News, FOX News Network, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/26/alabama-high-school-told-to-halt-prayers-before-football-games.html.

 

Social Media is Free Speech

Social media is so popular these days and is so versatile it can be used so many different ways. There are many positive aspects to social media, but a major debate over social media has always been about where the first amendment fits into all of it. The big question that everyone is talking about is if the government should be able to regulate what is being said and posted on social media.
The first amendment states that “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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” To me, freedom of speech means that people have the right to say whatever they want whenever they want. Even though I believe lots of people choose to abuse this right and use it as a way to hurt people, it is still our rights as U.S. citizens to say whatever we want. Social media is just a part of this. The use of language can be more strong on social media because it is through a screen and not face to face. I think this is where most of the problems arise and where some people want social media to be regulated because lots of people share hateful and offensive thoughts online. Some people believe others should not have the right to say such horrible things online, and while I agree with that concept, I also acknowledge that the first amendment was created so people to speak their minds freely and have their opinions be heard. If the government were to regulate everything that was put on social media, it would cause people to become closed off and scared to share their views and opinions.
The U.S. is one country that grants its citizens the right to say whatever they want about whatever they want and I choose to look at that as a blessing instead of a curse. Despite the fact that some people abuse the first amendment and choose to use it as a weapon of hate instead of a way to heal and bring people joy and happiness, I do not believe that the government should be allowed to regulate everything put on social media. Social media is a creative output for so many people and a way for people to get their ideas heard. If the government is looking over everyone’s shoulder all the time, then they are taking away people’s voices because they will be too afraid to speak their minds.

Citations:

Karentay. “How Should Governments Regulate Facebook and Other Social Media Platforms? Proposing A New Paradigm to Regulation.” Technology and Public Good, 24 Oct. 2017, techandpublicgood.com/2017/10/24/how-should-governments-regulate-facebook-and-other-social-media-platforms-proposing-a-new-paradigm-to-regulation/.

“First Amendment – U.S. Constitution.” Findlaw, constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1.html.

Public Employees and Their Free Speech.

Topic: Free speech rights for public employees

Essential Question: What is classified as free speech for the public employee?

Free speech is something that people are constantly debating and will continue to debate for a long time. When it comes to public employees the Courts currently employ a three-part test to determine whether a government employee’s speech is protected by the First Amendment. The first part is government employees are only protected by the First Amendment when they are speaking as private citizens. If their speech is part of their official job duties, then they can be fired or disciplined for it. The second part is was their speech regarding a matter of public concern? If it is not then the first amendment will not protect them it is of public concern the first amendment may protect them there is still one more test. The final question is whether the government employer’s interest in efficiently fulfilling its public services is greater than the employee’s interest in speaking freely. There have been a few cases involving this system Garcetti v. Ceballos, Pickering v. Board of Education, Connick v. Myers. When it comes to free speech the line of what is protected by the first amendment and what is not is blurry at best. Public employees are in a unique situation and should be careful about what they say or post.

Tags: Media, Social, Freedom-of-speech

Works Cited:

“Free Speech Rights Of Government Employees.” Law2.umkc.edu. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

” Government Employees & First Amendment Overview | Newseum Institute.” Newseuminstitute.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Savage, David. “Supreme Court Strengthens Free-Speech Rights Of Public Employees.” latimes.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Limited Money?

Should there be a limit or regulation on how much an individual can donate towards a political candidate? There are many reasons why or why not to go along with this because it is right on the border of being an issue with freedom of expression or not. I believe that money can be considered a form of free expression and that there should be a limit on how much one person can spend on one candidate. If there is no limit, the political candidates that have multiple connections to people of great wealth will definitely have a very high advantage and that is unfair to the candidates that don’t have those types of connections. It is simply unfair if one candidate has more wealthy people on their side where they can simply pull a million dollars out of their pocket and give them a huge advantage over the other candidate. Having a limit will definitely make the campaigns more fair for everyone because it will actually matter about how many people are with the candidate and not just how many wealthy people are with that candidate. Another thing it would help is the amount being spent on campaigns. It is at a very high rate right now and the limits would help keep the spending amounts lower. In conclusion, there should definitely be a limit to the amount an individual can donate towards a political candidate.

Speak Outs – Should there be a limit on campaign donations from individuals?

Speak Outs – Should there be a limit on campaign donations from individuals?. (2018). Annenberg Classroom. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.annenbergclassroom.org/speakout/should-there-be-a-limit-on-campaign-donations-from-individuals

Why Campaign Contribution Limits Matter | BillMoyers.com

Why Campaign Contribution Limits Matter | BillMoyers.com. (2013). BillMoyers.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://billmoyers.com/2013/09/19/why-campaign-contribution-limits-matter/

How Far Can Satire Go Before Becoming Libel?

There are many sources of satire in media today that come in a variety of different forms, from articles to television.  Two very popular sources are, The Onion, and Saturday Night Live. Both of these sources poke fun at a wide variety of topics, and no one is safe from the humor that they bring about. However, how far are they able to go before their statements turn into libel? Satire falls under the topic of “Fair Use” and therefore allows copyrighted works to be parodied. An ex-CTO of The Onion explains,” The Onion’s office walls are filled with letters from companies expressing delight in being satirized, not because they love it but because they cannot fight comedy. You can only defeat comedy by being funnier.”(1)  SNL uses satire in the parodies that they make about companies, products, and people. Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center states, that Parodies are allowed to use more original context because they need lots of the original work in order to make a parody.

Satire can never be taken to far; it is a problem when it isn’t taken far enough. If something like a business is being ridiculed and the statement goes above and beyond to point out their every fault in an attempt to get people to laugh, that is better than it being similar to an actual representation of the business. If people are starting to believe that the statement is an actual, realistic model of the company, then it becomes a problem because it is turning into a defamatory statement. If people are going to believe a somewhat ridiculous statement, they should take the source of the statement into account. If the statement is coming from a show like SNL or is in an article by the onion, these statements should not be taken seriously at all. Sources that do not have a history of satire could be taken for libel. However, SNL and The Onion have a long history of satire, and therefore should not be taken seriously. When it comes down to deciding, could it be mistaken for a real model, or where is the statement coming from, are the two biggest factors that set the boundary between satire and libel.