Category Archives: Right to Petition

Freedom of Speech and Right to Petition

Can the Government limit freedom of free speech and right to petition against them?

There has always been people who will not agree or like what one has to say. When the government gets involved it definitely is a whole different thing. The sad part it is not that is happening just in the United States, but as well in other countries.  Other countries may still even be fighting for freedom of speech but those who have it, seem to still struggle through it. For example, according to the author Sussman, Leonard R. The year were governments seem to be interested press ethics more than journalist safety, due to the bloodiest records in 1994. The count of one hundred and thirteen journalist murdered in 27 countries. Evermore, in the council of Europe thirty five journalist in sixteen different countries were reported kidnapped or “disappeared”. Specifically, thirty seven murdered in Rwanda, Seventeen killed in Algeria, Eleven died in Bosnia, and around 1,460 not only physical, physiological, but also economic attacks in one hundred and eight countries. These are just a few facts that prove that governments do try to control in  their way free speech of journalist and petition against them.
Furthermore, according to Christian Century, who wrote an article based on a report of a petition for a reconsideration of the Unites States Supreme Court. Mainly which was based on a group of religious-liberties that wanted the government to reconsider that abortion protesters can be sued under the federal anti-racketeering law  (against making and organized crime) known as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) . The article mentioned as well the NOW (National Organization of Women)  v.s. Scheidler case , and how the attorneys representing Rutherford Institute to rehear the case to be able to address the violation or breaking the law of free-speech rights from RICO. When I researched more about the case I found out that the Supreme Court ruled that the protesters were ordered to pay over $85,000 to two abortion clinics in Chicago. The abortion providers did not obtain to prove that the protesters were part of and “extortion”, but the trial court allowed them to link the protesters actions to few violent acts committed through other anti-abortion protester events. The overall case proves how the Government will not help those who protest their freedom of speech. Even where there is no evidence to do so, they will allow others against them to find a way to win.

One can see with these two articles and with further research that even tho the First Amendment is created, even though the U.S.  Government may not get as violent, powerful, or unfair, it definitely still limits one’s freedom of speech and protest in their best way possible.









Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.


EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley

Dakota Access Pipeline & First Amendment

Written in the Bill Of Rights under the 1st amendment is freedom of speech. Included in this freedom of speech is, the right to have freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceable assemblies. Reporters see this as their right to give news reports on what they call the truth, but the government sees it as rioting and as of late, has been putting these reporters in jail or giving out tickets for trespassing. The North Dakota Access Pipeline as of late has been a very hot and controversial issue in our nation. It was a very big topic regarding our debates and president elections back in 2016. With Trump in control, we are likely to see this pipeline passed and built. This has gotten people all across the country riled up. Many people have traveled nationwide to protest in the Dakotas. Saying that it is land we owe to the SIoux and it is unavailable to build on.  Others think it is better for our economy and will lead to more jobs. Being one of the biggest controversies in our country right now, we also have the debate whether or not it infringes on the rights of the first amendment.  Part of that first amendment is, freedom of the press, the right to be protected as press for your work. As long as that work is not ‘fake news’. News teams have been going on to private land and giving reports on the pipeline and their protests. Some of these reports have given certain reporters a ticket from the police or even a spot in jail. The reason behind this is that they are trespassing on someone else’s land. The question behind this all is are they giving these reports unwarranted as a ‘rioting-like protest’  response to Trump’s new order or simply just doing news coverage.

I am neutral on this discussion, though. I believe that the pipeline was a good decision passed by President Trump and it will benefit our nation in many ways. I do not think the protesting by citizens will do anything though and all it is is a waste of their time. From the standpoint of the press vs. the government, I see both sides. The press is, in a way, protesting by giving these stories as most often given from the negative side of the pipeline, leaving out the possibilities the pipeline has to offer. This is seen by the government a form of protesting, falling under the category of rioting, which results in a ticket or if necessary, jail. To avoid the problems for both sides of the argument, reporters can give news on public land and give news more neutralized. Staying off private land avoiding the ticket, and making all sides happy by delivering news that is equalized.

Burn Baby Burn

Is the burning of the American Flag protected by the first amendment freedom of speech, or is it seen as obscenity? Burning of the American Flag, or any flag, is seen as a way to protest your government, and tell them that they are doing a bad job. This argument just got re-ignited recently due to Trump being elected as president and he threatened, “ loss of citizenship or a year in jail!” if you were caught burning the flag. This issue has been challenged multiple times in the U.S Supreme Court. Once  In the 1989 case “Texas V Johnson” and again in 2005 when Clinton tried to pass the Flag Protection act.

People feel very strongly against flag burning as you can see here. People, including the president, love the first amendment (freedom of speech to be exact), but burning of the flag is often seen as a whole different idea. A lot of citizens take the burning of the flag as a way to disrespect all of the countless lives that were lost defending the flag. Others argue that you are abusing freedom of speech by burning an object that gives you that right in this country. Finally, my personal opinion is that the flag is seen as a sacred object to the U.S and it should be illegal. You shouldn’t be thrown in jail, just get a huge fine for burning the flag.

On the other side, it is protected under the first amendment freedom of speech. The burning of the flag has been tested twice in court and 2 laws have tried to have been passed to outlaw the burning. In 1989, the case of “Texas V Johnson” occurred. The supreme Court ruled 5-4 that flag burning was a form of “symbolic speech” which was protected by the First Amendment. Gregory Johnson was convicted by a Texas court of violating  state law that didn’t allow “ desecration of a venerated object” . The next year, another case came up. “United States v Eichman”, where again the Supreme Court affirmed the right to burn the Flag. In 1989 George H Bush tried to pass Flag Protection Act and it was ruled unconstitutional. Again in 2005 Hilary Clinton tried to pass another Flag Protection Act and it too was denied. Many argue that if you make flag burning illegal, where does it stop? It could destroy our democracy.

In conclusion, this is a very debatable subject where people feel strongly on both sides.  Burning the flag is seen wrong by many, but it is protected by our own constitution, and it is hard to argue against that. Ask yourself, what would you do to protest?