Category Archives: Right to Petition

Protesting and The First Amendment, Fighting Words

The Fighting Words doctrine under the first amendment is defined as a limitation to the freedom of speech, as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But what are the limits that can be pushed before you cross the line over the gray area, and infringe upon others? Is protesting an example of inciting hate speech and fighting words? Under the fighting words doctrine, fightings words are split into two types of speech that are not protected, words that by their very utterance inflict injury, and speech that incites an immediate breach of the peace. This doctrine comes forth after the Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire case. This case was when Chaplinsky was immediately breaching the peace, and inciting utterance to inflict injury towards police officers, he was arrested. The Supreme Court decided to uphold the arrest, and therefore making the doctrine, originally the Chaplinsky clause, eventually they called it the the Fighting Words doctrine. In Topeka, Kansas, members of the Westboro Baptist Church like to protest at soldiers funerals, protesting the LGBTQ community, and blaming them for the soldiers deaths.

 

On February 1, 1949, in Chicago the Father Arthur Terminiello delivered a speech to his congregation where he bashed many different political groups, and racial groups, condemning his group to gather and riot. He was arrested for disturbing the peace, and for inciting a riot. It was because of his words that caused protest, and riots. Even though the court ruled in a 5 to 4 favor of Terminello, he still caused both a nuisance, and disrupted the peace. I think that inciting protests, and disrupting the peace should not be protected under the 1st Amendment. You should not get protection under the 1st amendment for disrupting everyday life for other people.

 

Sources:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaplinsky_v._New_Hampshire

https://www.thefire.org/misconceptions-about-the-fighting-words-exception/

https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/337us1

 

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Hypocritical Supreme Court Harming Pregnant Women

Should the government allow pro-life advocates to freely protest in front of Planned Parenthood clinics without a barrier even if it means harassment of the patients?

Teen pregnancy, rape, defective birth control, or maybe just an accident. Abortions potentially play a major role in thousands, if not millions, of peoples lives. Some are pro-life while others are pro-choice, but how far can one group go to push their opinions onto others? When does pushy turn into dangerous? And how far can the government go to prevent protesters from going too far?

Pro-life vs Pro-choice is without a doubt one of the most prevalent hot topic issues we see today, but where does the Supreme Court draw the line between protection and freedom to protest. In Massachusetts, this was the essential question for many. A law that was enacted in 2007 created a 35-foot barrier zone outside entrances to planned parenthood abortion clinics as a response to a rich history of harassment and violence. Pro-life advocates were furious and challenged the law saying it violated the first amendment and their right to state their opinions and protest. Yet many of these pro-life advocates said that they were not protesters, but petitioners. The law denied them the right to do so.

On the other hand, it has been noted that these ‘petitioners’ aren’t always peaceful, in fact, they can get aggressive and violent fairly easily when they are disagreed with or can’t change the woman’s mind. This was also the main point that Massachusetts’ Planned Parenthood Clinic brought up in favor of the laws staying in the act. They brought up many past examples of violence targeted towards the Cilic, and even a shooting.

So how does the first amendment play into all of this, and how did the Supreme Court decision to go about such a sensitive topic? Well, this isn’t the first time that the Supreme Court has handled the buffer zone debate. According to NPR news, “Fourteen years ago, the court upheld Colorado’s 8-foot “floating” buffer zones around individuals to protect patients and staff entering and exiting these clinics. Since then, buffer zones have prevented demonstrators from closely approaching patients and staff without permission.” But this time around for the Massachusetts ruling the court wasn’t so liberal with their decision.

Although the Massachusetts situation is different in the sense that their buffer zone will not allow the demonstrators within 35 feet, the issue is still the same. Their situation closely resembles the same buffer zone issue in St. Louis, where the bill was rejected, according to KMOV4 News. But the border isn’t as long as is seems to be in Massachusetts, 35 feet is similarly the same size as an average school bus, and wouldn’t take more than 10 seconds to walk the full length of. It also allows anyone and everyone to walk through it, as long as they intend on entering the clinic or simply crossing over the buffer zone. The Supreme Court ended up ruling against the buffer zone due to it violating the petitioners right to protest. This didn’t settle well for Planned Parenthood leader Marty Walz, who thought the Court was being hypocritical. The Supreme Court has its own buffer zone, not allowing anyone to demonstrate, speak, or protest on his or her block. Or how there is a “150-foot buffer zone around any polling place on Election Day.”

Although the border does technically prevent some to their right of protest, is it worth the violence, the shootings, and the harassment of women going through one of the hardest decisions of their life? Should the Supreme Court be more lenient with the buffer zone, considering they too use it to their advantage? The buffer zone issue has little to nothing to do with people’s views on abortion, but how we view one another’s safety. You would think the Supreme Court would care more about the women’s lives that are potentially being put in danger than their views on whether or not abortion is right.

Totenberg, N. (2018). NPR Choice page. [online] Npr.org. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2013/12/20/255870199/supreme-court-considers-legality-of-abortion-clinic-buffer-zones [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

News, K. (2018). St. Louis aldermen reject bill to create a buffer zone around Planned Parenthood. [online] http://www.kmov.com. Available at: https://www.kmov.com/news/st-louis-aldermen-reject-bill-to-create-buffer-zone-around/video_479d0f52-c6a6-587a-9035-0ac79a3b1896.html [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

Corporations SLAPP the Middle Class

Sued for starting a website and hounded in legal fees for trying to speak the truth about a corporation. This is what happened to Bradley D. Jones in 2004 when Radio Shack filed a SLAPP suit against him for starting RadioShackSucks.com. Should companies be able to use SLAPP laws to push away lawsuits with legal fees? Now, what is a SLAPP suit? A SLAPP is a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’. Essentially, when a business doesn’t like what somebody or a company is saying about them, they file a lawsuit against them. Winning is not the goal of these suits, the goal is to scare the other party into silence. The people for SLAPP say that these are necessary at times to protect companies from frivolous lawsuits. Others say that it infringes upon their first amendment rights to speak out against these companies. As Jones himself said “I’m just one little guy against a multi-million- or billion-dollar corporation”. Jones was trying to speak out about Radio Shack’s poor overtime policy. He had many people who were on his side. The second he began to grow traction Radio Shack took action.
These SLAPP lawsuits take away the everyday citizen’s freedom of speech. SLAPPing makes it almost impossible to speak out against a corporation’s actions. According to the Public Participation Project, the United States Supreme Court has said that citizens have the right to petition the government. These lawsuits could silence critical public opinion and do not allow people to voice concern. Many states have enacted anti-SLAPP laws and others have proposed them. Although many companies will say that some lawsuits are ‘frivolous’ and only meant for ‘defamation’, we still must take due process into account. It should not be up to the business to take away someone’s right to speak out.

 

Work Cited:

Latimes.com. (2015). U.S. needs an anti-SLAPP law like California’s. [online] Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-slapp-20150816-story.html# [Accessed 26 Sep. 2018].

McDevitt, J. (2013). Whacked By Lawsuit Costs, Old City Civic Association Disbands. [online] Philadelphia.cbslocal.com. Available at: https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/05/16/whacked-by-lawsuit-costs-old-city-civic-association-disbands/ [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].

Public Participation Project. (n.d.). What is a SLAPP?. [online] Available at: https://anti-slapp.org/what-is-a-slapp/ [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].

Do people that are against gays have free speech?

There are many examples of free speech even if it is against gays. They are a group that protests the gay community and the group dates back to 1955 founded by Fred Waldron Phelps. The people of westboro Baptist church say, “All we’re wanting to do is to tell people what the Bible really says about their manner of life, about their eternal prospects, and the Supreme Court has already weighed in on that manner, eight to one.” They just want to show how they feel about the gay community and even though other may not agree with what they are doing they have a right to express how they feel about the gay community. When Charleston City Council on Tuesday passed an emergency, temporary ordinance that will prohibit picketing and other protest activities within 300 feet of funeral and burial services. Such ordinances must be “content-neutral,” Bender said, meaning they must apply to everyone and are not based on a person’s views on a particular issue. The prohibition on picketing is constitutional, because it applies to everyone, Bender said. They were preventing them to express there feeling and it only affected them because they didn’t want anything to interpret the funeral, but they only did that because of their believes.

The follower of westboro baptist church believe that god punish those who support homosexal and are proud of it. Expecality when it is in the military and in the government. The follower picket normal military funeral to protest the homosexality in all the commities. For years, police listened as complaints streamed in that WBC’S picketers, with signs reading “God Hates Fags” and “Fags Die/God Laughs,” and many people believe that they went beyond free speech but they have a right to express what they feel towards anyone.

 

Website

Facts and Case Summary – Snyder v. Phelps

“Facts And Case Summary – Snyder V. Phelps.” United States Courts. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.

 

Website

Westboro Baptist Church | History & Facts

“Westboro Baptist Church | History & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.

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.

1.http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=12&sid=2bb940d6-9da3-45a5-8302-0e64577cea89%40sessionmgr120&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=9502143250&db=ulh

2. http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=eb7659f1-ea2d-4547-bfaa-5792cc3be310%40sessionmgr101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=9404064174&db=ulh

3.https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/on_the_front_lines/pr399

 

 

 

 

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.

Sources:

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.