Tag Archives: debate

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

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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/

 

 

Are Free Speech And Hate Speech The Same?

Just this past October at a football game between the University of Wisconsin and Nebraska, a fan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was spotted with a costume of the 44th president, Barack Obama, with a noose tied around its neck. Though the school wasn’t pleased and had the fan remove certain offensive parts from the costume, they stated it “was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech.”. So this brings up the question, are hate speech and actions protected under the boundaries of the first amendment? The short answer is yes, but how far can it go? The first amendment states that speech that will incite violence is not protected under the Constitution. Sometimes hate speech won’t fall under this category, even though it may offend people or you may not agree with it. In an article that talks about the debate between hate speech and free speech it brings up the idea that hate acts but not speech may be regulated under the law. In an example from the article, a Minnesota boy burned a cross in an African American families lawn and charges were brought up on him by the family. He was prosecuted under a law in Minnesota that made it illegal to burn a symbol of a certain race or religion likely to incite resentment. This case later reached the Supreme Court, where the law was later determined unconstitutional and hindered the boy’s first amendment rights. The law focused on the meaning of the message and not his actions which is why it was found unconstitutional. He was, however, held criminally responsible for damaging property. There was another incident that happened on the campus of the University of Oregon. One of the professors at the university invited some students to a costume party. She was found wearing what a costume some found offensive though it was not her intention to be offensive. The school’s policy on this type of issue was that if something was found to cause enough of an uproar at the university it may result in suspension from the university for students and staff. The real dilemma of this story is if the university is in the right, pertaining to the first amendment, with its rules. The answer is the university is it’s own institution and can make it’s own rules even though some may push the boundary of the Constitution. The debate between hate and free speech had raged since the beginning of the United States, and it shows no sign of stopping. I believe, though I may not agree with it, that hate speech is constitutional and is protected by the first amendment. But we need to be watchful, to stop it when it crosses the boundaries  of the first amendment.