Tag Archives: first amendment

Where Does Hate Speech Cross the Line?

Ever since the Constitution was written, freedom of speech has been a guaranteed right granted to all Americans. As times are changing, the question of where hate speech fits into this right to speak freely has heavily been debated. Hate speech is defined by the American Bar Association as speech that offends, threatens or insults groups based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits. The word used in this definition, threats, is one that alarms many readers as they believe dangerous threats should not be protected by laws and should be taken seriously by police and the court of law. This being said, is hate speech protected by the first amendment and if so, when should hate speech no longer be protected under law? In the United States Supreme Court case, Elonis vs U.S. (2014), saw Anthony Elonis threatening his ex-wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, a FBI agent and the local police via Facebook. After a long court process, Elonis was sentenced to forty-four months in prison with three years of supervision upon his release. During the trials, it was argued that the threats were not “true threats” and that it was a violation of the first amendment if he were to be imprisoned. The court ultimately ruled that the threats were an act of danger and was convicted of four out of the five counts. This displays the difference of saying strongly worded opinions against different people and threatening them. In this particular case, threats were not protected by the first amendment due to the fact that people’s lives were targeted through the threats.

On the other end of this topic of threats versus hate speech, the Supreme Court Case of Brandenburg v Ohio (1969) favored on the side of the person being charged for making threats. Brandenburg was an active member of the KKK in Ohio and was arrested for making threats that implied he was calling for an overthrow of the government. Once the case got all the way to the Supreme Court, it was ruled that no violent or illegal actions followed the threat and that the Ohio Court violated Brandenburg’s right to freedom of speech granted by the first amendment. The idea of threats versus hate speech is still heavily debated nearly 50 years after this case came to a close as the definition of threats and hate speech still do not have a clear separation. Overall, the first amendment protects Americans through the freedom of speech, but the debate on hate speech versus threats questions how the extent of this freedom of speech.

Through court cases and the definitions of hate speech, it can be determined that threats are protected by the first amendment unless someone’s life is in danger or the threat sparks violence or crimes being committed.


Works Cited:

“ABA Division For Public Education: Students: Debating The “Mighty Constitutional Opposites”: Hate Speech Debate”. Americanbar.Org, 2018, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/initiatives_awards/students_in_action/debate_hate.html. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“Brandenburg V. Ohio”. Oyez, 2018, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“Facts And Case Summary – Elonis V. U.S.”. United States Courts, 2018, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-elonis-v-us. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“What Is THREAT? Definition Of THREAT (Black’s Law Dictionary)”. The Law Dictionary, 2018, https://thelawdictionary.org/threat/. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“6 Major US Supreme Court Hate Speech Cases”. Thoughtco, 2018, https://www.thoughtco.com/hate-speech-cases-721215. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.



Can a school force its students to perform religious practices?

Can a school force their students to pray or even salute a flag?
Firstly, a group organization joined by Steven Engel to claim that having to pray and practice one certain religion at the beginning of a school day went against the First Amendment. These kids from the Herrick’s School District would stand and say a prayer every day. There was a court case made in 1962 to petition prayer. The facts of the case are that it goes against the Establishment Clause, which the act of saying a prayer or prayers aloud violates our First Amendment, as Justice
Douglas concurred in the judgment he made. William Vitale allowed the following prayer to be said aloud, in the presence of a teacher; “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.” Through the 10 people who testified, The New York Court of Appeals sustained an order that the prayer was unconstitutional.
Secondly, there was another problem that made its way to court by the Minersville School District who believed it was against the First Amendment to expel kids for not saluting to the American Flag as a part of the daily school exercise. In 1935, Lillian and William Gobitis were expelled from a public school in Pennsylvania, these kids believed saluting to the flag was forbidden by the Bible, also saying it violated the First Amendment of their basic rights. These children were to salute the flag
and say, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Some believe it is good for these children to show unity with the Americas within public schools on a daily basis, but is also evokes others to believe that it goes against our liberty and authority. After the trial, it is to be believed that if one does not choose to salute the flag, it must solely mean that they do not appreciate the nation’s hopes and dreams. Furthermore, the court stated, “Public schools may require their students to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance over any religious objections.”
All in all, the First Amendment protects our right to religious freedom and to be able to practice whichever religion we wish to if we would like. A school cannot force one to pray or salute if one does not believe or wishes to do so.


Works Cited:


“Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).” Justia Law, Oyez, 2018, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/370/421/#tab-opinion-1943887. The state cannot hold prayers in public schools, even if it is not required and not tied to a particular religion.

“Minersville Sch. Dist. v. Board of Educ., 310 U.S. 586 (1940).” Justia Law, Oyez, 2018, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/310/586/#tab-opinion-1936815. In this eventually overruled decision, the Court held that public schools may require their students to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance over any religious objections.

“{{Meta.pageTitle}}.” {{Meta.siteName}}, Oyez, 27 Sept. 2018, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1961/468. The New York State Board of Regents authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day. A group of organizations joined forces in challenging the prayer, claiming that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The New York Court of Appeals rejected their arguments.

“{{Meta.pageTitle}}.” {{Meta.siteName}}, Oyez, 27 Sept. 2018, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/310us586. In 1935, Lillian and William Gobitis were expelled from Pennsylvania public schools for refusing to salute the flag as part of a daily school exercise. The Gobitis children were Jehovah’s Witnesses and believed that saluting the flag was forbidden by the Bible. They argued the expulsions violated their First Amendment rights.


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].

Should people be able to burn the Flag as a way to express themselves, or is it deemed dangerous and harmful?

The burning of the flag is a controversial topic for many people. Some people believe that it should be banned and is not respectful, while others think that it should be allowed and is away to express themselves freely. People argue whether or not the burning of the flag is/should be protected by the first amendment.


According to CNN “destruction on the American flag is protected by the constitution….even if the act is unsettling” meaning that you are allowed to burn the flag if you feel necessary to do so. However our president, Donald Trump has a different thought about the situation, and he has let his thought be well known. He believes “Burn the flag and go to jail” because it is a sign of disrespect towards our country and it should not be tolerated. Oddessy.com states that “it is an ineffective way to express disagreement.” It is important that we as a country respect our flag because it is a symbol of who we are. If there is something you do not agree with, you should not be allowed to burn the flag. The flag burning is also something that should not be protected by the first amendment. Our flag is a important part of the United States and it should become illegal to burn due to the substantial meaning behind it,



Why Burning The American Flag Should Be Illegal

“Why Burning The American Flag Should Be Illegal.” The Odyssey Online, 2017, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/burning-american-flag-should-illegal.



Tal Kopan, C.

Tal Kopan, CNN. “What The Supreme Court Has Said About Flag Burning.” CNN. N. p., 2018. Web. 30 Sept. 2018.

Breaking the American Way

What would you do if you witnessed a person protest a professional’s work right outside the workplace?  Laura Laursen receives this treatment on her way to work in southern Illinois. She mentally prepares because she knows people will hate on her job… performing abortions.  Newsweek.com quotes her saying “I’ve gotten used to it by now… but if I were any other kind of physician, this kind of violence and harassment would not be apart of my daily job…”.  There are multiple protesters outside the clinic. In response the town has created “buffer zones”. The zones create a “bubble” around the the clinic that the protesters must be outside of.  Is this the American way?
The part of the first amendment that we are looking at reads “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”.  The buffer zones should not be allowed according to the constitution. Buffer zones prohibits the protesters practice their right of expression. Some people argue that the protesters are harassing the doctor, and they should be given barriers due to that.  However, harassing is illegal only if it is based on a person’s age, race, national origin, sex, religion, or disability. The law does not protect citizens from receiving hate for the person’s profession. The city must repeal the buffer zone, and Laura Laursen will be receiving harassment from protesters.  It is the American way.



“First Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 2010, https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment.
Oclaborlaw.Com, 2018, http://www.oclaborlaw.com/labor5.pdf.
Solis, Marie. “Abortion Clinics Experiencing Surge in Death Threats, Harassment under Trump, Study Finds.” Newsweek, 9 May 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/abortion-clinics-death-threats-harassment-916184.

Does Our Nation’s 1st Amendment Allow Whether False News Be Obliged In The U.S?

Our founding fathers, specifically Benjamin Franklin, once proposed this idea of “power of the press” post the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Franklin stated that the press had the highest judgment in public headlines, following that they also carried power in what he announced as “unofficial”. Another highly figure, Thomas Jefferson, believed that freedom be given to the press in exchange for their gratitude in being governed on a higher hierarchy. Though Jefferson stated that the 1st Amendment be abused and falsely cooperated, judgement will find its course and eventually do it’s bidding.

In today’s society, the press or media, have been more complex through the game of politics, trends, and etc. But looking deeper, there has been a more increasingly amount of websites posting fake news on their page to shape society’s beliefs. When Donald Trump had won the 2016 election in January, there was an immediate rush of news outlets saying that Trump’s team had hacked their way through victory against the higher popular vote of Hillary Clinton. Going up against fake news on social media platforms like Facebook, according to the New York Times, Facebook’s policy chooses what content they allowed published on their website. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is finding ways to detect and capture fake news on their platform, however, Mark Zuckerberg believes that allowing freedom of speech is also an important asset when it comes to the people’s voices on the website whether that’s fake news in the mix.

A last thought comes from Clare Fletcher, a journalist who writes about freedom of speech and fakes news combined. Clare simply puts that fake news violates our freedom of speech, in which if fake news was censored by the government, it would be a pure violation to the Constitution. My conclusions is that fake news is simply an expression that’s meant to change the perceptions of a populated group, for which freedom of speech does protect, however to what degree?

“The Pro-Free Speech Way To Fight Fake News – The Walkley Magazine – Medium.” Medium. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.
” Ebscohost Login .” Web.a.ebscohost.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.
“We Already Have A 
Solution To Fake News: It’S Called The First Amendment.” The Heritage Foundation. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.

Is social media restricting your freedom of speech?

Should social media be able to restrict what you post? I think to some extent, social media should be able to control what some people post. There always is that fine line in social media of what is acceptable to post and what isn’t. If their post can be offensive to a group of people the post should be taken down. For example, saying you don’t like an actor because they’re Muslim. If someone expresses their hatred towards a person about things that they’ve done that doesn’t threaten the person that the post is about, then it’s fine. An example would be, I don’t like ______ because they said _______ about ________.

In the past two months, there has been a big debate in the Marvel community on whether James Gunn, the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, should be rehired after a ton of disrespectful tweets arose from ten years ago. Everyone in the cast from Guardians of the Galaxy posted a letter in support for rehiring James Gunn despite the tweets. However, Disney made a statement that they weren’t going to rehire him. Many of James Gunn’s tweets from ten years ago were about rape and pedophilia which makes sense why Disney fired him since they’re a very family-friendly business.

The pro to having social media restricting what you say is that people being “exposed” for what they said in the past won’t bite them in the butt in the future. There is also a con to having social media restrict what you say. Many conservatives on social media feel as if censorship is a bad thing. Professor Eric Gander states in Gretel Kauffman’s article Twitter Bars Alt-Right Accounts, “…individuals who are liberal are really not committed to liberal values, they’re committed to censorship.” Now I agree with the fact of social media can’t just altogether ban alt-righters from saying what they believe, it’s just when some of their beliefs offend a group of people by being racist, sexist, etc. Social media’s platform should be as neutral as it can without restricting others rights because they don’t have the typical liberal views, but also keeping in mind one’s limits to not offend people.