Tag Archives: first amendment

White Supremacist Groups in Madison?

The first amendment protects the rights of the people, but is often referred back to in many controversial issues. It allows for all people the freedom to express themselves and to meet in groups, protest, and march. However, due to the general openness of the first amendment, there is a lot of grey area between arguing what is wrong and what is right. Hate groups like Neo-Nazi or White Supremacists often fall into this grey area when taken to court for a protest or march. Due to many cases of violent Nazi rallies around the nation, should white supremacists be allowed to protest in Wisconsin too?

The first amendment states, “people can assemble and engage in peaceful protest in a public space.” However, many states have put “time, place, and manner” restrictions into place to keep the protests from getting out of hand and controllable. In Wisconsin, a group must file for a “Special Event Permit” and pay all fees prior to protesting or marching. When an “unlawful assembly” occurs the state of Wisconsin is allowed to end or stop a demonstration because such a  “disturbance of public order that is reasonable to believe that the assembly will cause injury to ppl or damage to property,” (WI Statute 947.06). Unlawful assembly becomes important when a court is deciding between allowing or dispersing a public protest. This was the case for a protest in Skokie, IL. Skokie, IL is a town made up of approximately 70,000 people including 40,000 Jewish people. Thousands of the Jewish population were survivors of a Nazi concentration camp. On March, 20, 1977 the National Socialist Party (NSPA) informed the city of Skokie they would be marching down the sidewalk in protest that the Skokie Park ordinance required a fee posted prior to receiving a park permit.  Due to media attention on this protest, many members of the Jewish community knew about this protest. Frank Collin, leader of NSPA, assured the police of Skokie that the demonstrators would not make any derogatory statements and would cooperate with police instructions. However, during testimonies from many people in Skokie, including Jewish members, it was brought to attention that many Jewish organizations were holding a counter-demonstration of 12,000 – 15,000 people the same day as the NSPA. This arose concern for the people of Skokie because they were worried about the clash of the two demonstrations would lead to violence. Because of this concern, the Skokie court ruled that the NSPA was not to demonstrate or display the swastika. The NSPA took their cases to the Illinois court, then the Illinois Supreme Court, but both denied their petition to stay (NSPA vs. Skokie). In this case, an unlawful assembly that can lead to violence is an important deciding factor for the state and local governments.

According to the first amendment, any and every group is allowed to protest and march, but when violence is brought up as a concern, then local and state governments immediately take action to disassemble the demonstration. However, if violence is brought up as a concern, there should be a majority of people who feel the same way. For example, in the NSPA vs. Skokie case, there was reasonable cause to believe that the two demonstrations would lead to violence because they were counter groups. But if groups are being prohibited to assemble because the local government fears that the demonstrators could get out of control based on prejudice and bias then that is unconstitutional. The law is unbiased and those enforcing the law need to be unbiased as well. In Wisconsin, the laws surrounding protest and marches are reasonable, including laws about unlawful assembly. These restrictions put in place help keep the grey area of the first amendment small. They limit the possibility of the government abusing their power to take away our rights. In a matter of the law, white supremacist groups should be allowed to protest in Wisconsin, if and only if, they follow the restrictions to getting a permit prior to demonstrating, cooperate with local police, and lead a peaceful assembly. Despite many peoples opinions and feelings toward white supremacist groups, they also deserve the right to express and assemble as does everyone else in the United States. Hate speech is often common at these rallies, but despite this being offensive to many civilians, it is protected by the first amendment. Once there becomes an imminent threat of violence because of the demonstration or within the demonstration, then the local police have the right to disassemble the group immediately. This threat needs to be more than probable cause or a majority of concern by local citizens. Otherwise, white supremacist groups deserve the same rights as any other group in Wisconsin and should be allowed to protest.


“{{Meta.Pagetitle}}”. {{Meta.Sitename}}, 2019, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1976/76-1786.

“Gale – Product Login”. Go.Galegroup.Com, 2019, https://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=Reference&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=MultiTab&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=2&docId=GALE%7CCX3629100322&docType=Topic+overview&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=SUIC&contentSet=GALE%7CCX3629100322&searchId=R1&userGroupName=mono131514&inPS=true.

“Gale – Product Login”. Go.Galegroup.Com, 2019, https://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=News&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=MultiTab&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=3&docId=GALE%7CA139104836&docType=Article&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=SUIC&contentSet=GALE%7CA139104836&searchId=R1&userGroupName=mono131514&inPS=true.

“Protest Laws By State – Findlaw”. Findlaw, 2019, https://civilrights.findlaw.com/enforcing-your-civil-rights/protest-laws-by-state.html.”Wisconsin Legislature: Chapter 947″. Docs.Legis.Wisconsin.Gov, 2019, https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/947.


Should You Be Able to Decline Service to Someone based Off the First Amendment?

The First Amendment protects your ability to exercise your rights under the freedom of religion, but what happens when discrimination is mixed in? An example of this is the Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in July 2012, when Charlie Craig and David Mullins decided to go to Masterpiece Cakeshop and wanted the owner, Jack Phillips, to design a cake for their wedding. Philips declined to make the cake based on the fact that he does not make wedding cakes for a same-sex wedding because of his religion. This raised the question can a business owner decline service to someone. The couple ended up filing charges of discrimination because they felt the owner violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). Which makes   What makes this case interesting is that the smaller courts ruled in favor of the couple say that this was discrimination. The United States Supreme Court reversed their ruling with a 7-2 vote siding with the baker. Stating that this violated the free exercise clause which is the right practice religion.

Another similar court case was Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores the family that owns Hobby Lobby shaped their business around the Christian faith, believing that using any contraception is immoral and goes against their religion and under the Affordable Care Act they were forced to cover contraceptives. So on September 12th, 2012 Hobby Lobby, sued the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services based on how covering contraceptives violate their right to the Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration act (RAFA). This also bought the question should you be able to decline services to someone based The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby because of RAFA and how it is used in cases like this.

The big issue with whether you are able to decline services to someone or not is that no matter the outcome someone will be upset. I believe that in some cases you should not be allowed to decline service to someone because discrimination is a big issue and companies should not be able to pick and choose their customers. In both cases above the Supreme Court ruled that you can decline service to someone based on the free exercise clause in the first amendment. In some ways, I disagree with this because a company shouldn’t deny a woman the right to contraceptives, but I also can see it from the company’s point of view, but they should make it known that they don’t cover contraceptives.  

Works Cited

“Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores.” Oyez, 25 Feb. 2019, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2013/13-354.

“Civil Rights in the Twenty-First Century.” African American Almanac, edited by Brigham Narins, 10th ed., Gale, 2009. Student Resources In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ2135010022/SUIC?u=mono131514&sid=SUIC&xid=9f454ce1. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.

“Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.” Oyez, 25 Feb. 2019, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-111.

Employer Free Speech Rights in the Workplace

Should the right to free speech be completely protected in the workplace?

When you hear of the Constitution and the Amendments within it, one of the first things you might think of are the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech. These are both heavily discussed topics in the political eye and organized in the 1st Amendment along with the freedom of the press, and the right to petition the government. Although these are rights that are guaranteed to every U.S. citizen, there are situations in which we have to ask ourselves…am I protected by the first Amendment? A big debate that has gone on for a while is in regards to the issue of free speech in a public workplace.

Looking into the actual words of the constitution, it states “Congress shall make no law restricting freedom of speech or of the press or of religion” The key word being Congress. The kick is that while under an employer, who isn’t the government, you are not really protected under the first Amendment. Therefore, if the company you work for does not like something you say at work or outside of work that isn’t within your job duties, they are legally within their rights to take action whether that be firing you, a demotion, etc. There are definitely cases in which public workers were favored in court because of odd circumstances even when they were technically violating their employers “rules of speech” like this one. What isn’t legally within their rights is to use the fact that they can fire you for that as a loophole for discrimination of any type based on sexual orientation, religion, gender, ethnicity, etc. Employees of public workplaces aren’t entirely without hope though because under the NLRA, employees are given the right to discuss wage hours, working conditions and forming a union; so, even if your employer doesn’t like that they can’t legally fire you for it if you are a member of this board.

The main point is know your rights and read your employee handbook carefully for HR Info regarding free speech.


“Freedom Of Speech In The Workplace: The First Amendment Revisited – Findlaw”. Findlaw, 2019, https://corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/freedom-of-speech-in-the-workplace-the-first-amendment-revisited.html.

2019, http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=d637f44a-4d33-4d11-94ba-e10394a4e41c%40sdc-v-sessmgr06. Accessed 1 Mar 2019.

“The Supreme Court Finds No First Amendment Protection For Government Employee Speech Pursuant To Official Duties | Findlaw”. Findlaw, 2019, https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/the-supreme-court-finds-no-first-amendment-protection-for-government-employee-speech-pursuant-to-official-duties.html.

2019, https://www.marketplace.org/2017/08/08/business/speaking-out-workplace (chose). Accessed 1 Mar 2019.

Tags: First Amendment, Free speech, Employee rights

Fake News

Topic: Should the press be allowed to lie under the First Amendment?

In today’s day and age, the press is more focused on selling a story to make money rather than informing the public with real news. More often than not, this means lying or “stretching the truth” to make stories more appealing. For decades, people have been debating whether or not the press should be able to lie under the First Amendment. While there are laws prohibiting libel, there are still many libel cases reported every year since it is difficult to prove libel.

In order to win a libel case today, you must be able to prove that the editor or publisher made false statements knowing them to be untrue or that they were acting with malice. This became a rule after one of the most famous libel cases in history, the 1964 case: New York Times Company v. Sullivan. This case began after the New York Times published an ad requested donations to bail Martin Luther King Jr. out of jail. After reading the ad, Public Safety Commissioner, L.B. Sullivan found that the false information in the article was harmful to the reputation of his team. Sullivan was eventually rewarded $500,000, but that was not the end of this case. After reconsidering the case, Justice William Brennan concluded that under the First and Fourteenth amendments, Sullivan could only prevail a libel suit if he was able to prove that the publisher was acting with malice and intentional falsity. Following this case, libel laws were adjusted to focus on protecting an honestly earned reputation rather than getting compensation for a damaged reputation.

While libel laws have gotten much clearer over the years, there are still issues today that amount from lies published by the press. In a recent poll conducted by Monmouth University, research found that three out of four Americans believe that the media routinely reports fake news. If we can’t rely on the media to report accurate news, then how are we supposed to be aware of what is happening around us? Personally, I believe that our current libel laws have appropriate guidelines, but the punishments are not large enough. I agree with our current laws that require people to prove malicious intent in order to win a libel case. If this was not required, people would sue for libel just because they do not agree with a post. Time and time again, celebrities sue reporting agencies for defamation, but reporting agencies continue to publish lies. If our libel laws had harsher punishments, then maybe news companies would stop publishing fake news. I understand that news companies need to make their stories interesting to attract readers, but they should not be allowed to stretch the truth when it means harming somebody else’s reputation. There is a line between publishing fake news and posting your personal opinion. I believe that individuals should be able to post their opinions online as long as they do not have malicious intent. The goal of stricter libel laws would not be to stop people from sharing their opinions, but rather stopping people from posting misleading and/or harmful information.

The United States is known for protecting freedom of speech under the First Amendment, but there are limitations to this freedom. I believe that our current libel laws allow people to post what they want online, but that can result in defaming statements and accusations. Our libel laws are important to protect us, but they should have stronger punishments in order to protect reputations by preventing the press from publishing harmful articles in the first place. Some small adjustments to our current laws can result in a future with accurate news that is free of harmful comments.

Feeney, Ryan. “Chilling Free Speech.” Quill Vol.96, No.7, Sep. 2008, pp. pp. 28+. SIRS Issues Researcher,


Kirtley, Jane E. “Getting to the Truth: Fake News, Libel Laws, and ‘Enemies of the American People.’” Human

Rights, vol. 43, no. 4, July 2018, p. 6. EBSCOhost,


MOSKOWITZ, DANIEL B. “Drawing a Line on Libel.” American History, vol. 51, no. 1, Apr. 2019, p. 22.


ive&scope=site.”New York Times Company v. Sullivan.” Oyez, 25 Feb. 2019, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1963/39.

Does Wealth Limit Someones First Amendment Rights in SLAPP’s?

SLAPP is a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. The United States and California Constitutions grant free speech and the right to exercise such practices regardless of ethnicity, background, race, gender, etc. However, every year thousands are sued for executing these Constitutional rights. In an attempt to lower these numbers, the California Anti-SLAPP law has been created to protect the petition and free speech rights of all Californians. As of January 2019, 28/50 states have anti-SLAPP laws.

SLAPP’s have been around for ages, so why are they becoming such a problem now? SLAPP’s and “SLAPPbacks” are rapidly being taken to an entire different level due to the largening differences in wealth. Defending a SLAPP requires enormous amounts of time and money, something the average citizen does not have. So instead of being able to fight back and exercise their rights, citizens and their opinions are forced under the rug and are buried by lawsuits and hefty fees. The controversy with SLAPPing is that freedom of speech is protected in the first amendment. So by being “shut up” because of lack of wealth, citizens cannot exercise their given rights. This issue ultimately affects all citizens because a SLAPP not only hurts the defendant, but it shows the others around you that if they speak up, they can possibly be sued as well.

For instance, in the Mcdonalds Libel Case (McLibel), Britain’s restrictive libel laws were brought to societies attention. The defendants stated, “large companies can muck up your life and tie it up in legal knots.” Because these laws tend to favor the wealthy, there’s great concern regarding the freedom of speech. Furthermore, In the database entitled Shut Up, Or I’ll Sue You, a law professor refers to recent SLAPP’s as an “epidemic of intimidation suits.” The article confirmed the major issue with SLAPP’s is that the government encourages public participation. When a SLAPP occurs, instead of encouraging public participation, they are instead encouraging separation in society and are enforcing the idea that wealth determines life outcomes.

Works Cited:

“California’S Anti-SLAPP Law And Related State Statutes.” California Anti-SLAPP Project. N. p., 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2019.

De Sarkar, Dipankar. “McDonalds Libel Case Reopens Censorship Debate.”SIRS Issues Researcher, 17 Jan. 1999,https://sks.sirs.com.
Gurwitt, Rob. “Shut Up, Or I’Ll Sue You.” Governing, May. 1991, pp. 25+. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.

Expression Through Campaign Donations

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 limited the amount one could contribute to a candidate in the campaign. It was passed by Congress due to the Watergate scandal, in an attempt to negate corruption. When reviewed by the Supreme Court, it was a three to six decision that the Act was constitutional, and didn’t limit the freedom of speech protected by the first amendment. Fast forward to 2002 when the Bipartisan Campaign Act, which set a standard of limits on any monetary contributions towards any campaign. This limited how much an individual could donate to a party or candidate. Shaun McCutcheon took it to Supreme Court in, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. He argued that the Act was unconstitutional, and limited his freedom of expression, as he wanted to donate more, beyond the limits put in place by the BCRA. The Supreme Court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional. In a four to five decision, it was deemed that BCRA went against freedom of speech. Limiting any donation toward a candidate is violating the freedom of speech ensured by the first amendment.

In an interview with Ellen Miller, the executive director of the Center of Responsive Politics, she reveals that a campaign cost for a position in the House of Representatives is about $520,000, and is even high for a position in the Senate. Campaigning is no way low expense endeavor. The candidate needs all the support they can get, even the donations of a singular person. Now if a singular person wants to donate all their savings to one candidate, they should be able. A donation is a form of self-expression, which is protected under the first amendment clause of freedom of speech. Donating to a campaign is fundamentally the same as donating to a recreational soccer team, or an animal shelter. It is to express your love of that. There are no limitations on how much you can donate to anything else, is even encouraged with tax deductions. You are free to express yourself through donations, but not towards a campaign? You can’t support a candidate through your expressions? You can’t support a candidate beyond your vote? Limitation on campaign donations goes against your ensured expression, which is available everywhere else.

Does a bomb threat violate the protections of the First Amendment?

There have been countless examples of bomb threats in airports or other public places around the United States. Now, we must ask ourselves if saying “bomb” or using bomb threats in a public place violates the clear and present danger action set in place with the First Amendment. Our government considers this to be a violation of free speech because these words are used to pose potential danger and also to threaten national security especially to people in a public place like a mall or more commonly in an airport. For example, Dunedin airport in Florida had to be evacuated on December 8th, 2011 because a written bomb threat was found on a note in a women’s bathroom. The police took care of the situation, and they evacuated the passengers from the plane and airport in order for searching to be done. Here’s another example involving a bomb threat in a note. More publicly, Trevor Davis, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, was arrested for falsely claiming that he was carrying explosives in his luggage to an airline employee at the Los Angeles International Airport. Even though these claims are almost always made on false pretenses, they are taken very seriously by local and federal securities. To note, there was also a court case in St. Paul, Minnesota where Dana Williams Ashey pleaded guilty on July 19th, 2013 for making verbal bomb threats at both the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. As you can see, law enforcement handles these incidents seriously by initially evacuating the people in potential harm, and then prosecuting the person who made the threats.

In my opinion, a bomb threat does violate the First Amendment through the clear and present danger action. These types of threats can be a small act of terrorism within our country and endanger innocent people. I think there should rightfully be a legal punishment for saying or writing false bomb threats in public places especially airports and malls because it then becomes a security issue. In summary, saying “bomb” in a public venue is definitely a limit of our freedom of speech in the United States.

Works Cited:

“Bomb Scare Closes Airport.” Timaru Herald, The, 8 Dec. 2011, p. 03. EBSCOhost.

“Man Pleads Guilty To Making Bomb Threats At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport And MOA.”
Justice.Gov, 2015.

“Trevor Davis, Green Bay Packers Receiver, Accused Of Making False Bomb Threat.” Cbsnews.Com,