Tag Archives: media

Does the First Amendment Protect Hate Speech?

Slander/Libel, Fighting words, and obscenity can be hate speech, but not all hate speech is slander/libel, fighting words, and obscenity. The First Amendment protects the majority of hate speech, but the only thing that it doesn’t protect is when someone is openly abusing the individual(s) with hate toward their race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religion.

Hate speech can be obscenity. An example of this is the R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul court case. Allegedly, a group of teenagers burned “a crudely fashioned cross on a black family’s lawn.” Based on the United State’s short history, not long ago were African Americans segregated against, and tortured and murdered. The Klu Klux Klan was a group organized in 1865, specifically made to strike fear into the hearts of African Americans and those that supported them. Eventually, the Klu Klux Klan decided to act, who continued to suppress newly freed slaves as well as beat and hang them. Their symbol was their white outfits as well as the burning cross. The display of this on the family’s yard caused extreme anger, and aroused fear based on their race. The issue is that hate speech itself falls into a number of different categories that are considered crimes. The article provides an example, “threatening to kill someone because he’s black (or white) or intentionally inciting someone to a likely and immediate attack on someone because he’s Muslim (or Christian or Jewish), can be made a crime.” This is hate speech, but falls under the illegal status because one cannot make true threats at another or try to start crimes for any reason. Hate speech can also be slander/libel. The Beauharnais v. Illinois was a case where a man posted papers asking government officials to “halt the encroachment, harassment, and invasion of white people and call whites to unite against the violence perpetrated by African-Americans.” This is libel against the African-American race, and collectively insulting every person that is or identifies with that race.

Lawyers say that hate speech itself is not part of the exceptions of the first amendment unless it falls under one of the other kinds of unprotected expression. The lines are not clearly drawn out, and hate speech continues to happen with no consequence because it is so difficult to pinpoint. The first amendment protects any speech, no matter how emotionally harmful, unless it poses physical harm, or is direct or personal toward another person. The first amendment is not just freedom of speech, but freedom of expression. Through the court system, there have been many cases where there has been tension because of what someone was wearing, including the Cohen v. California case. In this case, a man decided to wear a jacket showing his opposition to the Vietnam war. He was taken to court about it, but the judges protected him stating, “one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.” The court protected the emotive and cognitive element of speech even though Cohen was found guilty and served 30 days in jail.

The Village of Skokie v. National Socialist Party of America was another case where clothing was questioned. A march was going to take place, and the marchers wanted to wear clothing extremely similar to those that Nazis wore, including the armband Swastika. The major issue was that the march would take place in a village where a large number of the population was Jewish, and most of whom had survived the concentration camps. The court case looked at the Cohen v. California case and ruled that the Nationalist Socialist Party could wear what they wanted to. The court said that the “government could not base rules on the feelings of “the most squeamish among us” and that the wearing of the swastikas was “a matter of taste and style.””

Hate speech is a giant grey area within modern day law. Many fights start with someone stating something awful to another person. A person could say something that would be fighting words, but the saying itself would not be the crime, but what follows after what was said would be. The internet makes it even more difficult to legislate hate speech. Hate speech is said every day on many platforms, that it would take an extremely long time and nearly impossible to shut down every website or every post that showed any sign of hate speech. The concept of “one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric,” makes one’s speech difficult to judge unless it is blatantly stated in a way that crosses the lines on one or more of the already established limits of speech.



Demaske, C. (2018). Hate Speech. [online] Mtsu.edu. Available at: https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/967/hate-speech [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Gjelten, E. (2018). Does the First Amendment Protect Hate Speech?. [online] http://www.lawyers.com. Available at: https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/criminal/does-the-first-amendment-protect-hate-speech.html [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Oyez. (2018). Beauharnais v. Illinois. [online] Available at: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/343us250 [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Oyez. (2018). Cohen v. California. [online] Available at: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1970/299 [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].

Oyez. (2018). R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul. [online] Available at: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/90-7675 [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].


To Kill A Mockingbird is being challenged!

Should To Kill a Mockingbird be banned from schools?

There are schools that believe that To Kill a Mockingbird should be banned from reading. A school district in Mississippi didn’t like how the book used racial issues and how it deals with civil rights. There are numerous instances in which it uses racial slurs about the black community. There was backlash but it was decided that the book would stay in the library. Some say that they could get the same message across using a different book and it has been constantly challenged since 1960, when it was released. Arne Duncan, president Obama’s former secretary of education, said that “When school districts remove ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the reading list, we know we have real problems.”.

When it comes down to the 1st Amendment, the right to read for example, all students should be able to read To Kill A mockingbird, even if it has racial slurs. Some parents may want this gone as it is offensive to the black community but as Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Senator, put it, “Engaged parents should call the school district with the clear message: Our kids are tough enough to read a real book.”  There some reasons to remove the book from the 8th grade reading curriculum, but as it stands, it will most likely stay as a shared story in our schools.

Works Cited:

“’To Kill a Mockingbird’ Banned at Mississippi School.” Time, Time, time.com/4983786/biloxi-mississippi-school-ban-to-kill-a-mockingbird/.
Nelson, Karen. “Why Did Biloxi Pull ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the 8th Grade Lesson Plan?”Sunherald, The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com/news/local/counties/jackson-county/article178572326.html.

Public Employees and Their Free Speech.

Topic: Free speech rights for public employees

Essential Question: What is classified as free speech for the public employee?

Free speech is something that people are constantly debating and will continue to debate for a long time. When it comes to public employees the Courts currently employ a three-part test to determine whether a government employee’s speech is protected by the First Amendment. The first part is government employees are only protected by the First Amendment when they are speaking as private citizens. If their speech is part of their official job duties, then they can be fired or disciplined for it. The second part is was their speech regarding a matter of public concern? If it is not then the first amendment will not protect them it is of public concern the first amendment may protect them there is still one more test. The final question is whether the government employer’s interest in efficiently fulfilling its public services is greater than the employee’s interest in speaking freely. There have been a few cases involving this system Garcetti v. Ceballos, Pickering v. Board of Education, Connick v. Myers. When it comes to free speech the line of what is protected by the first amendment and what is not is blurry at best. Public employees are in a unique situation and should be careful about what they say or post.

Tags: Media, Social, Freedom-of-speech

Works Cited:

“Free Speech Rights Of Government Employees.” Law2.umkc.edu. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

” Government Employees & First Amendment Overview | Newseum Institute.” Newseuminstitute.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Savage, David. “Supreme Court Strengthens Free-Speech Rights Of Public Employees.” latimes.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Should burning the flag be Illegal?

First off people who say their going to burn the flag are doing it to protest the government.

If burning the flag is not a protected form of speech, is kneeling for the National Anthem protected? Most people would say yes because it is a peaceful way to protest something, but according to thelawdictionary.org, burning the flag is also showing a form of peaceful protest. If burning the flag is illegal, then kneeling for the National Anthem is illegal right? Even though they are both protesting peacefully. But according to cnn.com neither president Trump nor congress can criminalize it.

Burning the American Flag

Burning the American flag is symbolic speech. Symbolic speech is an expression of an idea that doesn’t use words. For example, Gregory Lee Johnson was convicted for desecrating a flag in violation of Texas law. The Court determined if his conviction was consistent with the First Amendment. The Court of Criminal Appeals viewed Mr. Johnson’s conduct as symbolic speech which is protected by the First Amendment. “Given the context of an organized demonstration, speeches, slogans, and the distribution of literature, anyone who observed the appellant’s act would have understood the message that appellant intended to convey. The act for which appellant was convicted was clearly speech contemplated by the First Amendment.” Id., at 95. If Mr. Johnson was disturbing the peace there would be charges. Since Mr. Johnson wasn’t disturbing the peace with his desecration of the flag there were no charges.

A con to burning the American flag is that the American flag is losing significance. A citizen could see flag burning as a threat to the United States. Barry states on web.b.ebscohost.com, “Our freedom is protected institutions, groups and individuals; the police, legal system, ambos, parliament, and trade unions. The treat to our society will more likely come from within unless we are tolerate, accept people’s differences, and treat all those who come to our country with respect and dignity.” Burning the American flag is disrespectful towards our country.

Work Cited

Brennan, William J., and William H. Rehnquist. “Court’s Opposing Views Create Storm of Debate.” Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL), 02 Jul, 1989, pp. 1E+, SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.

Illawarra Mercury (2018). Flag has Lost Significance. [online] p.pg 15. Available at: http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=b9560f2e-626f-4f72-be1b-eaf4efe97c86%40sessionmgr101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=SYD-63GPV4XJJUO173JML1EO&db=n5h [Accessed 14 Feb. 2018].

Police arrest protesters at flag-burning outside convention. (2016). [Blog] Sofrep. Available at: https://sofrep.com/59653/police-arrest-protesters-flag-burning-outside-convention/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018]. 

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


“When Faith and Football Don’t Mix” by Ken Paulson October 23, 2012


“Prayer Before Football Game Ruled Against The Law” by Stacy Lange 11/4/2016




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.