On October 29th, 2016, during a UW-Madison football game at Camp Randall, there was a man found wearing a costume acting like Barack Obama was being lynched. One man wearing a prisoner outfit and a Barack Obama mask on his face, a Hillary Clinton mask on the back of his head, and a noose around his neck. The other man involved, worse normal clothes with a Donald Trump Mask on. This man was seen holding the noose up that was on the other man’s neck. The assimilated the lynching of both Clinton and Obama. In terms of this being within the two men’s freedom’s of speech and expression, it is. The only thing that is illegal to do under the context of the president is to say something. There is nothing about acting out a President’s death. Someone is not allowed to say “I want to kill the President” or “Someone should kill the President”. Doing what these men did is highly offensive, but is within their rights. The one way this could be pushed to fall outside the lines of freedom of speech is obscenity. This states that “any utterance or act that strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time”. Meaning, if this offended the majority of the stadium, then this act can be considered outside the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression.
Social media is so popular these days and is so versatile it can be used so many different ways. There are many positive aspects to social media, but a major debate over social media has always been about where the first amendment fits into all of it. The big question that everyone is talking about is if the government should be able to regulate what is being said and posted on social media.
The first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” To me, freedom of speech means that people have the right to say whatever they want whenever they want. Even though I believe lots of people choose to abuse this right and use it as a way to hurt people, it is still our rights as U.S. citizens to say whatever we want. Social media is just a part of this. The use of language can be more strong on social media because it is through a screen and not face to face. I think this is where most of the problems arise and where some people want social media to be regulated because lots of people share hateful and offensive thoughts online. Some people believe others should not have the right to say such horrible things online, and while I agree with that concept, I also acknowledge that the first amendment was created so people to speak their minds freely and have their opinions be heard. If the government were to regulate everything that was put on social media, it would cause people to become closed off and scared to share their views and opinions.
The U.S. is one country that grants its citizens the right to say whatever they want about whatever they want and I choose to look at that as a blessing instead of a curse. Despite the fact that some people abuse the first amendment and choose to use it as a weapon of hate instead of a way to heal and bring people joy and happiness, I do not believe that the government should be allowed to regulate everything put on social media. Social media is a creative output for so many people and a way for people to get their ideas heard. If the government is looking over everyone’s shoulder all the time, then they are taking away people’s voices because they will be too afraid to speak their minds.
Karentay. “How Should Governments Regulate Facebook and Other Social Media Platforms? Proposing A New Paradigm to Regulation.” Technology and Public Good, 24 Oct. 2017, techandpublicgood.com/2017/10/24/how-should-governments-regulate-facebook-and-other-social-media-platforms-proposing-a-new-paradigm-to-regulation/.
“First Amendment – U.S. Constitution.” Findlaw, constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1.html.
Essential Question: Should teams be allowed to pray together before games?
There has been a lot of controversy over the topic of the Freedom of Religion within the First Amendment. Many are at war over whether teams should be allowed to pray before games or not. The problem sparked at Santa Fe High School around 1995 and was reassessed in 2015 and 2016 after a few more sport incidents. The First Amendment may protect individual’s rights to freedom religion but when it comes to teams praying on a public school property, it is not protected. This is because the government is not allowed to promote religion in any way. How does this relate to a school sporting event you might ask. Public schools are owned by the government. If a public school were to teach about prayer, or allow teams to pray together before events, they could get in serious trouble because one may see this as promoting religion. Individuals may take a moment of silence but they must practice their religion to themselves so they do not violate others rights. Some may take The government regulates this closely so that no schools is deemed favored over another. There have been several cases of this and no school has won due to the fact that the First Amendment does not protect them on this matter.
Some may believe that this violates their Freedom of Exercise but it does not. They are not banning you from your religious practices as an individual but they are protecting the rights of others and the laws that they have to follow. If other’s rights are being violated then it can lead to serious conflicts between families of the school and would have to involve members of the school board. If word got out of conflicts like this, it could hurt the school’s reputation or would cause even more arguments from people not involved in the situation. For these many reasons, school athletic teams are not allowed to pray before games.
Membership, ALCU. “Your Right to Religious Freedom.” American Civil Liberties Union, 2018, http://www.aclu.org/other/your-right-religious-freedom.
Carlson, Mr. David. “Establishment Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 10 June 2009, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/establishment_clause.
Ash, Elliott T. “Free Exercise Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 4 May 2010, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/free_exercise_clause.
Green, Lee. “Prayer, Religion-Related Activities at School Athletics Events.” NFHS, 13 Apr. 2016, http://www.nfhs.org/articles/prayer-religion-related-activities-at-school-athletics-events/.
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.
Essential Question: Is censorship in schools an example of Obscenity?
The school system is very strict of what they can or can’t show you. There are all kinds of censorship that the the school system portrays on the student body. “Teachers, principals, and school administrators make decisions all the time about which books and materials to retain, add or exclude from the curriculum”. “As the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and International Reading Association (IRA) note, there is an important distinction between selection based on professional guidelines and censorship: ‘Whereas the goal of censorship is to remove, eliminate or bar particular materials and methods, the goal of professional guidelines is to provide criteria for selection of materials and methods’.” When a book has swearing or bad words in it, but it’s used for educational purposes does that make it obscenity? There were lots of books that were banned from schools all around America when it is really showing us students how life was at that time in the past. When teaching the english language we need to have examples of both the good and the bad. When dealing with American history the best way to teach us it not filter out everything. There was a time the Supreme Court considered whether a local school board violated the constitution by removing books from the school library, it was held that the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient ‘s meaningful exercise of their own rights of speech, press, and political freedom. Most censorship of materials and restrictions are commonly prompted by public complaints causing the library board or school administration to be mindful of the importance of their neighbor’s religious values, moral sensibilities, and protecting children from offensive materials. So really the ordinary citizens are the driving force behind the challenges to the internet, information, and ideas. Even though there will always be controversy on school censorship, I know that it is an example of obscenity that needs to come to a mutual agreement in the future.
Us, About et al. “The First Amendment In Schools: Censorship.” National Coalition Against Censorship. N. p., 2018. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.How does the first amendment protect what teachers say in the classroom? http://ncac.org/resource/the-first-amendment-in-schools-censorship
“First Amendment And Censorship.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. N. p., 2008. Web. 18 Feb. 2018. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship
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.
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].
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.