Tag Archives: Supreme Court

How do you provoke free speech at school, without crossing a line?


According to History.com, Freedom Of speech is the right to express your opinions without government restraint. Originally this idea came from the ancient Greeks. Free speech was talked about in Greek literature around the end of the fifth century B.C. Fast forward to the US, free speech was adopted into the Bill of Rights in December 15, 1791. History.com says, When free speech was written into the Bill of Rights it was never specified what is protected under free speech. This caused many gray areas. Around WWI The Supreme Court decided that there should be limitations to free speech such as “Obscene material, Plagiarism, Defamation, and True Threats.” For more information on the background of free speech visit https://goo.gl/TcVgtQ.

In 1965 at a public high school in Des Moines, Iowa, there was an organized, silent protest against the Vietnam war. A girl by the name Mary Beth decided to wear an armband that had a peace sign on it. Want to know more about Mary Beth, check out https://goo.gl/ceZFnH. She was then suspended from school, because the armbands were distracting and could lead to danger of other students. I feel this is a lousy argument that many schools still use today. Lucky the supreme court ruled in her favor. For more information on Tinker vs Des Moines visit https://goo.gl/ZDwXfs.

Free speech can be a great thing, when used the appropriate way. But what is deemed appropriate especially in schools? Well that is when things get difficult. I believe if high schoolers want to wear a band with a peace sign on it protesting the Vietnam war, then they should have the right to do so. Then they should have the right to, it is their opinion. It is important for people to know that not everybody is going to have the same opinion as you. Now if the students were to wear shirts that say “I hope the soldiers die in Vietnam” then I would see that as going too far. Overall in the grand scheme most things are opinions, and we must be careful how much we limit before we censor everything. Somethings that make me mad is how the schools make lousy excuses for kids to not share their opinions. That they are being too distracting. These reasons are too vague and is showing kids that it is dangerous to share a different opinion than the majority, because then you will get in trouble or be a distraction. This confides people’s minds into boxes and does not allow for individual thinking.

Works Cited

Freedom of Speech

“Freedom Of Speech.” HISTORY. N. p., 2019. Web. 21 Feb. 2019.

This Girl Fought for Free Speech: EBSCOhost

” This Girl Fought For Free Speech: Ebscohost .” Web.a.ebscohost.com. N. p., 2019. Web. 28 Feb. 2019.


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 Teams Be Able to Pray Before Games?

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.


Works Cited:

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/.

Flag Burning: Symbolic or an Action that should be Torched

You might not think about it, but the 1st Amendment is much more than the right to practice the religion you choose, it is much more than the right to freedom of the press, and it is much more than the right to freedom of speech. It is all much deeper than just that. Within the freedom of speech, you not only have the right to express yourself verbally, but you also have the right to express your ideas through actions. That is symbolic speech. Like most limits of the 1st Amendment, the limits to symbolic speech are very blurred and not completely understood. This raises many questions, one being is burning the flag of the United States of America protected as symbolic speech under the 1st Amendment?

The simple answer to that question is yes, burning the US flag is protected under the 1st Amendment. While this controversy still exists today, it has been around for a while. This idea first came into question in 1984 in the Texas v. Johnson case. Gregory Johnson wanted to protest President Reagan and his policies at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. To do so, he burned a flag outside the convention center where it was being held and was arrested when bystanders felt offended by his actions. He was being charged for ¨violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others¨. Johnson’s defense: his actions were protected under the 1st Amendment as symbolic speech. After a trial and an appeal, the case moved to the Supreme Court where they ruled 5-4 in favor of Johnson. Their reasoning, ¨The majority of the Court, according to Justice William Brennan, agreed with Johnson and held that flag burning constitutes a form of “symbolic speech” that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority noted that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society’s outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech¨. This ruling only applied to Texas law, so the federal government decided to enact a law that prohibited all flag burning, ¨with the exception of burning and burying worn out flags¨. In the same 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court voted against this law, ending its enactment. Due to that, the guidelines from Texas v. Johnson are the ones that we follow today regarding symbolic speech, although they are occasionally challenged. When challenged, the prosecutor (often the government) must prove to a court that there is sufficient reason that the action in question should not be protected as symbolic speech. This reason cannot just be that the prosecutor disapproves of the action and finds it offensive.

While not all issues with the 1st Amendment are always crystal clear, the issue regarding flag burning seems like it is set in stone, burning the US flag is protected as symbolic speech under the 1st Amendment. While many may not like it, it offers one to voice their displeasure over problems regarding the state of our nation through actions, not just words.

Works Cited

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]. 

Censorship in schools

By definition censorship is, the removal, suspension, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational materials. Most parents want censorship in schools, because they don’t want their children being taught the exact opposite of what they preach at home. Also many people believe that young kids aren’t good at making decisions for themselves and they don’t always know right from wrong. So schools need to have censorship to filter out all the bad stuff and only teach students good values. Censorship gives parents peace of mind and shape the minds of our youth.  

There are still plenty of people who don’t like the idea of censorship in schools. Lots of people believe that censorship isn’t allowing students to form their own ideas. If you don’t allow students to form their own ideas then it’s hard for society to have different views on things. The court system would have to agree with these people, they tend to vote with the schools most of the time limiting censorship in schools and allowing students to become free thinkers. As long as schools don’t cross any religious boundaries, or are trying to push political views on students then the court will allow it.

“Censorship in Schools Pros and Cons List.” NYLN.org. N.p., 14 Jan. 2017. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

“Censorship in the Schools.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. N.p., 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

“Education World: Banning Books from the Classroom: How to Handle Cries for Censorship.” Education World: Banning Books from the Classroom: How to Handle Cries for Censorship. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

Burning a Flag or Utilizing a Right?


Should burning the American Flag be considered symbolic speech, which therefore is protected by the First Amendment?

Burning the flag of the United States is a very controversial topic, but not enough light is shed on this important debate. An important question arises every so often questioning flag desecration and why it’s still legal, and time and time again it is answered with an unfortunate fact: It’s protected by the First Amendment (symbolic speech to be more specific). As of today, burning the flag is completely legal in accordance with free speech, and it’s important that others are free to express their right to speak out against the government. They say that it’s their way of protesting the government and that it’s just a piece of cloth, but this is where others misinterpret their actions. Most veterans support the passing of a constitutional amendment that allows Congress to ban the action of flag burning or desecration. They believe it is disrespecting them and what they fought and died for. However, some would make the case that it’s a slippery slope.

The idea of creating amendment to do something about this inappropriate action is nothing new. Before the Texas v. Johnson case of 1989 which made flag burning legal under the First Amendment, forty-eight out of the fifty states had installed flag protection laws similar to the Flag Protection Act passed by Congress in 1968. A 5-4 decision in the Texas v. Johnson case declared the Flag Protection Act an unconstitutional restriction of public expression. Again in 1990, the discussion was brought up in the cases of United States v. Eichman and United States v. Haggerty (argued together), and again it struck down the Flag Protection Act in a 5-4 decision, similar to the Texas v. Johnson case.

Each case in relation to flag burning proves that there is support for creating an amendment to ban the burning of the American flag. President Trump has stated in a tweet that there should be punishments for burning the flag. Though I agree that there should be some form of penalty, his terms are far too extreme. A moderate fine would be an acceptable form of punishment, but first comes the task of making the action illegal. As long as flag desecration is considered symbolic speech, it is protected under the First Amendment. However, if the action is done in the face of others such as former military members, it could be considered incitement and therefore the offender will face a penalty. In the end, this conflict is an internal struggle within the public. Even though some may not like it, it’s important to respect the rights of others. Nevertheless, the barrier between breaking the law and exercising your constitutional right is exceedingly fragile, ergo it’s important to distinguish between the two.


Works Cited:

Mauro, Tony. &quot;Burning the Flag: A Right Or a Wrong?&quot;<i> USA TODAY</i>, 26 May 1998, pp. 1A-2A.<i> SIRS Issues Researcher</i>, <a href=”http://sks.sirs.com&#8221; target=”_blank”>http://sks.sirs.com</a&gt;.


Hey, Robert P. &quot;Push Persists to Protect Stars and Stripes.&quot;<i> Christian Science Monitor</i>, 19 Jul 2001,<i> SIRS Issues Researcher</i>, <a href=”http://sks.sirs.com&#8221; target=”_blank”>http://sks.sirs.com</a&gt;.


“Facts And Case Summary – Texas V. Johnson”. United States Courts. N. p., 2017. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

Tags: Symbolic Speech, First Amendment, Supreme Court, Flag Desecration, Incitement, President Trump