Freedom of Speech and Press

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Transcript Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of Speech
Free Expression
The guarantees of free speech and press in the 1st serves
a variety of purposes:
To guarantee to each person a right of free expression and thus
protect minority and individual rights.
To guarantee that the democracy has a full, wide ranging
discussion of public affairs.
To keep the government accountable
To inform the public about information it needs
The 1st Amendment gives to all people the right to have
their say and the right to hear what others say.
1st Amendment
 When examining the 1st amendment, keep these
two points in mind:
1. The guarantees of free speech and press are intended to
protect the expression of unpopular views. Clearly, the
opinions of the majority need little or no constitutional
2. Some forms of expression are not protected by the
Constitution. No person has an unbridled right of free
speech and free press.
The Alien and Sedition Acts
 The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 gave the President the
power to deport undesirable aliens and made “any false,
scandalous, and malicious” criticism of the government a
crime. These laws were meant to stifle to opponents of
President John Adams and the Federalists.
 The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were unconstitutional,
but that point was never tested in the courts. Some 25
persons were arrested for violating the Alien and Sedition
Acts of 1798 (of those, 10 were convicted).
 The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 expired before Thomas
Jefferson became president in 1801, and he soon pardoned
those who had been affected by them.
The Sedition Act of 1917
 Espionage Act of 1917 - WWI
 It is a crime to encourage disloyalty, interfere with the draft,
obstruct recruiting, incite insubordination in the armed
forces, or hinder the sale of government bonds.
 Also criminal; “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any
disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the
form of government in the United States”.
 2,000 + convicted
Schenck v. United States (1919)
 Charles Schenck, an officer of the Socialist Party,
mailed 15,000 young men fliers urging them to
resist the draft.
 The Supreme Court upheld Schenck’s conviction.
The “Clear and Present Danger” Rule
 Schenck v United States (1919) established “clear and
present danger” standard
“Words can be weapons…The question in every case is whether the
words used are used in such circumstances and are of such nature
as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about
the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent” (Opinion
of the Court)
 Some words will incite criminal acts and when they do, the
speaker can be punished.
 Consider yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre
The Smith Act of 1940
 Smith Act of 1940 – WWII.
 The Smith Act of 1940 makes it a crime for anyone
to advocate the violent overthrow of the
government of the United States, to distribute any
material that teaches or advises violent overthrow,
or to knowingly belong to any group with such an
Dennis v. United States (1951)
 11 Communist Party leaders had been convicted of advocating
the overthrow of the Federal Government.
 On appeal, they argued that the law violated their 1st
Amendment freedom of speech and press. They also claimed
that no act of theirs constituted a clear and present danger to
this country.
 The court disagreed…
“An attempt to overthrow the government by force, even
though doomed from the outset because of inadequate
numbers of power of the revolutionists, is a sufficient evil
for Congress to prevent…” (Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson,
Opinion of the Court).
Yates v. United States (1957)
 Court overturned the Smith Act. It held that merely
to urge someone to believe something, in contrast
to urging the person to do something, cannot be
made illegal.
 In Yates and other Smith Act cases, the Court
upheld the constitutionality of the law, but
interpreted its provisions so that their enforcement
became practically impossible.
Brandenberg v Ohio (1968)
 Brandenburg, a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, made a
speech at a Klan rally and was later convicted under
an Ohio law that made it illegal to advocate "crime,
sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism
as a means of accomplishing industrial or political
 The court said speech could be punished if it was
directed at inciting “imminent unlawful acts.”
Symbolic Speech
 Symbolic speech has less protection than “pure
 Protected: picketing, flag burning, black armbands
 Not protected: burning draft cards, burning a cross
with the intent to intimidate, camping on the capitol
 The standard: content neutral, the government limits
the minimum speech needed to protect a
governmental interest
Student Speech
 Tinker v Des Moines (1969) students can wear black
armbands to protest Vietnam War so long as there is
not a “material and substantial disruption” to the
learning environment
 Bethel v Fraser (1986) School can censor a speech
at a school assembly because it was vulgar and bore
the imprimatur of the school
 Morse v Frederick (2007) School can censor a
banner proclaiming “bong hits for Jesus” because it
promoted drug use – which was clearly counter to
the mission of the school