Americans have always been able to speak their minds in their own homes, and even outside of them by, say, erecting signs in their yards or passing out leaflets from their property. But as the young nation matured, the Supreme Court began placing limits on when people can heedlessly flap their gums. In Hague v. C.I.O. (1939), the Court ruled people can speak freely in government locales such as parks, sidewalks and the front steps of the state capital — sites that have long been used as public forums for such speech [source: McWhirter].
But since that ruling, the Court further stipulated in other cases that governments can control the time, place and manner of speech in public forums, but only for good reasons and with reasonable regulations. However, it also introduced the concept of "limited public forums," where free speech can be restricted.
The 1981 ruling on the topic was in regard to the Minnesota State Fair, which required any literature sold or distributed at the fair be done so from booths rented on a first-come, first-served basis. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, objected; it wanted to sell its literature by walking through the fairgrounds. But the Court said the fairgrounds were not a public forum, but rather a limited public forum. (With 100,000 people coming through each day, traffic needed to be controlled somehow.) Thus, the fair could place some regulations on free speech [source: McWhirter].
Author's Note: 10 Things That Aren't Free Speech
As a writer, freedom of speech, and certainly of the press, are cornerstones of my profession. Yet a lot of self-censorship goes on. A journalist friend, for example, is gay. He regularly covers religion, so is careful on social media and in other outlets not to mention anything about this in case it would hamper his ability to secure future interviews. Similarly, I rarely comment publicly on politics or religion because I also occasionally cover religious topics. And on a personal level, I find myself again keeping silent on various issues because some family members and friends work in often-charged professions as teaching, law enforcement and federal employment. I wonder if more self-censorship occurs in life than government-levied?
More Great Links
- Bennett-Smith, Meredith. "Pastors To Challenge IRS Ban On Political Speech With 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday.'" Huffington Post. Sept. 20, 2012. (Feb. 22, 2016) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/pastors-conservative-groups-challenge-irs-pulpit-free-sunday_n_1901080.html
- Case Briefs. "United States v. O'Brien." (Feb. 29, 2016) http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-sullivan/freedom-of-speech-how-government-restricts-speech-modes-of-abridgment-and-standards-of-review/united-states-v-obrien-4/
- Center for Public Education. "Free speech and public schools." April 5, 2006. (March 2, 2016) http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Public-education/The-law-and-its-influence-on-public-school-districts-An-overview/Free-speech-and-public-schools.html
- FindLaw. "United States Supreme Court: MILLER v. CALIFORNIA, (1973)." (Feb. 25, 2016) http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/413/15.html
- Gomez, Rafael. "Social Media Can Monitor Itself, and Protect Free Speech." The New York Times. Dec. 3, 2014. (March 3, 2016) http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/12/03/should-facebook-do-more-to-monitor-violent-expressions/social-media-can-monitor-itself-and-protect-free-speech
- Hudson, Jr. David. "K-12 newspapers & yearbooks." First Amendment Center. July 2012. (Feb. 29, 2016) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/k-12-newspapers-yearbooks
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- Hudson, Jr., David. "Sorting out what freedom of speech is, and isn't." First Amendment Center. March 9, 2011. (Feb. 22, 2016) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/sorting-out-what-freedom-of-speech-is-and-isnt
- Lane, Charles. "Court Backs School On Speech Curbs." The Washington Post. June 26, 2007. (March 1, 2016) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/25/AR2007062500537.html
- Lisby, Gregory. "Criminal libel." First Amendment Center. April 18, 2006. (March 2, 2016) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/criminal-libel
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- PBS. "The First Amendment." (Feb. 25, 2016) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/whodecides/firstamendment.html
- Policinski, Gene. "In the military, speech can be punishable conduct." First Amendment Center. April 16, 2012. (March 2, 2016) http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/in-the-military-speech-can-be-punishable-conduct
- Reilly, Peter. "Tax Rules Forbid Churches From Endorsing Candidates, Will IRS Take Action?" Forbes. Sept. 20, 2015. (March 2, 2016) http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2015/09/20/tax-rules-forbid-churches-endorsing-candidates/#292c7499412f
- Ryan, Jack. "Facebook and the First Amendment Rights of Police Officers." March 2012. (March 2, 2016) http://www.llrmi.com/articles/legal_update/2012_facebook_first_amendment.shtml
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- United States Courts. "What Does Free Speech Mean?" (Feb. 22, 2016) http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does
- Volokh, Eugene. "No, there's no 'hate speech' exception to the First Amendment." The Washington Post. May 7, 2015. (Feb. 22, 2016) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/07/no-theres-no-hate-speech-exception-to-the-first-amendment/
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