Legal Policy Essay: The First Amendment

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Legal Policy Essay The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, as considered being one of the most fundamental protection of the American way of life in a democratic society. However, it is also very clear that there are certain forms of speech are prohibited. For example, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic”; other limitations to freedom of speech include defamation, hate speech obscenity, and child pornography. Among all the situations with controversy, Constitution generally prohibits government’s regulation of speech, even when the speaker’s opinions are reprehensible to …show more content…
California case, Robert Cohen was arrested after wearing a jacket printed with “F THE DRAFT” to protest the Vietnam War at municipal courthouse, then he was sentenced 30 days in jail for violating the state ordinance which prohibits “maliciously and willfully disturbing the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person by offensive conduct”. It is obvious that the state law was unconstitutional permissible since it violated Cohen’s rights of free speech. Since the act was considered as an offensive speech of profanity to convict Cohen, however, the fact that certain words are offensive doesn’t make them fighting words. Cohen was simply expressing his feeling and opinion toward the war and the draft, but not engaging in any threatening conduct with this speech. The state has no power to punish him for the content of his message showing no malicious intention or behavior of disobedience to the draft. Further, if we only look at the parties involved in this case, it was even failed to be defined as “fighting words” because the message in his speech was not directed to any person. In fact, it was just a distasteful message constituted emotive speech seeking to get public attention, which is absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Under this situation, any ordinance or law which infringes individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms renders itself unconstitutional. Therefore, the Court made the justified decision in overturning Cohen conviction, preserving …show more content…
v City of St. Paul. After burning a cross inside a black family’s lawn, R.A.V. was charged under city’s Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance, which prohibits such actions that “arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender”. The state supreme court of Minnesota held the ordinance, but was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision aroused much controversy given the situation that it appeared like the ordinance burdened the freedom of speech while intending to protect the freedom of religion, which is under the same protection of First Amendment. Even though there were voice from the public and legal experts questioning and objecting the judicial decision, it was actually made with a unanimous vote, considering based on the legitimacy of statute itself. The Court fully acknowledged that certain forms of speech including fighting words were not constitutional protected, however, it was the Minnesota’s law that the Court found being unconstitutional because it was narrowly tailored as it only restricted certain types of fighting words naming racial, gender and religious discrimination. Under the First Amendment, the state is not permissible to regulate categories of unprotect speech on the bias of content and Minnesota’s statute failed to meet the strict scrutiny. Therefore, the assertion in the statement accusing that the First Amendment put listeners under psychological harm

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