Bill of Rights

freedom-of-speech

Part 10:

Amendment I

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.

We have a RIGHT to peaceably assemble with others, this is not in dispute.  We also have the RIGHT to petition our government for redressing our grievances; this also is not in dispute.  These articles are foundational to our right to gather as a people to tell those who govern us, by our consent, that they have done us a great disservice.  However, the US Supreme Court stated in a 1984 decision, “Nothing in the First Amendment or in this Court’s case law interpreting it suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to communications of members of the public on public issues.”  Seems a bit odd, don’t you think?  Our Founding Fathers fought over one of the grievances of just such a nature.  In-fact, it was not unheard of that if someone was considered such an upstart the British Crown would remove that person(s) to England for trial there, which created the impetus for the requirement of a jury of one’s peers in the Sixth Amendment.

Here is where things get interesting as I was reading the definition of the “Freedom of Speech” in Black’s Law Dictionary; I was referred to the “Fighting Words Doctrine.”  Who knew?  And clearly indicate that not all speech is protected by the First Amendment.  “These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting” words — those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”  Over the course of some 60-70 years the doctrine has been honed down to be more specific than ambiguous.  An interesting case in 1971 comes to bear with this aspect of the First Amendment:  “The Court further expanded its protection of offensive speech in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). Cohen was arrested and convicted for disturbing the peace after wearing a jacket bearing the words “F— the Draft.” The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, redefining fighting words as only those “personally abusive epithets which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, are, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke violent reactions.” The Court reasoned that because Cohen’s statement was not an insult directed toward a particular individual, it could not be regulated as fighting words.”

Our Founding Fathers intended for our government to listen to us, since they had just shaken off the British who listened to no one but themselves.  And though the US Supreme Court has deigned it to not be a requirement of Government to answer the People, historically speaking, the people redressed their grievances with the King of England; two examples being the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Petition of Rights.  The colonists attempted to all things peacefully, over the course of a decade but the crown would not relent.  In those similar instances the people of England attempted peaceful solutions and then waged war on the crown.  The crown knew if he did not relent, it would have been sure death at the hands of his servants, hmmmmmm… The colonists followed a similar path and ended up booting the British forces out of the colonies!  On a side note, what the colonists were experiencing was far less intrusive than that of us in this present day.  People are still fighting in courts this very day, but the courts (for the most part) are siding with the government.

See also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,  Part 10

Works Cited

Alexander Hamilton, J. J. (1788). THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.

Andrews, J. (2001). Amendments to the US Constitution: Amendment I. In J. Andrews, Guide for Learning and Teaching the Declaration of Independance & US Constitution (p. 382). San Marcos, CA: Center for Teaching the Constitutiuon.

Butler, J. (n.d.). THE BEST OF CARL MILLER. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from MY PRIVATE AUDIO: http://www.myprivateaudio.com/CARLTEXT.pdf; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s-zHrNPfkQ (PARTS 1, 2, & 3)

freedomforum.org. (n.d.). What is the Fighting Words Doctrine? Retrieved January 1, 2014, from Freedom Forum: http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=13718

Geiger, R. (2008, June 4). Background on the First Amendment. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications: http://journalism.okstate.edu/faculty/jsenat/foioklahoma/educationlessons/Background_on_First_Amendment.pdf

Justia. (1984, February 21). Minn. Bd. Commun. for Colleges v. Knight – 465 U.S. 271. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from JuUSTIA US Supreme Court: http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/465/271/

Lockhart, W. B., Kamisar, Y., & Choper, J. H. (1970). THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION Cases and Materials. St. Paul: West Publishing.

Know Your Constitution – Carl Miller Parts 1 – 3 (abt. 1980). [Motion Picture].

Turner, B. (2011, January 18). The Tyranny Of The Supreme Court. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from American Patriot Commision blog: http://americanpatriotscommission.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/the-tyranny-of-the-supreme-court/

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