The Ethical Web Magazine Fall 2014 (Standalone) - Page 15

What is and what isn't protected speech

The First Amendment to the Constitution is one of the most debated and vague amendments in that document. For decades, many fight about whether flag burning is protected speech, or praying to the god of your choice in school should be protected. There are some clear-cut examples of protected and unprotected speech that should be common sense to most, but some don’t understand.

The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The government can’t tell you that you can’t protest, which despite protests, flag burning is protected speech as it is a form of political protest. You can say many mean and racist things, but the important thing to remember, is that the government is not allowed to tell you to stop, but private businesses and citizens have the right to tell you to stop, as it is their right to speak as well. The important phrase to remember: The people can censor you, the government can’t/

Now with the unprotected parts of speech in the Constitution, which is where we enter a dark area. When you incite forms of violence, for instance, a riot, that is punishable by law. If you say anything that may put people in danger, that is not protected by law. This includes: yelling “fire,” or “gun,” or “bomb” in a crowded theater or public venue. If you publically make a threat against anyone, including the president, that is punishable by law. You also can’t solicit or say nasty words to a minor, online or in person. Basically, if it does harm to someone, you are not protected.