Freedom of Speech Essay (with Arguments) Example

The First amendment in the Constitution is Freedom of Speech; Freedom of Speech was defined by: “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.” (First Amendment) Although the constitution states this declaration, many events in history have proven otherwise. Prominent cases such as the Texas vs. Johnson in 1989, Elonis vs. U.S. in 2014, Schenck vs. U.S. in 1919, and Tinker vs. Des’moines in 1969 showed the Supreme Court declares that the amendment was not protecting the people. As citizens of the United States, people do not have complete Freedom of Speech because historical events revealed certain types of speech are ruled as limited.

These cases were brought to court because individuals declared certain types of speech should be prohibited. In 1989, Texas vs. Johnson came to the Supreme Court. In this case, “Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas.” (Facts and Case) He was arrested for discriminating, burning down a venerated object, and fueling others to join in on the rageful act. Johnson then appealed by stating his actions were only “symbolic speech” which is protected by the First Amendment. This case surely shows an insight into how Freedom of Speech is corrupted.

The flag burning done by Johnson was one of the major cases that depicted how deceiving the First Amendment really is. Another case that rallies the point that Freedom of Speech does not stand up to its standards is Elonis vs. U.S. which was ruled in 2014. Anthony Elonis was convicted for social media threats in interstate commerce, for posting threats to injure his coworkers, his wife, the police, a kindergarten class, and a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent on Facebook. (Elonis) The district court stated that Elonis had posted those threats with a true intention of seemingly acting upon them. Elonis, however, appealed and stated they were only forms of speech and nothing else. The court ruled the case as not protected by the First Amendment. Although Elonis never caused any physical harm, he was indicted for posting threats on social media. Even though the First Amendment states that we are free to speak our minds limitlessly, it is clearly wrong.

The Elonis vs. U.S. case was not the only one of the few that were denied the protection of the First Amendment. Another major case that happened was in 1969 and was named the Schenck vs. U.S. Charles Schenck sought to persuade American soldiers not to allow themselves to be drafted over to WWI. “Schenck's flyers asserted that the draft amounted to "involuntary servitude" proscribed by the Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment (outlawing slavery) and that the war itself was motivated by capitalist greed, and urged draftees to petition for repeal of the draft.” (McBride) Schenck was charged with violating the Espionage Act, which protected any criminal acts against making false statements that interfere with the prosecution of war. by the U.S. government. (McBride) “The government alleged that Schenck violated the act by conspiring "to cause insubordination … in the military and naval forces of the United States.” (McBride) Soon Schenck appealed by stating the Espionage Act went against the First Amendment and the court ruled in his side.

One last significant case, Tinker vs. Johnson was ruled in 1989 in the Supreme Court. In the winter of 1965, a group of students joined Christopher Eckhardt at his home “to plan a public showing of their support for a truce in the Vietnam war.” (Tinker) The students decided to wear black armbands throughout the school day and fast on December 16 and New Year’s Eve. (Tinker) After the principal of the school found out about the plans, he threatened to suspend the whole group unless they relented. “On December 16, Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt wore their armbands to school and were sent home.” (Tinker) The students, with the help of their parents, sued the school district for violating their protection of the First Amendment. Soon after, the district court ruled that the case was protected by the First Amendment because there was no distractions caused by the armbands.

Americans tend to believe they live in a free country with limitless boundaries, this is however a misunderstanding. In America, individuals have the freedom to live as they please as long as they abide by certain rules written in the fine print. Although the constitution declares the protection of the amendments to all the people, there are limits and certain aspects that individuals can only attain as their freedom rights.

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