Court Cases Challenging The First Ten Amendments To The Constitution

2286 words - 9 pages

The Bill of Rights is a document that stands as law in all 50 United States and protects the citizens of the U.S. from various unlawful punishments that would infringe on these rights which are considered universal to all those who legally reside in the country. These amendments are extremely important to us as citizens of the U.S. because they give us a set of guidelines to model our behavior and speech after, as well as allow us to defend ourselves from censorship of various forms that may be cast upon us by government, organizations, or other persons. Just as any law is destined to be tested, the laws set forth in The Bill of Rights have been tested through many court cases tried by the Supreme Court of the United States. These trials serve to clarify the meaning of the law in situations where it's intent is not immediately obvious. Here, we will analyze several court cases and their impact on society, as well as the sociological climate of the populace when these cases were tried.

First we will examine Morse v. Frederick, a case on free speech that took place in 2007 and revolved around the legality of a student to present speech that could be considered as promoting or glorifying illicit drug usage. Public opinion has changed somewhat in recent years, from the widespread, publicly accepted and supported “war on drugs” that began in the Reagan era, to a more “libertarian” approach that is held by many. This Libertarian approach holds that as long as the illicit drug use of a person does not infringe on the rights of others in society, or put others in danger, then the drug usage is acceptable in a private setting and should not be illegal. In the year 2013 as many as 58% of Americans held the opinion that marijuana should not be illegal (Sullum para 1), and at the time of the writing of this paper, marijuana has been to some extent “decriminalized” in sixteen states (norml). We can see from this information that the public view of drug use and of marijuana in particular has been varied and shifting towards a more Libertarian approach. It was during this time of changing opinion that our first case took place. In this case, a 14 year old boy was seen publicly showing a banner at a school organized event that said “Bong hits 4 Jesus.” The banner and its message reportedly did not create a disturbance at the event (morse v. frederick(2007), para2), but the student was asked to remove the banner from public view and was suspended when he did not do so. District courts ruled that his free speech was being violated by the forced removal of his banner and that it was unconstitutional that he was punished for displaying this speech. The Supreme Court would go on to reverse that ruling, holding that because this was a school organized event, with classmates from school in attendance, the environment could be described as “at school” and rules about speech promoting illicit drug usage should still apply(cornell, para 3-5).
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