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Freedom Of Speech.

3056 words - 12 pages

Throughout the history of America, from the time of it's ratification, until today, The Constitution of the United States of America has ensured Americans the freedom to speak their minds and express their opinions. The American Court System; however, has ruled that in certain situations freedom of speech and expression can be limited. A direct contradiction to the Constitution.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.-The United States Constitution. 1st AmendmentThe highlighted portion of the 1st Amendment above relative to free speech seems clear and unequivocal, but do the words really mean what they say? It is hard to tell. The American court system has decided upon many cases concerning freedom of speech. The courts have protected this right, but they have also transgressed upon it. They do this even though the Constitution states clearly thatthey may not. It is the Court's responsibility to see that this right is not to be infringed, but time will tell that they don't exactly follow the rules.In 1798, seven years after the adoption of The Bill of Rights, the Congress passed and President John Adams signed The Sedition Acts criminalizing certain speech, a clear abridgment or taking away of some freedom of speech. One would expect the Supreme Court to invalidate any type of violation of the 1st Amendment, no matter the reasons as to why, but one would be wrong. The Supreme Courtinvoked the common law doctrine of "no prior restraint1" to uphold prosecutions under the Sedition Act. (Peterson)Later, during the Civil War, under the emergency conditions2, The Bill of Rights was set aside almost entirely. Habeous corpus3 was suspended, and personswere held without trial. Civilians were subjected to military courts, which in many cases infringed upon the rights of individuals to say almost anything even remotelyrelating to the activities of the war. (Rabban)In 1895 freedom of speech rights were limited again. The Supreme Court ruled that the 1st Amendment did not limit states' police power. A prime example of this is shown in Davis vs. Mass. Davis had been arrested in Boston,Massachusetts for speaking at the Boston Commons without a permit. (Rabban)During World War I, a man named Charles Schenck mailed brochures to draftees. The Supreme Court decided the case in 1919. The leaflets suggested that the draft was a monstrous wrong motivated by the capitalist system. The pamphlets urged "Do not submit to intimidation" but advised only peaceful action such as petitioning to repeal the Conscription Act4. Schenck was charged with conspiracy toviolate the Espionage Act5 by attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment. Schenck said that his freedom of speech washindered; however, this was war time,...

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