Freedom Of Speech As Defined By Law

3678 words - 15 pages

The definition of freedom of speech is the right, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction. (Morse & Mish, 2012) However, one cannot go about just saying whatever they please. There are in fact limitations to what one can say. Some might say that that is unconstitutional, but is it unconstitutional to prevent people from threatening others or preventing others from incriminating another person’s rights. I think not. The Supreme Court is the judge of whether or not a person has or has not broken the law regarding freedom of speech.
Schenck v. United States
The Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States was argued January 8 thru January 10, 1919. The court case was decided on March 3, 1919. The Court’s decision was a unanimous 9-0 against Schenck, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes; Chief Justice Edward D. White and associative Justices Joseph McKenna, William R. Day, Willis Van Devanter, Mahlon Pitney, James C. McReynolds, Louis Brandeis, and John H. Clarke were all members of the court. The main topic of the case was the violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 and therefore the 1st Amendment as well.
Charles Schenck was strongly against World War I as were many other socialists at the time. As a result of Schenck’s hatred towards the war he mailed thousands of pamphlets to men who could potentially become drafted into the United States Armed Forces. The pamphlets stated that the men should not submit to the draft and the government itself. Schenck declared that the draft was involuntary servitude which is illegal under the 13th Amendment. The pamphlets also urged draftees to sign an anti-draft petition at the Socialist headquarters where Schenck was working. On August 28, 1917 Charles Schenck was seized by federal agents in the Socialist offices. He was convicted on December 20, 1917 of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. After taking his case through the judicial system, he appealed his case to the Supreme Court in 1919. Schenck argued that the Espionage Act was in violation of his First Amendment rights of free speech. However, the Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous and there were no dissenting opinons in it’s ruling that the Espionage Act did not violate Schenck’s First Amendment rights and that he was in violation of the Espionage Act and that the pamphlets were a clear obstruction to military recruiting.
The majority opinion of the court, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, was that Schenck’s rights were not being violated by the Espionage Act due to the the fact that Schenck’s words created a “clear and present danger” to the nation. Holmes stated that in times of peace Schenck would have been allowed to state his thoughts however, because the nation was in a state of war, Schenck’s words were a danger to the nation. Thus, the ruling of this case created a test to when the government could limit the...

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