Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 37: Freedom of Speech

Cases and Resources

The Importance of Freedom of Speech
Commercial Speech
Fighting Words, Offensive Speakers, and Hostile Audiences
Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions
Symbolic Speech
Vagueness and Overinclusive Laws

The Importance of Freedom of Speech
Importance of Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech serves many functions in our society. Read this overview on the First Amendment of the Constitution from the First Amendment Center.

Freedom of Speech and the War on Terror
Some argue that the fight against terrorism has had an impact on freedom of speech in this country. Read this report and discuss how we can balance the right to freedom of speech with the need for security.

Freedom of Expression at the National Endowment for the Arts
Expression comes in many forms and the National Endowment for the Arts funds and assists artists with different types of expressions. Sometimes, artists create controversy with their art. Explore this explanation of the freedom of expression, the limits on this freedom, and the types of expression.

Hurley v. Irish-American Gay Group of Boston
Read about the case of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in your textbook. What did the Supreme Court decide, and why?

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Visit for an explanation of what a court may find obscene and how case law helps to define what types of speech will be protected.

The National Obscenity Law Center
This site of cases, articles, and information on obscenity law is run by Morality in the Media. The site provides research and information on obscenity in an effort to enforce obscenity laws. Find a case or an issue that is currently under debate and decide with which side you agree.

Indecency Online
The Internet brings many First Amendment issues to the attention of the courts and the public. Take a closer look at how the Internet is creating a new debate on the freedom of speech and obscene material.

Roth v.United States
Read this case, mentioned in your text, in which the Supreme Court ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. Do you agree with this decision?

Miller v. California
Read a summary of the case that sets out the three-part guidelines used to determine if a work is obscene. From this site, you may also listen to the oral arguments or read the full opinion. Why is obscene work not protected by the Constitution?

Reno v. ACLU
Explore a summary of the case dealing with obscene material over the Internet. From this site, you may also listen to the oral arguments or read the full opinion. What did the Court decide? Do you agree with the Court's decision and reasoning?

United States v. Williams
In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that punishes those who distribute child pornography on the internet. Read the case at this site.

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Defamation—When Careless Words Can Be Costly
Brush up on your understanding of defamation. What is the difference between slander and libel?

National Congress of American Indians: Defamation and Mascots
Browse the Web site of the National Congress of American Indians. What are some examples of defamation against Native Americans listed here? Explore articles about the issues with which this organization has been involved and what actions were taken.

Defamation Online
This site describes the issues involved with defamation on the Internet. How do the elements of traditional defamation cases surface in online cases?

New York Times v. Sullivan
Read the case discussed in "The Case of the Public Official's Lawsuit for Libel" in your textbook. From this page, you may also read the full text of the decision or listen to the oral arguments.

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Commercial Speech
Government Regulation of Commercial Speech: Important Cases
Government regulation of commercial speech is protected more now than ever before. Examine significant Supreme Court decisions that changed the view of how commercial speech should be treated. What does each decision mean?

Commercial Speech and the First Amendment
Explore this site on commercial speech. Look at the news stories and cases presented. Should commercial speech receive different First Amendment protections than other types of speech?

National Do-Not-Call Registry
The government's plan to reduce the number of telemarketing calls to private homes brought up many commercial speech issues. Read this overview of the court challenges to the registry.

Spam and Commercial Speech
Spam, or unsolicited e-mails from commercial or nonprofit organizations, is raising many commercial speech issues. Read this article and discuss ways to resolve this problem.

Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
Read this case about commercial speech. The Supreme Court decided that a law prohibiting the advertisement of prices of prescription drugs violated that first amendment. Why did the Court rule this way?

Bates v. State Bar of Arizona
This case involved laws regulating the ability of lawyers to advertise their services. What did the Court decide here?

Rubin, Secretary Of The Treasury v. Coors Brewing Co.
This is the case, mentioned in your text, in which manufacturers of beer were banned from displaying the alcoholic content of their products on their cans. Why did the Supreme Court strike down this regulation? Do you agree with this ruling?

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Fighting Words, Offensive Speakers, and Hostile Audiences
The Fighting Words Doctrine
Learn exactly what fighting words are and the way that courts treat fighting words.

Terminiello v. Chicago
Read the case referred to in The Case of the Offensive Speaker in your textbook. From this page, you may also link to the full decision or listen to the oral arguments.

Fighting Words Threaten Peace
Why are fighting words restricted? What other factors does a court consider when deciding if speech should be protected or restricted?

Dennis v. United States
Take a closer look at this case that is referred to in your textbook. This case centers on communism. Although we are not as concerned with communism today as in past decades, what types of topics would this case apply to today?

Balancing Free Speech and Danger
A court must balance whether speech involves a clear and present danger of unlawful action with the notion that the least-restricted speech is good for our society. Scroll through an explanation of this "balancing" test.

When Free Speech Is Limited
One instance in which free speech may be limited is in the case of clear and present danger. Learn what this concept means and when it has been used in the past. Clear and present danger ties in strongly with America's war on terrorism. Some people worry that free speech rights will be limited out of fear of danger, as has happened in the past. Browse the discussion questions at the bottom of the page and think about your opinion.

The Incitement Test
This page is designed specifically to explain the constitutional issue of incitement. What cases does this page mention? Is this test used today?

Brandenburg v. Ohio
The "incitement test" comes from a Supreme Court case about a Ku Klux Klan leader who makes a speech encouraging criminal activity. Read a summary of this case. From this page, you may also link to the full text of the decision or listen to the oral arguments.

National Security and the First Amendment
National security is often a large concern when constitutional rights are at issue. Read this explanation of how the Constitution and national security have interacted thus far. Do you think there will be changes in the future?

ACLU: Opposition to Hate Speech Regulations
Not everyone supports restrictions placed on hate speech. While these organizations or people do not always agree with the message of hate speech, their goal is avoid any limitations on speech. Do you think hate speech should be restricted?

International Association of Chiefs of Police: Hate Crime
Read information provided by and for chiefs of police that may deal with hate crimes in their own areas. How do officials know when a crime is a hate crime? What tips can police follow to prevent hate crimes?

Wisconsin v. Mitchell
Read the full text of the decision by the Supreme Court allowing criminal sentences to be affected by whether the criminal chose the victim based on hate. Do you think hate crimes should be punished differently than crimes not motivated by hate?

American Library Association: Hate Speech
Read through this collection of articles on hate speech by the American Library Association. Some articles argue that censorship should never happen, while others support the censorship of hate speech. Once you have learned about the arguments on both sides, decide which side you find most persuasive.

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Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions
The Public Forum
What is the definition of a public forum? Why are free speech rights restricted to public forums? Read the cases mentioned on this page to learn more.

Free Speech on Public College Campuses
Public colleges are places where free speech issues often arise. Read about the time, place, and manner restrictions that colleges try to implement on their campuses and the reactions by students. Should colleges be able to restrict the speech of students?

Collin v. Smith
Read the full text of the Seventh Circuit federal decision in The Case of the Nazis in Skokie. What did the court decide? Now read Smith v. Collin, the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari in the same case. Why did the Court deny a hearing? Were the Neo-Nazis allowed to march?

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Symbolic Speech
Defining Symbolic Speech
Symbolic speech can be difficult to define. Read this explanation of what symbolic speech is and why it is hard to determine what constitutes symbolic speech.

Texas v. Johnson
Learn more about the flag-burning case at the Landmark Cases Web site. Read a summary of the case, learn background about the case, read the decision, and answer discussion questions.

Flag-Burning and Free Speech
Explore the debate concerning free speech and flag-burning. What are the arguments on both sides of this issue?

Flag-Burning and State Laws
Although the Supreme Court has struck down flag-burning statutes in the past, many states have flag-burning statutes of their own. Read summaries of these laws. Does your state have a law against desecration of the flag?

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Vagueness and Overinclusive Laws
An Unconstitutionally Vague Law
To better understand what an unconstitutionally vague law is, read this article about a North Carolina animal cruelty law that was declared unconstitutionally vague.

Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition
Read a description of the Supreme Court decision striking down a child-pornography law. On what grounds was the law overturned? Visit NetFamilyNews for updated information on constitutionally permissible measures to ensure children’s safety on the internet.

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Minnesota
Browse a summary of the cross-burning case from your textbook. From this page, you may also read the full text of the decision.

Virginia v. Black
Take a closer look at the Supreme Court decision allowing laws that forbid cross-burning, but only if the laws are very specific. What was wrong with the Virginia law in this case?

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