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Civil Rights And Civil Liberties (Freedom Of Speech)

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Describe about the Critical Analysis of Supreme Court cases on this issue of Freedom of Speech?



(Karson) presume that civil rights are one of the most enforceable privilege or rights that interfered with other in order to take an action for injury. However, (Karson) stated that there are several types of civil rights present such as assembly, press, freedom of speech, freedom for involuntary servitude, the rights for the vote, etc. When the civil right of an individual are interfered or denied due to membership in a particular class or the group, discrimination occur. Moreover, (Karson) suggested that various types of jurisdictions have enacted by the law of court in terms of preventing raised discrimination according to religion, age, race, previous conditions, national origin, physical limitation, etc (Karson, 2006). During the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of United State Constitution, the most important enactment of civil right had been occurred. (Levy) cited that in Thirteenth Amendments various types of enactments were raised such as black code (Levy, 2000). In order to limit the civil rights of newly free slaves, this amendment occurs in US Constitution. However, the Fourteenth Amendments occurred in 1868. In this amendment, it has been stated that no state or region can enforce or make the any rules and regulations that abridge immunities or privileges of United State citizenships. (Levy) described that freedom of speech is the first amendment of the United State Constitution in terms of expressing beliefs as well as ideas instead of government restriction (Levy, 2000). On the place of beliefs and ideas, democracies have the long grappled that has issues with limits. During the first amendment in United State Constitution, it has been explained that Farmers of the Constitution guaranteed expression to the citizen and freedom of speech. During the adoption of Bill of Rights, Congress does not make any law on abridging the freedom of speech. However, United States struggled in defining the expression and speech as well as extent to freedom of speech in order to protect.

Critical Analysis of Supreme Court cases on this issue of Freedom of Speech

There are a number of categories of speech that has been decided by the Supreme Court in various decisions of the court. Generally these categories of speech are unprotected by the First Amendment and in order to make them entirely prohibited. These categories of speech include a number of areas including obscenity or child pornography or speeches involving any fight words or any serious threats. In this segment, there are a number of United States Supreme Court cases that has been stated in order to throw light on the existing laws on this area of freedom of speech.


Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003) (Virginia v. Black, 2003)

Regarding the right to the freedom of speech it is essential to mention one particular case in his area that has a lot of relevance even in the present day. In the case of Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003), the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case based on the First Amendment. The facts of the case was that there were three defendants who were convicted in two separate case that involved the violation of the Virginia Statute relating to cross burning. The Court had stroked down the statute and it considered that cross burning was a prima facie proof of the intention. The Court stated that the provision made the distinction between the threats of intimidation and messages of ideology vaguer.

Justice Clarence Thomas in this case had held that the issue of cross burning should be considered as an exception under the First Amendment as it was argued in another case of flag burning. The judge referred to the case of Texas v. Johnson (Texas v. Johnson, 1989). The judge stated that the provision only restricts the conduct and not the expression. Justice David Souter, on the other hand had stated that cross burning should not be considered to be a crime as in the case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 1992) where the decision was based on the content distinction of the statute.

The Court found the statute to be unconstitutional but on the other hand also held that the if the act was done with the intention to intimidate then it can be limited since such expression may give a wrong  message of impending violence. Finally, the court had removed the statute provision that dealt with controversial clause on cross burning.

Hence from this case, it is evident that the ambit that is covered under the shadow of the freedom to speech and expression is extremely wide and the rights and protections conferred under the First Amendment can be immensely relevant. Further it shows how the freedom of speech has a positive reflection in the society. This particular case depicts that the freedom of expression that has been provided under the First Amendment is not unlimited when it comes to the effects such expression has on the society. Any expression that has an adverse affect on the society will be restricted under the law and the decisions of the courts would usually be such that the well being of the society is the prior concern of the court as opposed to the freedom of speech or expression.


City of Ladue v. Gilleo  512 U.S. 43, 114 S. Ct. 2038, 129 L. Ed. 2d 36, 1994 U.S.  (City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 1994)

A resident of the city of Laude was legally prohibited to display a paper sign in the window because there was ban by the ordinance of petitioner in the city of Ladue on all residential signs. The prohibitions gave rise to the issue that it was a violation of the freedom of speech.

The city of Ladue ordinance legally prohibited the residents from displaying any kind of signs on the property except for the signs concerning the identification of the residence, house sale advertisements and warning or safety signs (Levy, 2000). The resident had placed the sign that showed “For peace in the Gulf”. The city ordinance took this as an act of violation since all political signs were banned in the city. When the woman was prohibited from displaying her sign she filled a case against the ordinance of the city of Ladue complaining that the ordinance is restricting her freedom of speech.

The district court found that the ordinance was passed in order to reduce the number of signs in the city (Nakaya, 2006). However, the freedom of speech amendments in US allowed the citizens the right to express their opinions in terms of political, religious and personal factors. The court found that the ordinance was unconstitutional and was made to restrict the content rather the number of the signs. Hence, the ordinance was violating the freedom of speech as given by the constitution.

The case shows that although signs pose problems and generates political chaos however debarring the individuals from communicating through signs is an act against the laws of freedom of speech because the first amendment to the US constitutions makes the entire country an unrestricted free speech zone (Karson, 2006). Although the ordinance of Ladue confirmed that the exemptions are free from any restrictions on content, however the exclusion of handbills and newspaper advertisements showed that the ordinance aimed at restricting freedom of communication in terms of speech. Article 10 of the constitution provides a special respect for individual liberty in the residence of an individual. Hence, the court ruled in favor of the individual stating that she has individualized right and freedom of communication to express her political view and political support in her own residence settings. However, this decision did not make Ladue powerless in terms of addressing and restricting the content in a sign of any other written form if the content is lawfully unsuitable (Stone, 2010).


Morse vs. Frederick (2007) (Morse vs. Frederick, 2007)

In this case, first amendment was unable to protect the rights of dip laying a banner reading Bong Hits 4 Jesus of the public school student. The mission of school outweighed the rights of speech of the students when the students of the public school have the right to engage in speech of politic.

Fredrick knew as the relay runner in Olympic Torch Relay. His anticipation towards protecting the rights of first amendments grows stronger. The president and management committee of Alaska School organised a mini short trip to visit on the Salt Lake City in terms of watching Olympic Relay passing game. Therefore, students were taken from the boarding to the school into street. Therefore, reporters and television cameras surrounded the students. All of the students hoped that their capture moment would be published in film. Few people carrying banner including Joseph Fredrick. After camera rolled and Olympic relay approached, some of the following students along with Fredrick unfurled the 14 feet banner. In the banner, it was written that Bing Hits 4 Jesus that indicates the slang reference of smoking marijuana. The principle Deborah Morse told the student to take down the banner though it was not create any disturbance to the people. After refused the proposal of Morse by Fredrick, the principle took the banner away and suspends Fredrick for ten days. According to the Morse, the banner was not cited according to the policy of school. However, Fredrick denied the proposal of principle and explained that the word of the banner is just for the nonsense meant of attracting TV cameras. Fredrick denied the proposal because he known that First Amendment may protect the right of displaying this type of banner in public school event. Moreover, Fredrick also assumed that First Amendment may bring the suit against the Principle Deborah Morse.

The decision of the case was against Fredrick. According to the rules of 4 and 5 official member of the public school is able to censor the speech of student, which is may understood for promoting the illegal of drugs. According to the court decision, it has been said that speech of Fredrick was offensive though it was reasonably viewed as the use of illegal drug. Moreover, according to the Court of United State, free speech right of the students is mainly considered in the light use in terms of characteristic in the environment of school. However, it was an important part for the school regarding freedom of speech of the public school is that reasonability of school in deterring drug use among the students.



As concluding remarks, it is necessary to mention the international instruments that highlight the freedom of speech. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are those international instrument that states that individuals have the right to freedom of speech and expression and this right includes the freedom to receive or render or seek idea from all areas. It is also important to note that the United States is a party to both the international instruments.

It is known from the laws of the state that each and every speech that is enjoyed under the protection given under the First Amendment is subject to a number of regulations. These regulations extend from time to the place and also the expressed manner (Nakaya, 2006). These are related to the content of the speech and the laws are made such as to serve to the appropriate government interest.  Moreover, every kind of speech that is enjoyed is protected under the First Amendment is also restricted based on the content and also passes through strict scrutiny.



City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43 (1994).

Karson, J. (2006). Civil liberties. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press/Thomson Gale.

Levy, D. (2000). Civil liberties. San Diego, CA.: Lucent Books.

MOORES, C. (2012). From Civil Liberties to Human Rights? British Civil Liberties Activism and Universal Human Rights. Contemporary European History21(02), 169-192. doi:10.1017/s0960777312000100

Morse vs. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007).

Nakaya, A. (2006). Civil liberties. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press/Thomson Gale.

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992).

Stone, R. (2010). Textbook on civil liberties and human rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989).

Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003).


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