Paper on Free Speech

This essay has a total of 814 words and 4 pages.

Free Speech

The Constitution of the United States states in its First Amendment that "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" (Funk &
Wagnalls 162). This Amendment guarantees each person of free speech. Does this mean that a
person can stand in the middle of the street and yell anything he wants? No, society, even
though it cherishes freedom of speech, does give this freedom certain restrictions.

Why does society find it necessary to restrict freedom of speech? Does this ensure a more
controlled society? Let us imagine a society that has no restrictions of speech. For
example, anyone can publish a false story of another person, just for revenge perhaps, and
the offended person would not be able to defend himself because there is no restriction of
speech. A neighbor in a residential area decides to use a loud microphone to announce his
beliefs in the middle of the night, and wakes everybody up. Because that person has every
right to speak, nobody can do anything. Even though this is "freedom of speech" it is not
allowed in a civilized society.

Free speech is a very controversial issue because who is really the one to decide what can
or cannot be expressed. The freedoms stated in the First Amendment have been controlled
for the protection of the people. As in the examples mentioned above a person does not
have the right to disturb the peace of others just because he has the "right" to express
himself. The case Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire stated that there are some classes of
speech that are limited. They are the lewd, the obscene, the profane, the libelous, and
the insulting words. When spoken they encourage fighting and so is a disturbance of peace
(Stone, Seidman). Therefore, the courts have created laws that will protect a person
against libel and slander.

Freedom of speech is limited in almost every area of a person's life. For instance, a
tennis player will be fined heavily during a tennis tournament if he expresses himself
with foul language on the tennis court. This obviously curtails the right of the tennis
player to express himself freely, but it protects the decency of the spectators because
certain forms of language are not proper for some situations. If a person goes to the
movies and begins to carry on a conversation it is most probable that security will ask
him to leave the theater. By restricting his freedom of speech, the movie theater has
protected the right of the person who went to enjoy a movie. The American courts have
stated that the freedom of speech would not protect a man from falsely yelling "fire" in a
theater and so creating a clear and present danger (Stone, Seidman). Therefore, the
freedom of speech cannot be abused.

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