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Freedom Of Speech

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Fiorella A. Silva Rebolledo

Inst. Alexander Zaldivar

SPC 1026

October 19, 2007

Topic: Do you believe that free speech as proscribed under the first amendment of the constitution should be limited?

The entire American Government is based in the belief that all human beings are born with certain rights. People do not receive their rights from the Government; its function is actually to guard the rights we already have. Citizens are protected by the first amendment, which prohibits government from acting against anyone's rights.

The first amendment applies to every single citizen in the country, but most of them do not even know what it is about or what it means. The first amendment states "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." In other words, the first amendment defends humans' rights to worship-or not worship- who ever they want, their right to express ideas and beliefs, and their right to unite and protest for what they believe right.

It is more than clear by now that people have the right to believe what they please and to expose their thinking without fear, but is this an absolute freedom? Is there any limit to it? I believe there is. Freedom of speech is a base for American society, but so are other values, and when there is conflict between the freedom of speech and these values, the government tries to regulate or balance the situation.

Freedom of speech cannot be considered an absolute freedom, and even society and the legal system recognize the boundaries or general situations where the speech should not be protected. Along with rights comes civil responsibility, which demands respect from individuals to each other. What this means is that people is entitled to protect their rights, but at the same time they are obligated to respect the rights of others.

There are four general situations in which freedom of speech should be banned. The first one is Clear and present danger: Freedom of speech will not be protected if the words that come from any person's mouth put in danger someone else, provoke violence, or even incite or suggest illegal actions. A second situation is fighting words: These are the terms socially know to rage anyone, and when they are told face-to-face to a second person, they are not protected by the first amendment because they tend to alter public order and stimulate violence. The third main situation in freedom of speech is known as libel and slander: In this situation the Supreme Court explains that when speech or communication is used to damage someone else's reputation, to lie, or to tergiversate the truth and make it look as something it is not, it is not covered under the first amendment. The forth and last boundary of the first amendment is referred to as time, place and manner: This particular scenario does not disallow the content of the speech itself, but it takes into consideration the place where the speech is given, and the way the person presents the speech. If under any circumstance the government interests or regularities are violated, the speech is not protected under the first amendment.

In the paragraph above, the major four situations of speech banning, recognized by government and society, were exposed; however, the best way to clarify each scenario is to provide an example of the possible context. For the first situation, clear and present danger, let's assume that there is a meeting in a school's auditorium. There are maybe 300 or 400 students chatting and laughing just waiting for the principal. Then, out of nowhere, one of the students stands in the middle of the auditorium and as a very childish joke he screams "FIRE!!" from the top of his lungs. The obvious reaction of most, if not all the people present is to rush out as fast as possible, even when they do not see the fire.

In this case, the student may have not started an actual fire, but by screaming the way he did at the auditorium full of people, he put every body's life in danger. He scared everyone, and in the rush someone could have gotten hurt. Because of this possible dangerous outcome, the student is not protected under the first amendment because even though he is free to say what he wants, he has no right to play with other people's safety.

For the second case let's take the episode where an American teenager runs into a Hispanic immigrant,



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