6 Surprising Limits to Free Speech

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by Ganado, Aug 20, 2019.

  1. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    6 Surprising Exceptions to Freedom of Speech | The Saturday Evening Post

    Although the First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech,” Americans don’t have the luxury of always saying whatever they want. Your right to free speech is limited by where you are, what you say, and how you say it.

    Here are six areas where your talk can make you liable in criminal or civil court.

    1. Obscenity
    Most of the legal cases that concern sex and free speech have involved publications (a form of speech as far as the courts are concerned). Obscenity is not protected by the Constitution, but it has been difficult to define what is obscene. In 1973, the Supreme Court, in Miller v. California, came up with a three-part definition of obscene material. A work is legally considered obscene if

    • an average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material appeals to prurient (appealing to sexual desire) interest.
    • the work depicts or describes, in an offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions, specifically defined by applicable state law.
    • taken as a whole, the material lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
    This limit on obscene speech also applies to broadcasting. The FCC controls what is allowed on air, so you can’t broadcast sounds or images that could be offensive to your audience or use language inappropriate for children.

    However, the Supreme Court has, so far, kept the internet free of obscenity restrictions. You can make whatever statements you want on social media sites, but the owners of those sites have the freedom to censor or delete your content if they find it offensive.

    2. Lies
    Lying is covered by the First Amendment, except when it’s not. You can be prosecuted for lying under oath in court (it’s called perjury). You can also be charged with misleading authorized investigators. Remember Martha Stewart’s conviction in 2004? She went to prison for lying to investigators about her stock trading.

    It is also illegal to run dishonest advertisements. And if you deliberately tell lies about people, you can be hit with a lawsuit in civil court for either libel (if published) or slander (if spoken).

    Politicians, on the other hand, have broad protections against being prosecuted for lying, and citizens largely have free rein to criticize their governments, even if the comments are false. Luckily for late night talk show hosts, the First Amendment allows citizens to satirically mock a public figure.

    3. Violence
    You can’t make offensive remarks or personal insults that would immediately lead to a fight. You also can’t threaten violence to a specific person unless you’re making an obvious exaggeration (for instance, “I’m going to kill my opponent at the polls”). Finally, you can’t knowingly say things that cause severe emotional distress or incite others to “immediate lawless action.”

    In 1951, the Supreme Court concluded in Dennis v. United States that the First Amendment doesn’t protect the speech of people plotting to overthrow the government.

    4. Students’ Speech
    Students have limited rights of free speech while in school. In 1986, Bethel School District v. Fraser upheld the right of a school to suspend a student for making an obscene speech. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988, supported a school’s right to censor student newspapers. However, many states are now passing laws to grant broader First Amendment protections to student speech.

    5. Offending Your Friends and Coworkers
    You don’t have the right to say whatever you want in someone else’s home or other private setting. And, as an employee, believe it or not, you have no free-speech rights at your workplace. The Constitution’s right to free speech applies only when the government — not a private entity — is trying to restrict it. For example, an employer can legally fire an employee whose car bears a campaign bumper sticker he doesn’t like.

    It’s a different matter for government employees. In Elrod v. Burns, the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that the Constitution prohibits government employers from discharging or demoting employees for supporting a particular political candidate.

    The law also prohibits speech that shows clear intent to discriminate or sexually harass.

    It also prevents employees in medical or financial fields from discussing confidential information outside of work.

    6. Expressing Your Political Views
    The law has never permitted Americans to protest in any way they wanted. While the government can’t control what you say, how you say it must be subject to what the courts consider an appropriate time, place, and manner.

    Legal authorities have a responsibility to protect the safety of attendees at political gatherings and to protect protestors themselves. If authorities think you pose a sufficient risk, you can be restricted to a Free Speech Zone. These have been used since the 1980s, principally to contain protestors at political conventions.

    House Bill 347 authorized Secret Service agents to arrest anyone protesting in the president’s or vice president’s proximity. They also have this authority at National Special Security Events. These events have included state occasions, of course, but also basketball championships, the Academy Awards, Olympic events, and the Super Bowl. A conviction can result in up to 10 years in a federal prison (another place where your freedom of speech is limited).
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  2. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    Same old song...Rights for them and none for you....Peasants!
    Cruisin Sloth, SB21, Ura-Ki and 2 others like this.
  3. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    basic misunderstanding of "rights" here. Just because a judge says something stupid doesn't change the meaning of the Constitution.
    Cruisin Sloth, SB21, Ura-Ki and 3 others like this.
  4. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Some stupid 'judges'(Justice Scalia comes to mind) interpret the Constitution, as if they could channel the US Constitution's authors' original intent: like other Constitutional tea leaf readers, the original author's intent has enjoyed the consistency of a wind sock in a hurricane, reflecting more the inclinations of the factional political tribal alignments of the Consitutional tea leaf readers of the day...hence the imperatives of both liberal and conservative administrations in stacking SCOTUS and other federal courts with justices who are not so much aligned with the original framers of the Constitution's original thinking, but, hopefully sympathetic to the political imperatives of the faction that appointed them. Fortunately some have shown more independance than their sponsors might have appreciated. ;)
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
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  5. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    well interesting comments.... i just thought is was good info to know.... lol and while i did not necessarily like it... i didnt find it unreasonable. And everyone is entitled to their opinion... free speech.[touchdown]
    Idahoser, Gator 45/70, Ura-Ki and 4 others like this.
  6. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    All freedoms come with a responsibility. It isn't limitations, as much as common sense and the right to swing your arm is pretty much unrestricted until it enters the immediate air-space of someone else's nose. That should not even be a grey area for anyone with half a functioning brain, yet some freaking idiot will persist is screaming "fire" in a crowded theater.
  7. Merkun

    Merkun furious dreamer

    As soon as "common sense" enters a discussion, brains seem to go into hiding and the latest perverted interpretation of "Freedom" gets smeared over all like PB&J on bread. (Was going to say sandwich bread, but that's white and would be racist.)

    I have to say that snot locker close is well inside my personal space. If you get that close, I'm probably unconscious.
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  8. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    I find it interesting that the First Amendment to the Constitution only forbids Congress from making laws that abridge freedom of speech.

    It doesn't prohibit anyone else, from your state government right on down to the local librarian.

    And, of course, at some vague point "rules" somehow manage to take on the force of "laws".

    Eventually it may be necessary to establish that freedom of speech is a God-given right that cannot be denied, or grudgingly doled out, by tyrants at any level of political office.

    Perhaps we can make it a package deal: all rights, all the time, no exceptions.

    I should live so long...
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  9. Merkun

    Merkun furious dreamer

    Interesting interpretation that BoR applies to only the Congress. That wipes out 2A at the same time, along with others. Sure hope you are _________________ inaccurate.
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  10. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    I bought a Pickup a few years ago now, and in the back windown was a Teamsters Union Sticker including the Local # the previous owner belonged to, I was warned by my employer to remove said sticker or not to bring said pickup to work else I would no longer be welcome to employment there! Quick 30 seconds with a borrowed razor blade solved that issue right quick and in a hurry like!

    I didn't know an employer had the right to do those things, but it kinda makes sense, though I was somewhat bothered by that event! I'm not Union, never have been, though not against it ether! I assumed it was because my employer was anti union, Anti Teamsters, but it had to be more then that! AND, some asshole had to have reported it, because my boss wouldn't have had any reason to check my truck out!
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  11. Wildbilly

    Wildbilly Monkey+++

    Maybe he saw your "new" truck and wondered how you could afford such a nice ride on what he was paying you.o_O
  12. Meat

    Meat Monkey+++

    You can’t say “boing oing” when you see a good looking lady.
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  13. Oddcaliber

    Oddcaliber Monkey+++

    Basically I can't yell fire in a crowded theater but I can yell theater to a crowd at a fire.
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  14. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    What an interesting topic! I knew one couldn't scream "FIRE!" in a movie theater just to get a reaction but never considered or knew about other situations. Good and interesting info!
  15. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    no it does not, if you will simply continue to read the words in the amendments. "Congress shall make no law" is not ambiguous. Neither is "Shall not be infringed". The first tells Congress something it is forbidden from doing, the next describes something that cannot be done by ANYONE.
  16. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    Yes--the difference between just forbidding the passage of a kind of law (1st A) and specifically protecting a right against any infringement (2ndA) is very distinct.
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  17. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    You can say "boing oing", but it may earn you a slap in the face...or if in a work related environment, some harassment counselling ;)
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  18. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Consequences of your actions.... Those happen even if you are legally Constitutional... However the Slap of your face is Assault... and prosecutable in the USA... Consequences of your actions...
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  19. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    That may be so, but the prosecution has to prove 'mens rea' and / or 'actus reus' as elements of the charge, in the event that the 'boing oinging' utterer makes a criminal complaint to the police. If the reaction by the slapper was reflexive, and provided that he/she didn't pull out their CCW pistol to emphasise the point, or beat up the utterer to a pulp, it probably won't go much further than a red face on one side, and disdainful disgust on the other.

    A common law principle | ALRC
    A common law principle | ALRC

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  20. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    The slap is battery, which usually follows an assault. "A&B" go together like B&E or PB&J.
    Meat and Gator 45/70 like this.
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