Are You a First Amendment Scholar?

Take our quiz to find out!
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First Amendment rights were essential in ensuring a fair hearing for which of the following social causes?
Free speech rights have been central in securing key rights for minority and oppressed groups throughout American history.
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Which of the following IS protected by the First Amendment?
The First Amendment fully protects speech that some may find distasteful, offensive, or even hateful. While it is often said that “hate speech is not free speech,” there is no legal definition of “hate speech” in the United States. In a diverse country like the U.S., it’s not realistic to expect people to agree very much about what speech is so hateful that it should be banned. At the same time, courts have established that true threats, incitement to immediate unlawful action, harassment, and defamation, along with some other speech-based conduct (such as fraud and criminal conspiracies), are not protected by the First Amendment.
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Which of the following is NOT protected by the First Amendment?

True threats can be prosecuted under the law. A “true” threat is distinct from a threat that is made in jest. The Supreme Court noted that “a threat must be distinguished from what is constitutionally protected speech” (see Watts v. United States (1969)) and recognized that “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” political debate can at times be characterized by “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials” (see New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964)). Hence, a true threat must be viewed in its context and distinguished from protected hyperbole.

Not all speech is protected by the Constitution. Here are the categories of unprotected speech.
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Your free speech rights include the right to silence another person.
Just because you might not like what another person is saying does not give you the right to prevent them from speaking or to prevent others from hearing it. (You, however, do not have to listen.) Ruling on the case of Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972), Justice Thurgood Marshall stated: “[T]his Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to receive information and ideas, the freedom to hear as well as the freedom to speak. . . . The freedom to speak and the freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin. But the coin itself is the process of thought and discussion.” Marshall added that the activity of speakers becoming listeners and listeners becoming speakers in the exchange of thought is the “means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth” and its protection is “a fundamental principle of the American government.” Similarly, in 1860, Frederick Douglass wrote, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”
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You get into a very heated shouting match with another student over the current political election and your opposing views on it. Is this considered protected speech under the First Amendment?
Exchanging words and opinions, however heated, is protected by the Constitution.
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You get into a very heated shouting match with another student over the current political election and your opposing views on it, so you shove him to the ground. Is this considered protected speech under the First Amendment?
Angry words are protected by the Constitution. Physical violence is not.
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You are mad at a classmate so you decide to use your role as a writer for the school paper to publish a false story claiming he is a shoplifter.
Defamation is not protected by the Constitution. Defamation can be written (libel) or spoken (slander.) Defamation means knowingly making false statements to damage another person’s reputation.
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The CEO of a famous restaurant chain, which has a franchise on your state university campus, has taken an unpopular position on a controversial new proposed law. You plan to encourage other students to protest outside this restaurant chain. Would this protest be considered protected expression under the First Amendment?
Protesting a commercial establishment is a protected exercise of your First Amendment rights, and as an agency of the government, your state university campus is bound to respect those rights. (Private universities are not legally bound to follow the First Amendment, but most of them promise to respect free expression anyway.)
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The CEO of a famous restaurant chain has taken an unpopular position on a controversial new proposed law. You plan to block the entrance to the restaurant on your state university campus so that students cannot buy food there. Is this considered protected speech under the First Amendment?
You are allowed to express your opinions through protest, but by blocking access to the restaurant, you have crossed the line into violating the rights of others, including the rights of the business owners to run his business and the rights of customers to eat there. As a general rule, if your protest prevents other people from going on with their daily lives, it has probably crossed the line.
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In 1859, English Philosopher John Stuart Mill published an essay that is widely regarded as one of the most eloquent defenses of free speech ever written. This essay is called:
You can read “On Liberty” online in its entirety, or you can download a free shortened version.
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A speech can be permanently canceled by the government if protesters or angry members of the audience cause or threaten to cause a disruption.
The government has an obligation to protect unpopular speech. In the case Terminiello v. Chicago (1949), the Supreme Court ruled that “a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.” In the case Forsyth v. County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not prevent or unduly burden speech merely because it might prove “unpopular with bottle throwers” or “because it might offend a hostile mob.” A situation in which the authorities allow a person or group to shut down the expression of a speaker is called a “heckler’s veto.”

Further reading:

Rejecting the Heckler’s Veto

Disinvitation Season: Protected Counter-Speech or Heckler’s Veto?

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According to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, the remedy for bad speech is what?

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence” wrote Justice Louis Brandeis in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California (1927). His statement forms the essence of the counter-speech argument that the best way to oppose bad speech is with good speech, and a far superior alternative to censorship.

Reading: President Obama - Student Protests Should Embrace Free Speech
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There’s nothing you can do about speech you don’t like.
You have several options available to you in the face of unwanted speech by others. You can walk away and ignore the speaker, because the right to free speech does not guarantee an unwilling audience. You can organize or participate in a legal protest. You can ask questions or respond. You can write a passionate editorial or make a YouTube video in response. You can give your own, separate speech to convince others that you are right …because YOU also have FREE SPEECH!!
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