It's been a while (like a reaaaaaaaallly long time). But to be honest, Law school kind of kicked my ass. I will spare you the details, it's hard as fuck and juggling Uni and mental Health is painful (to say the least).
Anyway, I'm finally emerging and I decided to come back to my favorite platform to share some wisdom.

Well, not exactly wisdom, more like stuff I learned in College haha

I thought it would be important to share the basics in American law. Especially considering the situation in general, it is extremely important for you guys to know your rights.

Disclaimer : What you will read is not my opinion, it is just what I was taught in Law School (and more specifically, what I learned last semester), and what I will demonstrate is a rough overview of what American Law is.

Most of you must have learned it in High School (or not, honestly I don't know what you guys are being taught over there)

Nevertheless, I hope you will learn something and maybe be inspired to make a change !

So... Let's start !

History of the 1st Amendment

Coming to America to escape a violent history of religious conflict, the Founding Fathers wanted to protect their « most important right » (speech and religion), by consecrating them through the 1st line of the Bill of Rights and protecting them constitutionally.

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I will do another article to talk about the Bill of Rights.

Although the wording of the 1st Amendment specifically refers to “Congress”, the Supreme Court has held that its restrictions also apply to the executive and judicial branches. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment as protecting 1st Amendment rights from interference by state and local governments.

Reminder : the Due Process Clause guarantees "due process of the law"(regular procedure that the Government must follow before depriving someone of “substantive” rights such as life, liberty, or property).

Freedom Of speech

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"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ― George Orwell

In order to balance legitimate government regulatory needs with the demands of the 1st Amendment, the Court has adopted a number of approaches :

  • "Law value speech" are worthy of no or less protection because they’re not relevant to the aims and ideas motivated by the 1st amendment or because they can cause severe harm

Ex : Defamation is protected except if the victim proves slander, actual malice, libel and knowledge the information was false (« New York Times v. Sullivan », 1964).

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“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” ― Oscar Wilde
However, advocacy of violence or illegal conduct can be prohibited when it’s inciting/producing imminent lawless actions (« Brandeburg v. Ohio », 1969)
  • "Content-based regulation" (involving Government regulation of expression based on what is being said) is generally unconstitutional.
Exception : Regulation of the time, place & manner of expression is accepted but the Government has to prove that it's meant to protect public order and safety (=restrictions must be content-neutral)
  • "Regulatory power over certain classes of speakers" is legal because the Government has a custodial role over them. Therefore, they have the power to regulate behavior and speech over public employees to ensure they do not interfere with gov operations or the delivery of public services

Ex : Public schools, prisons, and the military.

  • "Hate speech" is defined as one which is offensive or disagreeable, and that purposely demeans someone on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability or any other similar ground.
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Morally Speaking, hate speech and freedom of speech should be considered as two different things. However, legally, it is not the case.

There is no exception for Hate speech 👈

Racist, antisemitic (like holocaust denial) or homophobic speech is absolutely legal and protected under the 1st amendment.

Ex : During the « National socialist Party of America v Village of Skokie, 1977 » case, The Supreme Court found that the members of the party were given permission to march through a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago in full Nazi uniform complete with swastikas, because it was « among high purposes of the 1st amendment ».

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In the US, it doesn't matter if what you say is right or wrong, it is considered a human right that must be absolutely protected

So here it is! The basics of freedom of speech. Obviously, the 1st amendment not only protects freedom of speech, but also freedom of religion (which we will see in an other article).

I really hope this article helped you in any way, wether it is for school or just in general to know what you can and cannot say (although it is pretty obvious that you can say pretty much anything).

Anyway, if you liked it you can share it with other people and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to send me a message, I will respond to them all!

You can follow my collection that is dedicated for rights and studies in general, to find inspiration :

However, do not forget to prioritize your mental health and physical health!

Love, Ines