1st Amend and Free Speech Essay

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Strickland 1

Jeff Strickland

30 September, 2009

English 1B Paper #1 Assignment: Argument and Persuasion – First Amendment and Free Speech

Professor Casil

The Freedom of Symbolic Speech

The term symbolic speech is applied to a wide range of nonverbal communication. Many political activities, including marching, wearing armbands, and displaying or mutilating the U.S. flag, are considered forms of symbolic expression. The U. S. Supreme Court has held that this form of communicative behavior is entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. The First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution gives American citizens a variety of freedoms, from speech to assembly to most notably the press to publish the news however they see fit and regardless of political affiliation. And then the less popular freedoms that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that another form is non-verbal or symbolic speech. Such as Flag burning, tattoo’s, clothing or buttons expressing one view or another. Like it or not these all fall under the prevue of the same category of law or Freedom of Speech. However only when doing so within a peaceful nature, not causing distress or inciting violence. Or if it’s considered by the court to be obscene, then the law does not protect it. The first ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court establishing the precedent of symbolic speech was Stromberg v. California on the 18th of May, 1931. The issue was “Does a California statute that makes the display of a red flag as a statement of 'opposition to
Strickland 2 organized government' violate the First & Fourteenth Amendments?” (Stromberg v. California) And once it was recognized the facts of the case fell under the applicability of the First Amendment, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes declared: “It might be construed to include peaceful and orderly opposition to government by legal means and within Constitutional limitations.” (Stromberg v. California) Understanding what constitutes Free Speech can be complicated. Other forms of speech such as, books, art, music, and other genres are included because they to are considered expressive in nature. The U. S. Supreme Court perpetually debates what limitations, if any that apply to these forms of Free Speech. Expression can be verbal, non-verbal, or symbolic in nature. News agencies for instance are constantly being questioned about their bias due to political affiliation or ideals in reporting the news that is protected under the First Amendment. And symbolic speech that expresses an idea like wearing a button, or clothing, flying a red flag, or carrying a poster stating ones displeasure with anything is all protected under the Freedom of Speech clause. The toughest issue for the U. S. Supreme Court or any lower Court when ruling on the legality of Free Speech, is to determine if it is protected under the First Amendment as Free Speech, or if it is in fact government speech. 25 February 2009 was the latest ruling given by the U. S. Supreme Court, where they reversed the ruling by the State Appeals Court for the State for Pleasant Grove City, Utah et al. v. Summum. Under the following opinion; In sum, we hold that the City’s decision to accept certain privately donated monuments while rejecting respondent’s is best viewed as a form of government Strickland 3 speech. As a result, the City’s decision is not subject to