5 Amendment Essays

Submitted By chuck517
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Censorship and the First Amendment

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication that may be objectionable or harmful, to the general population. Censorship is a cause of issues involving Freedom of Speech that is protected in the first amendment. From the beginning this freedom has caused controversy and with controversy we see the federal government get involved. A popular example of censorship protected under the first amendment and freedom of speech is the Westboro Baptist church incidents. In the case of Synder vs. Phelps the family of Matthew Synder sued for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, for the actions taken by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church, at the funeral of their son. A U.S. district court ruled that the First Amendment protection of free speech has limits, and supported the Synder Family. The case was taken to the Supreme Court where the court ruled in favor of Phelps on March 2, 2011. Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that "What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to 'special protection' under the First Amendment and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous." (1) In order for Freedom of Speech to exist the courts have generally held that freedom of speech covers things that might be offensive or distasteful.
The history behind censorship started with a New York newspaper editor who was charged with seditious libel for the bashing of the New York governor. The term “truth cannot be libel” came form this court case, and it paved the way for Freedom of the Press to be added to the constitution. In 1798 John Adams signed the Sedition Act that stated: there would be punishment for writing or publishing "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" about the president or congress; in attempt to forbid seditious speech. A limitation known as prior restraint- censorship that prevents material form being published was ruled in the Supreme Court case Near vs. Minnesota to be unconstitutional in most cases.
February 1, 2004 – The Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots are playing in Super Bowl XXXVIII. During the half time show Justin Timberlake was singing with Janet Jackson, when Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction that included a “nip slip”. Her top was pulled down to where her breast was hanging out. Now the amount of time her breast was on the air was 1.01 seconds. For this the FCC fined CBS 550,000 dollars. The FCC, Federal Communications Commission, regulates “indecent broadcasting in both TV and radio, and punishes TV and radio stations for airing programs that “describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities” along with profanity. The FCC was ruled that the “F word” is “indecent when uttered by celebrities,” such as Bono, Cher, and Paris Hilton “during live award shows” (3), but acceptable when used in war shows such as Band of Brothers, because it is artistically justified. Guessing wrong about the FCC’s taste can cost broadcasters millions of dollars in fines and jeopardize their licenses, they tend to err on the side of restraint, which means material might never air. The ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, uses examples of 9/11 documentaries, and war reporting. In one court case the court ruled “the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive,” and the FCC’s indecency ban “violates the First Amendment because it is unconstitutionally vague.” Currently Fox and the other TV networks, are urging the Supreme Court not only to uphold the lower court’s decision but also reconsider the 1978 ruling that approved content-based regulation of broadcasting on the grounds that the medium was “uniquely pervasive” and “uniquely accessible to children.” Justice Samuel Alito worries that repealing the indecency ban would trigger an explosion of televised