1st amendment protected expression: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly and petition. The First Amendment is applicable not just to Congress and the federal government, but to state and local public officials and entities as well. Protection of speech by the First Amendment is intended to encourage the free flow of ideas and to protect individuals whose speech may be considered unpopular or dissentious.
Tinker v. Des Moines (393 U.S. 503 (1969)) Tinker (Petitioner) was suspended from school for showing his support of the anti-war movement. Student speech may be regulated when such speech would materially and substantially interfere with the discipline and operation of a school. The wearing of the armband was singled out of all other symbolic speech engaged in by the student body. Clearly, this was designed to erase all opposition to the war speech in the schools and was not related to any legitimate purpose. There was no evidence that the wearing of the armbands caused any disruption of any class or school function.
Texas v. Johnson (491 U.S. 397 (1989)) A conviction for burning the United States flag based on a Texas law was overturned after the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) found that the Texas law was unconstitutional. The government generally has a freer hand in restricting expressive conduct than it has in restricting the written or spoken word. Texas conceded that Defendant’s conduct was expressive conduct. He burned the flag as part of a political demonstration. Therefore, Defendant’s burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct thereby permitting him to invoke the First Amendment of the Constitution.
United States v. Eichman (496 U.S. 310 (1990)) Congress passed the Flag Protection Act which made it a crime to destroy an American flag or any likeness of an American flag which may be "commonly displayed." The law did, however, allow proper disposal of a worn or soiled flag. Several prosecutions resulted from the Act. The Court struck down the law because "its asserted interest is related to the suppression of free expression and concerned with the content of such expression." Allowing the flag to be burned in a disposal ceremony but prohibiting protestors from setting it ablaze at a political protest.
Unprotected Expression: While the First Amendment is very broad in its application, there are certain types of speech and expression that are not protected by the First Amendment. Attempts to regulate these types of unprotected speech generally fall into one of two categories: "content regulations" and "conduct regulations." Speech/materials may be deemed obscene (and therefore unprotected) if the speech meets the following (extremely high) threshold: It (1) appeals to the "prurient" interest in sex, (2) is patently offensive by community standards, and (3) lacks literary, scientific, or artistic value.
New York Times Co v. Sullivan (376 U.S. 254 (1964)) Decided together with Abernathy v. Sullivan, this case concerns a full-page ad in the New York Times which alleged that the arrest of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for perjury in Alabama was part of a campaign to destroy King's efforts to integrate public facilities and encourage blacks to vote. The Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity).
Miller v. California (413 U.S. 15 (1973)) Miller, after conducting a mass mailing campaign to advertise the sale of "adult" material, was convicted of violating a California statute prohibiting the distribution of obscene material. Court held that obscene materials did not enjoy First Amendment protection. The Court modified the test for obscenity established in…