Should Freedom Of Speech Be Limited In Certain Situations?

Submitted By shemel1
Words: 857
Pages: 4

Should freedom of speech be limited in certain situations? Or is restricting speech that incites hatred infringing our fundamental rights? This question fueled the case of the city of Skokie versus the Nationalist Socialist Party of America. The Nationalist Socialist Party of America (NSPA), a neo-Nazi group, wanted to have a demonstration in the town of Skokie, a predominately Jewish community. A demonstration by a group promoting Nazism would be controversial in itself, but a demonstration within a largely Jewish community drew a lot of controversial attention.
Frank Collin, leader of the NSPA, sought to rally in the city of Skokie and believed the city was infringing on his fundamental free speech rights by prohibiting him from demonstrating there. On the grounds of free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took interest in the case, whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." This includes the freedom of speech of racists. From the moment the ACLU decided to defend the NSPA, a highly publicized case was formed.
Should the speech of a group that emphasizes racism and hatred be protected under our first amendment free speech rights? It should. And there are certain reasons for that. Speech that we do not agree with cannot be limited. The promotion of the free discussion of ideas could be compromised if “governments are allowed to decide who shall be permitted to say what” (p. 133).
The Skokie case highlights certain precedents of protecting and limiting parts of speech, because there is no such thing as “no constraints at all” when it comes to freedom of speech. The government does limit certain speech, such as prohibiting someone from falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre, causing panic. There should definitely be constraints on speech causing unwarranted panic, causing people undue fear. In 1942 the Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire case exempted “fighting words” from protection under the constitution (p.43). The case wrote,
There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or "fighting words" those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.
Another case, Beauharnais v. Illinois, also limited the speech and actions of certain persons and groups:
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to manufacture, sell, or offer for sale, advertise or publish, present or exhibit in any public place in this state any lithograph, moving picture, play, drama or sketch, which publication or exhibition portrays depravity, criminality, unchastity, or lack of virtue of a class of citizens, of any race, color, creed or religion which said publication or exhibition exposes the citizens of any race, color, creed or religion to contempt, derision, or obloquy or which is productive of breach of the peace or riots. . . .(p.