The United States of America since 1776 has been a beacon of free speech and a location that people knew that they could come to from all over the world. Considering that it was founded by people who suffered at the hands of religious persecution, there was nothing that was more important to the early Americans than the right to speak out for the right to express themselves. Freedom of Speech has come under fire in recent months as there are looming questions as to what constitutes free speech and if it should be rolled back to limit the context of what falls into that category.
The intent of the Amendment was to ensure that all Americans had the right to practice religious, political, and personal freedom in the pursuit of a happy life. When it came to the environment that new Americans were used to, it was one in which persecution and even punishments up to death for being the wrong brand of Christian were common. It was not until Rhode Island was established in the new world that there was a place for people who were Catholic.
There were many reasons that the USA decided to break away from England. But many of them were due to the desire to speak out and to hold opinions that were controversial. How does all of this play into the 2016 post-election environment? There are many citizens who are of the opinion that free speech should be rolled back. That is on the side of the left and the right. The Supreme Court outlined what is not considered free speech in a landmark case in 1966, Rosenblatt vs. Baer, in which there was a definition of libel and slander not to be a part of free speech. Libel is when false information that can cause damage is printed about another person. Slander is when false information is spoken about another person. These have been defined as egregious and outside of the scope of what defines free speech.
One of the fundamental rights of Americans that is defined in the first amendment, is the right to assemble and to protest. Regardless of the agreement of the opinions of the people, every American has the right to protest and to speak his or her mind on issues. The right to burn a flag, as offensive as it is to people also falls in the realm of free speech. When evaluating whether there should be a limitation on free speech, it is important to look to history and see what happens when safety is traded for the right not to be offended. Sometimes the power of free speech is in listening to another side that may not be the idea of the majority which opens new ideas for all people. #FreeSpeech #SAFESPACE #FirstAmendment