The Importance of Freedom of Speech

Importance of Freedom of Speech

There is no more important right than the right to free speech. The very first amendment to the constitution reads,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Judge Napolitano, the former New Jersey Supreme Court Judge and an important syndicated news analyst believes, as most judges do, that what separates the United States from all other countries is the first amendment.

Napolitano believes that the first amendment, above all other beliefs, is what protects our rights.

Are There Limits on Free Speech?

Yes there are. Over the years, the Supreme Court has placed a number of limitations on free speech, the most famous one being that it is illegal to cause terror by screaming “fire” at the top of your lungs to incite fire in a crowded movie theatre.

In 1919, the court ruled that inciting violence that causes an imminent threat to commit violence and lawlessness were lawless acts.

In 2017, the court refused to step in with a legal case in which a Massachusetts woman was convicted of manslaughter for viciously urging a man to commit suicide.

Fighting Words

As far back as 1942, the court ruled that fighting words that can be used to incite violence can be prohibited.

Some wonder why former President Trump wasn’t impeached for inciting people to storm the capital. However, in his case the major question was were Trump’s words inciting, or were they mere hyperbole.

There are other types of speech that are not protected. For example, you can’t take a movie camera and copy a copyrighted movie and advertise it for sale as your own.

Ultimately Then Free Speech is a Living, Breathing, Evolving Thing

It seems that where one person’s free speech is concerned, that others have to be taken into account.

However, Judge Napolitano believes that free speech has generally kept America the freest, most non-subversive society in the world. In many countries, notably Thailand, you can be jailed for up to 30 years for merely posting a derogatory comment about the King on Facebook. Free speech is one of our most precious rights, and it needs constant protection.