The First Amendment

Sandy Botkin
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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.

We have all seen NFL players kneel in protest when the national anthem was played. Unless you are living in a barn, you have probably read that people have been suspended or fired for certain posts on Facebook or Twitter. So, how does our 1st amendment rights to Freedom of Speech protect us?

The answer is that it is important but not as widespread in its protection as many people think!!

The First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech simply protects our speech from government interference with some exceptions. Thus, you can criticize the government, politicians or political actions. Even with this limitation, there are even more exceptions;

  1. Freedom of Speech doesn’t protect you if you advocate immediate or imminent intent to do violence.
  2. A recent case noted that repeatedly encouraging someone to commit suicide may not be protected speech.
  3. Certain types of false statements of fact aren’t protected such as libeling or slandering someone. Thus, be careful what you say about someone.
  4. It doesn’t protect you if the average person would find that the subject or statements appeal to the prurient interest or is patently offensive and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
  5. It doesn’t protect child pornography
  6. It doesn’t protect “fighting words,” which is speech designed to incite or provoke a violent reaction. Additionally, such speech must be directed to the person or hearer and is “thus be likely seen as a personal insult.”

Most importantly, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to non-governmental agencies in hiring or firing. Thus, private companies can fire employees who express speech that the employer doesn’t like. Thus, posting unpalatable posts can result in firing by an employer. The First Amendment doesn’t protect this type of speech.

Thus, when you see people fired for their posts, tweets or even protests, you should have a good understanding of when the First Amendment might or more probably, might not apply.

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